A Magnificent Obsession

A Magnificent Obsession

Victoria, Albert, and the Death That Changed the British Monarchy

Book - 2012
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As she did in her critically acclaimed The Last Days of the Romanovs , Helen Rappaport brings a compelling documentary feel to the story of this royal marriage and of the queen's obsessive love for her husband - a story that began as fairy tale and ended in tragedy.

After the untimely death of Prince Albert, the queen and her nation were plunged into a state of grief so profound that this one event would dramatically alter the shape of the British monarchy. For Britain had not just lost a prince: during his twenty year marriage to Queen Victoria, Prince Albert had increasingly performed the function of King in all but name. The outpouring of grief after Albert's death was so extreme, that its like would not be seen again until the death of Princess Diana136 years later.

Drawing on many letters, diaries and memoirs from the Royal Archives and other neglected sources, as well as the newspapers of the day, Rappaport offers a new perspective on this compelling historical psychodrama -- the crucial final months of the prince's life and the first long, dark ten years of the Queen's retreat from public view. She draws a portrait of a queen obsessed with her living husband and - after his death - with his enduring place in history. Magnificent Obsession will also throw new light on the true nature of the prince's chronic physical condition, overturning for good the 150-year old myth that he died of typhoid fever.

Publisher: New York : St. Martin's Press, 2012.
Edition: First U.S. edition.
Copyright Date: ©2011
ISBN: 9780312621056
Branch Call Number: 941.0810922 RAP
Characteristics: xvi, 336 pages, 16 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations, portraits ; 25 cm


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Dec 12, 2017

An interesting exploration of the years leading up to the death of Albert, Prince Consort to Queen Victoria, and its lingering impact on England's history as for 40 years she obstinately refuses to cast off her widow's weeds and move forward. The stubborn young queen is initially dismissive of her handsome new husband's eagerness to assist her with state business, reluctant to relinquish any of her newfound freedoms after years of being her mother's political pawn. But Albert is intelligent, inspired, and decent, and soon he begins to move from simply blotting her signatures to becoming her indispensable advisor. As the number of their children continues to grow, the self-centered Victoria is quite happy to relinquish her official duties over to him, as long as she has her precious loving husband to give her the attention she craves. Soon the forward-thinking Albert's responsibilities begin to overwhelm him, and in December 1861 he finally dies from what is officially stated as typhoid fever. Victoria is utterly devastated and retreats into her misery. At first, the people of England are sympathetic, and join her in mourning the loss of this fine man, never properly appreciated until in death. But as the years roll on and their Queen wallows on in her misery, sympathy quickly fades. Frustration grows ever stronger as Victoria continues to play the frail bereaved widow card, to avoid having to take back on the responsibilities she was so reluctant at first to hand over to her precious Albert. Instead, she commissions memorial after memorial in his name, clings to her maturing children as she hides in her grand royal houses, and lets the people roar. A fascinating true story of obsession gone to extremes, and its impact on a grand national scale.

Nov 12, 2012

Having read and enjoyed Helen Rapport's book on the demise of Tsar Nicholas and his family The Last Days of the Romanovs: Tragedy at Ekaterinburg, I was anxious to get my hands on this. I was a little worried to find blurbs on the back from People Magazine, Charles Spencer (Diana, Princess of Wales' unpredictable brother), and Alison Weir, but I needn't have worried. This book is well-written and carefully researched.

The relationship between Queen Victoria and her beloved consort Prince Albert is hardly a new topic, but Rappaport dedicates the first half of her book on the weeks leading up to Albert's untimely death in 1861, while the second half covers the following decade, during which Victoria retreated almost entirely from public life, much to the concern and exasperation of her family, government, and subjects. This is an interesting and well-researched look into the consequences of Albert's death and its impact on the Royal Family, Great Britain as a whole, and the mourning industry in particular.

Rappaport treats the Queen's unremitting sorrow with just enough sympathy that we may not quite feel like strangling Victoria by the end, but we will have even more sympathy for Victoria's children (especially her daughters), her beleaguered courtiers and Albert himself. She includes an appendix on modern medicine's attempt to identify the illness that killed the Consort off.

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