Queen Victoria hated children
history - Queen Victoria, Kaiser Wilhelm and Brexit
When the English Queen died in her summer residence in Osborne House in 1901, the German Emperor held her in his arms. Queen Victoria had expressly noted in her will that her grandson Wilhelm was under no circumstances allowed to approach her deathbed. She hated him. But her personal doctor gives in. Fourteen years later, the grandson is at war on his grandmother's country.
The concept of the British Queen did not work out. Although she married eight of her nine children to European royalty, the family network brought no peace to Europe. On the contrary, the First World War came and the end of many monarchies.
Two current biographies
Nevertheless, Queen Victoria will be celebrated intensely this year. She was born on May 24, 200 years ago to her German mother in Kensington Palace. An elaborate BBC series recounts her life. Two biographies have also been published in German. Both deal with the self-staging of the British Queen, who advised the democratically elected parliament for 63 years, countersigned its decisions, proposed laws and appointed bishops.
Prevented Irish self-government
Victoria was hostile to women's suffrage, national self-determination was of no importance to her and she drove to bloody wars in defense of her empire. It was particularly violent in rejecting self-government in Ireland. A redistribution of Irish soil seemed unthinkable to her. In 1886, she even hailed her adversary, Prime Minister William Gladstone, with an ingenious law that would have made it possible for Ireland to rule at home by splitting the Tories from behind. If Gladstone had won, there would probably have been no border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland today. Brexit would then not be a problem - with or without a customs community.
Intellectual enthusiasts for royalty
The Australian journalist Julia Baird portrays Victoria from a family perspective and with a weakness for royalist pomp. The English edition bears the imperial title: “The woman who shaped the modern world”. On the other hand, on the book cover of the German edition, it reads innocently: “The bold life of an extraordinary woman”. This caution is not necessary at all. Because the real benefit of the biography is that it shows how enlightened intellectuals still rave about the royal family to this day.
Intervention from Australia
As an experienced columnist, Baird is able to tell the immense material in a simple and exciting way by also offering identification options. She backs her sources, likes to quote, and it's worth reading her footnotes. She has read thousands of documents on this. It wasn't easy, as access to the Royal Archives in Windsor is a privilege. Only after the intervention of the Australian Governor General was Baird allowed to inspect Victoria's letters and notebooks.
Prince Albert ensured moral rigor
Queen Victoria moves surprisingly close to the reader. At the age of eleven, she realized that she was likely to become queen. At the age of 18 she took power over her kingdom and at 19 she married Prince Albert from Saxe-Coburg. Then the children come and she shares her power for 21 years. Was she a lustful wife, but a disinterested mother? Did she love her children beyond what was customary at the time? Baird discusses such questions in great detail and reveals that Prince Albert cultivated Victorian moral rigor. A sense of family, thrift and marital loyalty were particularly close to Albert's heart. The bourgeois Christmas room was his invention.
Luxury blends in disasters
Baird is careful with the queen. She sensitively describes Victoria's character contradictions. The world of the monarch feels like a luxurious living room. Extreme poverty, child labor, mass deaths and bloody wars seem like catastrophes that appear less dramatic in the English fog behind beautifully curved windows.
Upheavals of the 19th century
Baird describes the great upheavals of the 19th century and contrasts them with the Queen's self-portrayal as "domestically and feminine docile". Indeed, Victoria was a "tough, militant ruler." After Albert died in 1861, she was “more adept at operating the levers of power than most men around her,” says Baird. How powerful was the queen actually? In which cases did she have specific responsibility? Baird remains out of focus. It describes Victoria's positions in the Crimean, Afghanistan, and South Africa wars, not her actual actions.
There was no revolution
Why didn't Britain see a revolution in 1848 while the rest of Europe took to the streets? Baird's answer is because the constitutional monarchy gave stability to the British state. But Baird does not mention the fact that the British government used clever waves of arrests to forestall uprisings in their own country. The suffering of the common people remained enormous. In Ireland, the starving masses simply lacked physical strength.
Ireland question underexposed
The German historian Karina Urbach works much more analytically, but sometimes falls into a flippant style. Her biography eschews royalist décor and very specifically asks about Victoria's political influence. Unfortunately, the publisher C.H. Beck on footnotes and the page number is too short to go into detail. The Ireland question is not sufficiently illuminated in either book, although Julia Baird is keeping an eye on the latest research.
Visit to Prussia
Queen Victoria only appears in person once in Prussia, in 1888. A small window of time makes this possible. Her liberal son-in-law Fritz rules the German Empire for 99 days. However, she does not stay in any of the Potsdam castles, but in the more comfortable Charlottenburg Palace, where she receives "the old Bismarck", whom she despises as reactionary and Russian-friendly. He sighs enthusiastically as he walks out: “My God! What a woman! You could work with that! "
She didn't just hate her grandson
And why did Queen Victoria so adamantly fight the self-government of Ireland? After reading both biographies, the reader immediately thinks of Queen Victoria's claim to imperial rule. Under no circumstances should their empire shrink. Yet another suspicion arises: Queen Victoria hated one more person than her Prussian grandson: her mother's confidante, who had dominated her childhood: Sir John Conroy, an Irishman.
Julia Baird: Queen Victoria. The bold life of an extraordinary woman. Wbg / Theiss, 597 pages, 34 euros.
Karina Urbach: Queen Victoria. The indomitable queen. C.H. Beck, 284 pages, 24.95 euros.
By Nathalie Wozniak
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