Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Magnificent Obsession: Victoria, Albert and the Death That Changed the Monarchy- Helen Rappaport

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

Helen Rappaport

St. Martin’s, Mar 13 2012, $26.99

ISBN: 9780312621056

This fascinating biography focuses on a pivotal event “that changed the monarchy”; the death of Prince Consort Albert and its subsequent impact on his grieving widow, which in turn affected the Empire. Helen Rappaport makes the case that Queen Victoria not only loved her spouse, she needed him as a mentor and friend. Detested by her subjects, the country mourned alongside their queen his death. The Queen had replacement advisors but none came close to Prince Albert as her partner over the last four decades of her reign. Whereas Victoria concluded that Albert’s trepidation over their son "poor Bertie" led to his death; Ms. Rappaport offers alternative possibilities. Queen Victoria never came out of mourning nor did she allow the country to move through the phases of grief as the nation lingered along with their monarch in a forty years mass depression.

This is an excellent refreshing biography with the focus on the impact of the death of Prince Albert in 1861 on his wife and their Empire. Ms. Rapport makes a strong case that Prince Albert’s death is one of the key moments in British history. The tone reminds me of The Taylor File: The Mysterious Death of a President by Clara Rising, who makes a case that the one person who may have prevented the Civil War died mysteriously; though her theory arsenic poisoning proved false. Readers will appreciate this profound look at why the Queen needed her mate and a strong argument that his death was the first major step for the sun beginning to set on the British Empire.

Harriet Klausner

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