Books about Queen Victoria?
November 19, 2008 3:55 PM   Subscribe

What excellent books/films about Queen Victoria and her reign can you recommend? I'm not looking for exhaustive histories so must as highly readable/watchable ones.
posted by prior to Media & Arts (9 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Not a book (as far as I know) but Mrs Brown is a story based upon one aspect of her life.
posted by southof40 at 4:09 PM on November 19, 2008

A few years ago I read a really interesting book about Victoria's death and the reaction/impact on her children. I think it was Last Days of Glory: The Death of Queen Victoria.
posted by Sweetie Darling at 4:58 PM on November 19, 2008

If you want a flavor of political life in the Victorian era, I'd suggest the novels of Anthony Trollope, particularly The Eustace Diamonds or The Way We Live Now. It was written for Victorians, so you'll have to hold your nose about the role of women, plus occasional racism, anti-Semitism, etc., but Trollope was a great observer of character in men and women both, and considered a social critic in his time.
posted by Countess Elena at 5:16 PM on November 19, 2008

I cannot recommend Christopher Hibbert's Queen Victoria - A Personal History too highly.

I have read many of Hibbert's histories, and they are all excellent. He has a very engaging style, easy to read yet not lightweight. Very impressive.

Some of my other personal favourites include Redcoats & Rebels (his brief history of the US War of Independence), The Great Mutiny, Days of the French Revolution, The Virgin Queen - Elizabeth I, and The Destruction of Lord Raglan.

As you can see, I really enjoy his books.

But seriously. Check out his biography of Victoria. It's great. She truly was a remarkable woman.
posted by Mephisto at 5:33 PM on November 19, 2008 [1 favorite]

Film/TV: Mrs. Brown has Judi Dench and Billy Connolly going for it, and massive inaccuracies against it--so if you want accurate, beware. The miniseries Victoria and Albert is...not bad, IIRC. Dame Anna Neagle's two turns as the Queen in the 1930s are still famous, but the films may be too stilted (and cleaned up) for modern tastes. Disraeli: Portrait of a Romantic is pretty fun.

Biography: The standard biography of Queen Victoria is Elizabeth Longford's Victoria R. I. (1964), although there are a number of good recent books, including (as noted above) Christopher Hibbert's Queen Victoria: A Personal History. Hibbert has also edited a selection of her letters and journals. I'd avoid the Carolly Erickson biography.

For Queen Victoria's main dueling PMs: for Disraeli, try the one-two punch of Robert Blake's Disraeli (still standard on the political side) and Sarah Bradford's Disraeli (more attention to the private life); for Gladstone, Roy Jenkins' Gladstone is the most accessible one-volume biography. You can also try dipping into Disraeli's letters, which are full of all sorts of interesting gossip/social observation/political nattering. See also Lytton Strachey's Queen Victoria and Strachey's much waspier take in Eminent Victorians.

Fiction/drama: I haven't read Jean Plaidy's four novels about the queen, but she generally wrote solid, readable historical romances. There's a wonderfully insane take on Queen Victoria in Paul di Filippo's Steampunk Trilogy. Edward Bond's play Early Morning is even more outlandish (and probably not for the faint of heart).

Nineteenth-century fiction...well, I could go on all day. Ditto the Trollope recommendation; while you're reading Trollope, check out Mrs. Oliphant's Chronicles of Carlingford. (The Queen was a fan of Mrs. Oliphant.)
posted by thomas j wise at 5:48 PM on November 19, 2008 [2 favorites]

What a wonderful list of recommendations thomas j wise!

I hope you don't mind if I steal some of them for my own reading...
posted by Mephisto at 7:05 PM on November 19, 2008

Eminent Victorians is more amusing than the title suggests.
posted by zadcat at 8:44 PM on November 19, 2008

Oh my, and Strachey also wrote about Queen Victoria and the text is on Gutenberg too.
posted by zadcat at 8:45 PM on November 19, 2008

Thanks, all! I've got my work cut out for me. I think I'll start with Hibbert...
posted by prior at 10:35 PM on November 19, 2008

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