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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Magnificent Obsession - Magnificent Book
I love Prince Albert.

For so many years portrayed and seen as a dour, miserable, straight-laced Germanic bore, it is a delight to me that over the past twenty or so years, various biographies have put the record straight. He had had an idyllic childhood in Rosenau with his brother Ernst spending their time `walking, hunting, shooting and fencing, as well as...
Published on 17 Nov 2011 by Elaine Simpson-long

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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Thoughtful, but sometimes tedious look at Queen Victoria's grief period
One may never see devotion more true than that which can occur between husband and wife. Some take that devotion to excess, however, living in mourning for decades after their spouses die. Queen Victoria, Great Britain's monarch from 1837-1901, is one such woman. She went so far as to go into virtual seclusion for ten years when her beloved Prince Albert died in 1861...
Published on 24 Jun 2012 by David Roy


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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Magnificent Obsession - Magnificent Book, 17 Nov 2011
By 
Elaine Simpson-long (Colchester, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Magnificent Obsession: Victoria, Albert and the Death That Changed the Monarchy (Hardcover)
I love Prince Albert.

For so many years portrayed and seen as a dour, miserable, straight-laced Germanic bore, it is a delight to me that over the past twenty or so years, various biographies have put the record straight. He had had an idyllic childhood in Rosenau with his brother Ernst spending their time `walking, hunting, shooting and fencing, as well as indulging their fascination with science and nature in a passion for collecting specimens'. Albert was an accomplished pianist and organist as well as a fine singer and talented composer. All this at 21 and at that age he found himself married to one of the most important monarchs on the European stage. One wonders what would have happened if this marriage, long arranged, had been an unhappy one, if Victoria had not loved him. We all we all know she adored him.

In fact she probably adored him too much. Her passion for her husband was all consuming though in the first years of her marriage this did not stop her from trying to dominate him and jealously guard her royal prerogative and status. It was a tricky time but Albert negotiated his way through the minefield that was Victoria's temperament with consummate skill, understanding and love until the stage was reached when he was her `beloved Albert' and she allowed herself to become subsumed in him, looking for his approval in everything, consulting him in all state matters and allowing him to expand her knowledge of books, music and art. She was aware that her own education was sadly lacking and was happy to bow to him in everything. By the time of his death in 1861 he was acknowledged to be King in all but name.

Helen Rappaport's splendid new book is called Magnificent Obsession and it was Victoria's obsession with Albert after his tragically early death that nearly brought about the fall of the monarchy when she shut herself up at Windsor or fled to Balmoral and was not seen by the public for many years. Though there were times when reading this book when I longed to shake Victoria and tell her to snap out of it, I could not help but be moved by the depth of the all consuming grief that overcame the Queen after Vvthe Prince Consort's demise. They had been married for 21 years, were blissfully happy (though it would appear that sometimes Albert found her excessive love and devotion exhausting) and at the age of 42, in the prime of her life, both mentally and physically, she was widowed. The man who was all in all to her and who she cared for more than her children had gone and she was left bereft.

The news of Albert's death hit the public like a thunderbolt. The bulletins issued from Windsor Castle regarding the Prince's illness were bland and optimistic. In part this was to keep the Queen from realising the seriousness of his condition as it was feared she would totally break down. In the end she had to be prepared and by then it was too late to change the tenor of the medical reports issued and the first intimation that something awful had happened was when the great bell of St Pauls, which only tolled on the death of a monarch, was rung and people rushed out into the streets on hearing its sound.

Queen Victoria went into deep mourning and seclusion and as the years passed by she came dangerously close to using up all the capital of goodwill which she and Albert had built up over the years in their stabilising of the monarchy. With her obsession with the memory of her Beloved Albert, the proliferation of statues and monuments all over the country, her unwillingness to be seen in public and to carry out any duties at all she was, to put it bluntly, pushing her luck. Albert had instilled in her the importance of one's duty and it is a paradox that despite her adoration of him and all his ideals, her wilful turning of her back on this duty was totally at odds with Albert's teachings.

And yet, she endured. Her tragic and early widowhood forced Victoria to rely on herself. She may not have wanted to but her inner strength and bloody mindedness kept her going, despite her best efforts to cling to her grief and her claims to be too fragile and weak to cope. A woman who could not cope would not have turned herself into the Grandmamma of Europe, the determined and feisty sovereign who shot off an endless stream of letters to Monarchs and dynasties all over Europe telling them what she thought, arranging marriages, forbidding others, never letting anything get past her eagle eye. To read the Queen's later letters is to discover a determined fearless woman with purpose and will and one who never doubted for one moment the love and support of her subjects. She was right about that and many other things.

This is a wonderful book about a wonderful, stubborn, irritating, selfish, self centered, brave and determined woman.

I love Queen Victoria
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25 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Magnificent Obsession, 19 Nov 2011
By 
S Riaz "S Riaz" (England) - See all my reviews
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This is not a usual biography, but an examination of the death of Albert, the Prince Consort, and Queen Victoria's reaction to it. As Helen Rappaport points out, biographies often neglect to examine the death of Albert, choosing to look at Victoria's life before or after her becoming a widow. Yet, her extreme reaction to the loss of her husband changed, and undermined, the monarchy. This book seeks to understand why Victoria reacted as she did and the effect of her intense mourning on her family and the nation.

The book begins with a joyful Christmas, 1860, with the family having an almost childish delight in present giving and Christmas trees and merry making; little knowing that the following December would lead to the loss of Prince Albert. Victoria was a woman who needed love and attention - her early life dominated by her mother, she later relied on other male figures, such as the Prime Minister, before finding ecstatic love in her marriage to Albert and later leaning on her Scottish servant John Brown. Although with no official role or title for a long time, Albert was patient and, by his death, was acting as a 'dual monarch' with Victoria, who relied upon him absolutely as her surrogate father, husband, best friend, assistant and teacher.

Victoria believed that worries about their eldest son, Albert, Prince of Wales ("poor Bertie") caused Albert to become ill. However, the book discusses various causes; from overwork to isolation. The author presents a very sympathetic picture of this man, much resented and seen as formal, prudish and reserved, yet essential to the smooth running of the monarchy. His illness and death is described in detail and his death plunged the nation into mourning. He died on the 14th December and, although it was near Christmas, the country virtually closed - theatres shut, shops shuttered and all festivities cancelled - including Dickens, who had (unwillingly you sense), to cancel lucrative public readings.

The author cleverly shows how the death of Victoria's mother prefaced the terrible grief she would show on losing Albert. She plunged the court into full mourning for two years and never allowed them out of half mourning in her life time. Although those that produced mourning clothes profited, as did Whitby, where the centre of jet jewellery was based, a year of unending grief lost the Queen sympathy. Her retreat from public life is well known, but this book details public, and private, reaction to her reclusion and it is interesting to see how her never ending grief was viewed - from sympathy to irration and resentment. As the monarchy came under pressure, the author shows how they survived the crisis of one woman who, it has to be said, seemed to enjoy prolonging her grief, using it as a ploy to avoid situations she disliked having to cope with, while being unwilling to give up her throne to her son.

There is an informative appendix on possible causes for the death of Prince Albert and the book also gives an interesting portrait of the Victorian era and how mourning was a very formal event. In a time when death is hardly mentioned, it is fascinating to learn how it was dealt with in a time when people were more likely to be nursed, and die, at home and when death came often and suddenly. This is a very interesting account of Victoria's obsession with her sainted Albert and a brilliant portrait of the Queen, very human for all her shortcomings. Lastly, I read the kindle version of this book and the illustrations were included at the end.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Compulsive read, 22 Nov 2011
This review is from: Magnificent Obsession: Victoria, Albert and the Death That Changed the Monarchy (Hardcover)
Being a nocturnal reader, I was consigned to the spare bedroom by my husband, as I was unable to put Magnificent Obsession down! My God was it worth it!
Helen Rappaport weaves her story and gently pulls you into history unlike many books of this genre, which at times can be dull as ditchwater and a cure for insomnia.
The book was well researched, thoughtfully written and thoroughly enjoyable. It brings Victoria to life, during a very bleak period, into focus and shows how manipulative and childlike her behaviour could be. Rappaport also gives a new and fresh slant on what could have actually caused poor,interferring and overworked Alberts demise.
She also describes vividly the family dynamics and titbits of history which I wasn't aware of, such as Britain almost being dragged into war with America, or that Victoria never really enjoyed her childrens company, preferring Albert,such was her obsessive love.
It is a book which I would whole heartedly recommend.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A crowning glory, 20 Nov 2011
By 
C. Pope "funkychicken73" (Brighton, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Magnificent Obsession: Victoria, Albert and the Death That Changed the Monarchy (Hardcover)
Having read some of Helen Rappaport's other books, I had high expectations of 'Magnificent Obsession'. I'm pleased to say that they were exceeded. Much has been written about Queen Victoria's long reign, but in this book Rappaport turns her keen historical eye on the year leading up to Prince Albert's death, and the two decades of dedicated mourning that followed. Victoria's own overwhelming grief is juxtaposed with that of a nation who considered the Prince Consort to be their uncrowned king.

Rappaport's account is scholarly, yet compelling and highly readable. The story is placed in unobtrusive, meticulous historical context, and the archival research is impeccable. I am an academic researcher in this field and rarely have I encountered a book that has satisfied in so many different respects.

'Magnificent Obssession' will appeal to both specialist and general readers, and is an example of historical writing at its best.
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Love and Death, 23 Nov 2011
By 
Gregory S. Buzwell "bagpuss007" (London) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Magnificent Obsession: Victoria, Albert and the Death That Changed the Monarchy (Hardcover)
Queen Victoria's marriage to Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha was unusual in one remarkable respect - she genuinely loved him. In an age when royal marriages still played an important role in forging links between nations finding your intended husband was intelligent, handsome, diligent and genuinely devoted to you was something of an unexpected bonus. No wonder then that after twenty years of blissful married life and the birth of several healthy children Queen Victoria was plunged into a sort of perpetual winter when her beloved Albert died just before Christmas in 1861. Except, of course, things were not quite that simple....

Helen Rappaport's Magnificent Obsession is one of the finest history books I have read in recent years. On one level it acts as a beautifully researched account of the events leading up to Albert's death and an elegant exploration of how his death shaped the monarchy, and the country, for the remainder of Queen Victoria's long reign; on another level it serves as a dramatic account of a very personal grand passion, a passion that plunged a still young woman into a spiral of despair when it came to an untimely end. History on a national scale and the emotions of one family are beautifully balanced and the narrative, as a result, works well on many different levels. Rappaport also has a gift for portraying characters - I had a new respect for Prince Albert having learnt of his unwavering devotion to Britain, his desire to shield his wife from some of the less appealing pressures of being a monarch, his interest in the arts and the sciences and his devotion as a father to his children. Other players in the drama - the sychophantic Dr Jenner for example, still bumbling and uttering soothing words to the Queen long after all hope for Albert's recovery had vanished and the loyal, down to earth, but genuinely concerned and well-meaning John Brown - all come across as individuals rather than as mere names on the periphery of somebody else's drama. The book also hits a good balance between Albert's sudden decline and death and the legacy he left behind. Victoria's protracted mourning caused a constitutional crisis with questions being asked as to whether the country any longer needed a monarchy, but her passion to preserve Albert's memory also brought about Albertopolis - the buildings and institutions such as the Royal Albert Hall, The Natural History Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum that many of us know and love today.

In addition to the bigger picture though, and for all of the excellent character sketches - dutiful, long suffering daughter Alice, bearing the brunt of her mother's grief; or affable Bertie - well-meaning but rather hopeless and a worry to his parents - what really put the book into the top flight for me was the surrounding detail: the descriptions of mourning wear, the details of the royal ceremonies; the manner in which the press approached the tragedy and the response to the Queen's protracted grief by the general public. The tragic events are put into a wider context which gives them an added depth and relevance.

It's probably apparent from the above that I absolutely loved this book. I have a fondness for anything Victorian but, even in a crowded field, this stands out as an excellent work: beautifully written; well-researched and beautifully referenced (no claims are made without being backed up by contemporary evidence) the book should keep the serious historians and the general readers equally happy. Definitely one of my books of the year.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A real page turner, 26 Nov 2011
This review is from: Magnificent Obsession: Victoria, Albert and the Death That Changed the Monarchy (Hardcover)
It's not very often that you can describe a serious and well-researched history book as a real page-turner, but my goodness Helen Rappaport has managed to produce one. I absolutely whizzed through it and was rivetted every inch of the way.

As most people surely know by now, this is the story of the death of Albert the Prince Consort and the subsequent violent reaction of his wife Queen Victoria. Although I suppose I was vaguely familiar with the story, in so far as I knew that she was grief stricken for a long time afterwards, I had no idea of most of the truly fascinating details. I also knew that when Victoria and Albert married it was a real love match, certainly on her side, but again I had not taken on board extent of the intense passion she developed for him. Nor had I realised how much of the running of the country he had undertaken -- pretty much all of it, really, so it seems. Perhaps this was not altogether surprising given that she was frequently pregnant. But all of these sketchy bits of half-knowledge have been filled out into an amazingly full and unforgettable picture.

By the time of Albert's decline and eventual death the couple had been married for over twenty years. And while Victoria's passion showed no sign of abating, Albert was quite simply exhausted and frequently unwell. The queen, however much she apparently adored him, showed absolutely no sympathy for his failing health -- extraordinarily stong and healthy herself, she thought he just needed to pull himself together, a fact that almost certainly contributed to the shocking lack of medical care he received until far too late.

I have to say that Victoria does not come out at all well here. Her insensitivity towards the obviously ill Albert, her lack of interest in her children, and above all her behaviour after his death, made her, for me, a pretty unattractive character and I was hard pressed to find a scrap of sympathy for her. Her persistence in playing the part of the grieving widow for an absurdly long time -- her refusal to let anybody show signs of enjoying themselves for a second -- her insistence that everybody in the court wore black for an incredibly lengthy period (as she herself did until the day of her death some 40 years later) -- and her utter neglect of affairs of state were quite shocking. Yes she may have been clinically depressed and I expect she was, at first, but she milked her unhappiness for all it was worth and even when she cheered up considerably -- mainly owing to the appearance in her life of the stalwart John Brown -- she still persisted in spending most of her time at Balmoral in Scotland, miles and hours from London, and refused to take part in any of the expected public appearances.

Indeed -- and this I also did not know -- Victoria's popularity reached such a low ebb that there was a grave danger of Britian becoming a republic. In fact the only thing that really stopped this from becoming a serious reality was the grave illness of the Prince of Wales, which caused public sympathy to swing back towards the royal family. She did, so Helen Rappaport makes clear, become a more responsible ruler in the last years of her life, but it was a close run thing.

All the characters who appear here come vividly to life -- not just Victoria and Albert, but all the children, the attendants, and the various hangers on. The historical and social background is excellent too -- the effect on the economy in particular of the long years of mourning, which made fortunes for some tradespeople, memorably the jet craftsmen of Whitby and the London stores specialising in mourning dress. All in all I can't fault this book and I recommend it most highly.
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4.0 out of 5 stars THE DEATH THAT DEFINED A QUEEN, 2 July 2014
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Added a little more to my knowledge of this fascinating woman and her obsession with her dead husband. Perhaps his death contributed to making her (eventually) a better Queen in the eyes of her people. However she certainly comes over as a selfish and difficult mother, which Albert was trying to correct before he died.

It was fascinating to read Helen Rappaport's ideas about Albert's fatal illness, and I believe that she is correct in her thinking.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The real Victoria and albert, 13 Feb 2014
By 
Daisy Goodwin (London) - See all my reviews
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An excellent study of the marriage that set the standard for the Victorian age. Victoria was the ultimate example of a woman who loved too much. But her passion for Albert did not extend to her children. She was a demanding wife, but a terrible mother. Her moan virtue as queen was longevity. Hard not feel sorry for Albert. Rappaport also has some fascinating theorists about what killed Albert.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Unputdownable!, 22 Feb 2013
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This book is amazingly well researched and gives a very interesting insight into the character of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. I found I could hardly put it down. It has answered many of the questions I have wanted to know about life behind the scenes in the life of this family,particularly of the older children.An excellent read.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Magnificent Obsession, 12 Feb 2013
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This review is from: Magnificent Obsession: Victoria, Albert and the Death That Changed the Monarchy (Hardcover)
I loved this. It was well-researched and written with authority, but with a lightness that it made it very readable. Thank you very much.
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