We Two: Victoria and Albert: Rulers, Partners, Rivals

We Two: Victoria and Albert: Rulers, Partners, Rivals

Gillian Gill

Language: English

Pages: 480

ISBN: 0345520017

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


It was the most influential marriage of the nineteenth century–and one of history’ s most enduring love stories. Traditional biographies tell us that Queen Victoria inherited the throne as a naïve teenager, when the British Empire was at the height of its power, and seemed doomed to find failure as a monarch and misery as a woman until she married her German cousin Albert and accepted him as her lord and master. Now renowned chronicler Gillian Gill turns this familiar story on its head, revealing a strong, feisty queen and a brilliant, fragile prince working together to build a family based on support, trust, and fidelity, qualities neither had seen much of as children. The love affair that emerges is far more captivating, complex, and relevant than that depicted in any previous account.

The epic relationship began poorly. The cousins first met as teenagers for a few brief, awkward, chaperoned weeks in 1836. At seventeen, charming rather than beautiful, Victoria already “showed signs of wanting her own way.” Albert, the boy who had been groomed for her since birth, was chubby, self-absorbed, and showed no interest in girls, let alone this princess. So when they met again in 1839 as queen and presumed prince-consort-to-be, neither had particularly high hopes. But the queen was delighted to discover a grown man, refined, accomplished, and whiskered. “Albert is beautiful!” Victoria wrote, and she proposed just three days later.

As Gill reveals, Victoria and Albert entered their marriage longing for intimate companionship, yet each was determined to be the ruler. This dynamic would continue through the years–each spouse, headstrong and impassioned, eager to lead the marriage on his or her own terms. For two decades, Victoria and Albert engaged in a very public contest for dominance. Against all odds, the marriage succeeded, but it was always a work in progress. And in the end, it was Albert’s early death that set the Queen free to create the myth of her marriage as a peaceful idyll and her husband as Galahad, pure and perfect.

As Gill shows, the marriage of Victoria and Albert was great not because it was perfect but because it was passionate and complicated. Wonderfully nuanced, surprising, often acerbic–and informed by revealing excerpts from the pair’s journals and letters–We Two is a revolutionary portrait of a queen and her prince, a fascinating modern perspective on a couple who have become a legend.

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stern General Bruce, Bertie’s governor. An old military man who believed exposure to army life would be beneficial to the young man, Bruce persuaded Prince Albert to allow Bertie to spend the long vacation at the Curragh, a military camp in Killarney The price Albert had exacted for this indulgence was high. Bertie would have to show real good will in his studies and pass his exams. In Ireland, where he would be brevetted colonel without a regiment, he would be expected in ten weeks to acquire

ducal children of Coburg, was told it by one of the sisters themselves. 101 “The brutal Constantine treated Bauer, p. 22. 101 After some eight years, Juliana fled Constantine did his best to make his estranged wife’s life difficult until it suited him to get a divorce. Juliana, it seems, led a fairly irregular life once she went into exile, and efforts were made by her brothers and nephews to keep the facts about her from Queen Victoria and the respectable English branch of the family.

started referring to Conroy as a “Mephistopheles” and comparing his influence over the Duchess of Kent to “witchcraft.” People in England had no trouble figuring out Sir John Conroy. Great men like the Duke of Wellington, Lord Charles Greville, and Lord Melbourne wondered to each other how the Duchess of Kent could be deceived by such an obvious blackguard. But the duchess connived in her own deception. Victoire of Kent was a traditional man’s woman: sociable, pliant, not very bright, but

great-great-granddaughter Queen Elizabeth II still rides through London every year in a golden coach to open parliament and give the speech from the throne. The English in the nineteenth century liked to hear of female weakness and submission. They had seen Europe shaken to its foundations by a series of revolutions, and male hegemony was one ancient certainty that the vast majority of the population, male and female, was ready to defend at all costs. In 1840, the year that Victoria and Albert

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