February 6th, 2012

Who's Queen?

Magnificent Obsession

I ordered Helen Rappaport’s book from the library, which whizzed it over from Weymouth in no time. It tells the story of Prince Albert’s death and Victoria’s reaction to it in exhaustive detail. The subtitle ‘the death which changed the monarchy’ is less well dealt with in my opinion.

This book reads like a novel; I read it far more quickly than would be usual with a non-fiction work. By page eighty two the prince is dead and the rest of the book is devoted to the results of that calamity. Since officials had played down the seriousness of the prince’s condition, the news shocked the nation. Bells tolled throughout the land and people packed the churches, just as even in this Godless age they do in response to shocking events like the death of Princess Diana and 9/11. The queen’s hysterical grief and the following forty years of mourning are well documented. Some of her behaviour, such as preserving Albert’s room exactly as it was when he died (his shaving water replaced daily) and having a portrait of him hanging over ‘his’ side of the bed wherever she stayed now seems bordering on madness. Yet the queen was completely sane, if suffering from what we now call depression. For years she blackmailed her family, her ministers and the country in order to avoid public duties she felt unequal to carrying out alone, as she always emphasized. Although in robust health she played the weak little woman card for as long as she could.
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