Publication Date: October 28, 2013
Length: 423 pages
My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 5 out of 5 stars
WHY I CHOSE THIS BOOK:
All my life I've been obsessed with Queen Victoria. It amazes me how many lives she influenced as queen and as the grandmother of an empire. She and her descendants linked countless nations through marriages and children and their personal sagas provide endless material for writers. They endured highlights and hardships most of us cannot fathom. And at the end of an era it all came crashing to a halt with the fading of the Imperialist age. Christina Croft is excellent and so knowledgeable about this time period.
This book spans the years before and during World War I, culminating with the painful and tragic end of Alix and Ella, the two unfortunates who ended up in Russia during the Revolution. Queen Victoria produced twenty-two granddaughters, five of which became monarchs through their marriages: Maud of Norway, Empress Alix of Russia, Sophie of Greece, Marie of Romania, and Ena of Spain. The author includes details about each granddaughter with a family lineage synopsis at the beginning of each chapter. Although more information is naturally found surrounding the more well known women, lesser known granddaughters are equally covered with details about their personal lives and interactions with the Queen. As the twentieth century dawns, the lives of all the women are changed and altered in ways both good and bad. The book moves in a chronological time order so that we see history unfold along with their personal lives. The family dramas, alliances, and feuds are covered in detail so that the reader has a sense of the anguish and sadness that was present surrounding the shifting loyalties between relatives who only yesterday were loving family.
WHAT I LIKED:
Pretty much all of it! The quick reminder before each chapter of who's who in the family is a great help to keeping everyone straight. There are so many marriages and babies etc. not to mention romantic entanglements between family members that you need this quick update every few pages. I especially loved that I was learning history along with the personal stories of the women. While the book focuses on them, it never strays from their importance in the historical timeline. By the end of the book one will know the major events going on in the world that contributed to the downfall of these various countries and kingdoms ruled by the husbands or relatives of the women. Croft does a good job of moving the book along while being sure to include personal details of all the women. It is an ambitious task to cover this many people equally and with I'm sure a scarcity of primary sources for all of them.
WHAT I DIDN'T LIKE:
I have to confess I didn't really care about some of the women. While I appreciate the idea behind the book I'd like to see Croft tackle the biographies of just the five monarch granddaughters. She has written about so many of Victoria's relatives and offspring that I know she'd be great at this. It has already been done in Julia Gelardi's excellent book, Born To Rule, but still, I'd love to read Croft's take on the same subject. Other than this, there isn't much negative to take away here.
RECOMMEND? OR NOT? Yes, absolutely! If you have any interest in the British monarchy, reasons for the start of World War I, or in Queen Victoria herself I highly recommend this book or anything by Croft.