Queen Victoria and the European Empires by John Van der Kiste

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Queen Victoria and the European Empires by John Van der Kiste

Category: History
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: A concise look at the Queen's relationships with the European Empires throughout her reign. Well-written, erudite and informative.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 208 Date: October 2016
Publisher: Fonthill Media
ISBN: 978-1781555507

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Queen Victoria and the European Empires is a very readable history of Queen Victoria's relationships, both personal and political with the royalty of France, Germany, Austria and Russia. Many of these associations were based on family ties, but - as in all families - not all connections brought joy in their wake. John Van der Kiste - an expert in all things Victorian - produces an elegant picture of the changing relationships between the eighteen thirties and the early nineteen hundreds in a book which is deceptively slim, but packed with fascinating information and insights.

It would have been relatively simple to take each country, or royal family, in turn and give an exhaustive commentary on how the interactions waxed and waned, but Van der Kiste is more subtle than that: he weaves the strands of each relationship together with just enough relevant history and produces a picture which is more than just the sum of all the parts. He bring Victoria to life, particularly in the way that he demonstrates the juggling acts she performed in maintaining family relationships and national interests without ever undermining the importance of monarchy throughout Europe.

For much of the time period covered by the book Victoria was a widow, when popular history would have us believe that the queen withdrew and took little interest in national affairs. Van der Kiste shows that whilst she might not have had much of a public face, her interest in what was going on didn't decline. She also had an excellent instinct for the ramifications of apparently insignificant actions which might cause problems in the future. The queen is written about with clear-eyed affection and knowledgeable insight.

I was impressed by the contemporary portraits included: four dozen in total, covering all the main characters (I couldn't spot an omission). I'd seen some of them before, but a goodly number were new to me and I found them useful to settle characters in my mind in a period of history when so many people had the same - or similar - names.


The European side of Victoria's reign was not something with which I was particularly familiar: Queen Victoria and the European Empires helped me to put what was happening here into the European context and refreshed my memory about European events too long unvisited. I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy of the book to the Bookbag.

If this book appeals then you will almost certainly enjoy Alfred: Queen Victoria's Second Son and The Prussian Princesses: The Sisters of Kaiser Wilhelm II both of which were also written by Van der Kiste.

Buy Queen Victoria and the European Empires by John Van der Kiste at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Queen Victoria and the European Empires by John Van der Kiste at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy Queen Victoria and the European Empires by John Van der Kiste at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Queen Victoria and the European Empires by John Van der Kiste at Amazon.com.


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