Victoria the Queen, Julia Baird’s exquisitely wrought and meticulously researched biography, brushes the dusty myth off this extraordinary monarch. Right out of the gate, the book thrums with authority as Baird builds her portrayal of Victoria. Overturning stereotypes, she rips this queen down to the studs and creates her anew ... Baird writes in the round. She constructs a dynamic historical figure, then spins out a spherical world of elegant reference, anchoring the narrative in specific detail and pinning down complex swaths of history that, in less capable hands, would simply blow away. At points, she also pulls back, effectively locating her subject within a broader context ... Baird’s central figures are sculpted from finely grained raw material, enhanced with the kind of detail that lends them nuance and dimension.
Baird emphasizes Victoria’s private side and guides us through her personal life with a sympathetic touch. She makes excellent use of Victoria’s voluminous personal writings and humanizes this forbidding figure ... Baird is also a fine guide through the political side of the monarchy, and Victoria’s dealings with a long line of prime ministers, political upheavals and electoral reforms ... Baird brings a compassionate humanity to the story of Victoria, and leaves us with a fresh understanding of her influential rule and, just as importantly, her interior life. This Victoria has a strong, beating heart.
Victoria: The Queen is that rare bird of serious historical biography, a page-turner. Writing with grace and authority, Baird reaches well beyond the conventional image of a reclusive and compliant queen to reveal 'a robust and interventionist ruler,' iron-willed, uncompromising and sexually charged -- a most unvictorian woman ... Such glimpses are humanizing, even endearing. Far from salacious, they create a foundation for understanding the powerful forces that shaped Victoria, both and simultaneously as woman and ruler -- a complex interaction that during her lifetime often defied understanding ... As a writer and historian, Baird has a wonderful gift for compressing complicated personalities and historical events.