A Magnificent Obsession: Victoria, Albert, and the Death That Changed the British Monarchy

A Magnificent Obsession: Victoria, Albert, and the Death That Changed the British Monarchy

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Overview

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 Diana one hundred and thirty-six 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, Helen 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 husband and-after his death-with his enduring place in history. Magnificent Obsession also sheds new light on the true nature of the prince's chronic physical condition, overturning for good the one hundred and fifty-year-old myth that he died of typhoid fever.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781452606866
Publisher: Tantor Media, Inc.
Publication date: 04/09/2012
Edition description: Unabridged CD
Product dimensions: 6.50(w) x 5.50(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Helen Rappaport is the author of a number of historical works, including Joseph Stalin and No Place for Ladies, as well as the Victorian true-crime story Beautiful for Ever. She is a fluent Russian speaker and a specialist in Russian history and nineteenth-century women's history.

Wanda McCaddon has won more than twenty-five AudioFile Earphones Awards, including for The Seamstress by Sara Tuvel Bernstein, for which she also earned a coveted Audie Award. AudioFile magazine has also named her one of recording's Golden Voices. Wanda appears regularly on the professional stage in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Table of Contents

Preface & Acknowledgements xi

List of Illustrations xv

Prologue: Christmas 1860 1

Part 1 Albert the Good II

1 'The Treadmill of Never-EndingBusiness' 13

2 'The First Real Blow of Misfortune' 29

3 'Fearfully in Want of a True Friend' 42

4 'Our Most Precious Invalid' 57

5 'Day Turned into Night' 74

6 'Our Great National Calamity' 86

7 'Will They Do Him Justice Now?' 105

8 'How Will the Queen Bear It?' 118

Part 2 The Broken-HeartedWidow 127

9 'All Alone!' 129

10 'The Luxury of Woe' 147

11 'A Married Daughter I Must Have Living with Me' 161

12 'God Knows How I Want So Much to be Taken Care Of' 177

13 'The Queen Is Invisible' 196

14 'Heaven Has Sent Us this Dispensation to Save Us' 213

15 Albertopolis 232

Epilogue: Christmas 1878 243

Appendix: What Killed Prince Albert? 249

Notes 261

Bibliography 299

Index 313

Reading Group Guide

1. Saint or martinet?: Queen Victoria adored her husband and looked upon him as a paragon of virtue, but in light of Prince Albert's controlling influence over her and their children is there another way of looking at him?

2. It is a commonly held belief that theirs was a love match. But was it really? Albert appears, in the first instance, to have married out of duty and only later grown to love his wife. Would you agree that fundamentally she was the passionate one?

3. Would it be true to say that the queen's obsessive love at times became distorted and unhealthy? And was it in any way the result of her repressed childhood, locked away at Kensington Palace?

4. Was Prince Albert's overwhelming obsession with duty and taking on an enormous workload a way of dissipating his thwarted ambitions to be a monarch himself. Would you agree, that little by little he took over control of the running of the monarchy from Victoria and in so doing disempowered her so that she lost confidence in her own abilities?

5. Did Prince Albert drive himself into an early grave with his crippling, self-imposed workload? Does the till now unchallenged acceptance of typhoid fever as the cause of Albert's death actually stack up? Might Crohn's Disease be a far more plausible cause of his failing health?

6. Was Victoria's hysterical response to her mother's death in 1861 a case of unresolved guilt about their previously bad relationship? Was her later reconciliation with her hypocritical?

7. Albert's death provoked in Victoria the most all-consuming, obsessive and fetishistic attachment to the trappings of mourning. To what extent was this a reflection of the Victorian cult of mourning at the time or her own version of it? Might her state of grief be described as unhealthy, or pathological and to what extent was it the result of her extreme self-centeredness?

8. In her total obsession with Albert living and Albert dead the Queen seems to have failed to channel the love and support of her children, and often did not appreciate their innate goodness, Bertie being a case in point. Why was this?

9. The Queen blew hot and cold with all her children— might one say she was a bad mother?. She appeared always to like them when they toed the line and did what she wanted, but the minute they contradicted her they were in her bad books. She appears to be have been fickle and inconsistent as a mother. Would you agree?

10. The queen's years of retreat into mourning during the 1860s-1870s came in for a lot of public criticism. Do you think the monarchy would have faced a serious republican challenge had it gone on? Might we have seen the British monarchy fall?
11. Was the widowed Queen's neglect of her royal duties understandable or reprehensible? Might she have recovered sooner had she had the benefit of the kind of care and counselling that a widow in her sitution would be offered today?
12. At the end of her reign the queen rose triumphant as a great matriarch and figurehead of empire. Do you believe that she ultimately redeemed herself and regained the love of the nation? What do you see as her finest qualities as queen?

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