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on 13 December 2009
This book reads like the very best fiction and indeed the story of Victoria and Albert is more akin to a fairy-tale than the stuffy image of the dumpy dour little Queen featured in so many photographs of her, surrounded members of her multitudinous family.

The young princess, Victoria, heiress to the kingdom of England was kept as sequestered as any heroine of legend in Kensington Palace by her mother Victoria, Duchess of Kent and her adviser, the low-born Sir John Conroy. While the Duchess of Kent claimed it was to protect her from the moral contamination of the debauched courts of her Hanoverian uncle-Kings, Princess Victoria was held in virtual imprisonment and subject to emotional abuse by Conroy and the Duchess. Forced to sleep in her mother's bedroom and never allowed to be alone for a single second for the first eighteen years of her life this caused lasting psychological damage to Victoria.

Victoria's beloved half-sister Foedora was banished to a demeaning and impoverished marriage in Germany to prevent her infecting Victoria with rebellion against her mother and Conroy whose aim was to garner power and wealth to themselves with a prolonged Regency and control over a submissive Victoria thereafter. Even when extremely ill Victoria was bullied incessantly by Conroy and the Duchess to grant power to them and- testament to her strength of resolve-refused to comply.

Liberation came shortly after her 18th birthday and acession to the English throne. Her first act was to have her bed moved from her mother's room and she never forgave her for the abuse she had suffered at her hands.

Besieged by suitors eager to marry the Queen of England,Victoria's choice was in reality limited to a handful of German protestant princes, mostly related to her. Her cousin, handsome,chaste Albert of Saxe-Coburg the scion of an impoverished family became her real-life Prince Charming.

Tensions soon arose in the marriage however as Albert sought real power while Victoria saw herself as the dominant partner and wanted Albert to assume a traditionally feminine role of submissive spouse. Albert had other ideas and aided in large part by his wife's nine pregnancies imposed himself as the real ruler of England with an adoring Victoria rubber-stamping his decisions.

The narrative follows the ups-and downs of the marriage and the gradual transformation of the sensuous, wilful fun-loving Victoria by the prim protestantism of Albert into the dour icon of mercentile middle-England. It was Albert and not Victoria who was responsible for the image of cosy domesticity of the British royal family. Victoria throughly enjoyed sex but hated child-birth yet had nine children who spread her genes and in many cases haemophilia throughout the royal houses of Europe.

During her reign the British monarchy changed from actively ruling to being constitutional monarchs largely due to the early favouritism for the Whigs assumed by the Duchess of Kent and continued by Victoria. While she was herself a catalyst for change, the development of the values and morals of the Victorian era owed much to the changing times and radical policies of the Whigs.

Finally, with the death of Albert, Victoria had to reinvent herself as an active and energetic ruler which she did with consummate aplomb and verve.

Gillian Gill really brings Victoria and Albert to life and explains why their back stories made them who and what they were, tearing away the cobwebs of their myth. I enjoyed immensely the almost conversational casual style in which Gill writes and found the copious notes very informative and useful as well as highly enjoyable in their own right.

This is one of the best biographies I have read in a long while and one which I shall certainly read again.
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on 16 January 2012
We Two is a wonderful dual biography of two of the most fascinating characters in 19th Century British history. It really reads like a work of fiction, and you won't even notice having devoured three or four chapters in one sitting. There is depth but not too much detail, and Gillian doesn't assume that the reader knows the ins and outs of Victorian history. It really is reader friendly. Even the French or German passages have been translated, which comes in handy when one is not a brilliant linguist. But there is one niggling point that kept me from giving the book five stars: how Gill portrays Albert.

As anyone who reads history will know, history is never clear cut. History is up for interpretation, and each writer and historian has their own take on things. However, Gill, from the very first chapters, clearly has a negative view of the Prince Consort. At times it seems that she cannot compliment him or see his positive points because it might weaken Queen Victoria's status as a woman and monarch. It is almost like Gill has decided that wife and husband were in constant competition. For the Queen to win, the Prince has to lose. She is the strong one, he the weakling. It seems completely one dimensional, not to mention incredibly biased. Gill judged a nineteenth century man with twenty-first century goggles. Never a good thing. If all history figures were seen in this light not one king, prince, politician, rebel, do-gooder etc would ever come out looking like a decent human being.

Another annoying little point, in the description of We Two it mentions how Victoria and Albert's marriage was passionate and complicated. Little is mentioned of the passionate side of the marriage; instead there is a brief passage here and there stating that Queen Victoria adored her husband, found safety in his arms. Surely there was much more to tell, so where is it?

Overall, however, We Two is a fantastic read. It is light, fast-paced, smart and beautifully written. I would recommend it to anyone wanting an insight into one of the most fascinating marriages in history.
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on 5 January 2013
I bought the paperback version of this book, and although the content is fascinating and extremely well written, I found the pages rather thin and the font incredibly small, which I have to admit puts me off a book. I did plough on, though, which I am pleased to have done, as it was so interesting. Maybe the Kindle version of this book would help if you own one, to change font size?
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on 12 February 2013
This was well-written and researched with great care. It was informative and still had the lightness of touch to make it a real page-turner. Overall it was a scholarly work,which gave me real pleasure. Thank you.
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on 4 June 2017
Haven't quite finished it but so "far so good" sympathetic on Victoria which is unusual!
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on 24 December 2016
An absolutely fantastic book. Definitely a must read. Great detail through out
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on 8 April 2011
This is truly one of the best non fiction books I've ever read. Granted, I'm particularly infatuated with the Victorian era, but I was pleasantly surprised in this to find it both accessible and concise. Much background history is discussed, which might understandably becomes a bit mind boggling, but it is all presented in the clearest and most insightful of ways. That Victoria was fated for the throne is perhaps evidenced by the complexity of circumstances that surround her history and upbringing. Her influence was magnificent, and is still felt today. I'm grateful for this re-examination of the couple and what they did for England and the Western world. The last several decades have judged them unduly harshly, in my opinion. It's a pleasant read throughout. I read it slowly, since there was so much information to digest, but it was certainly no difficult book to read, and even managed to evoke a little of the flavour of the era. I'm glad I found this book. I found it both informative and inspiring.
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on 2 October 2011
I must admit I have a mild obsession with the Victorian era but as this book is non fiction I was a little concerned that it may read like a list of historical and political events. I was wrong. This is a wonderful book written about a fascinating relationship, a fascinating Monarch and a fascinating period of history. Gill manages to intersperse historical events and politics into a rich and warm account of a loving relationship which was also heavily unbalanced. Though Queen Victoria was the reigning Monarch, it was her husband Albert who ruled from behind the scenes. Queen Victoria shows her vulnerability in this account of her unwavering love for Prince Albert, her defense of him at all times, her jealousy of his relationship with their children and her dependence on him emotionally and bodily. Gill tries to present an unbiased portrayal of the couple including their flaws as well as endearing qualities. I am left wanting to read more about Queen Victoria's life and what happened after the death of her beloved husband. Please write a sequel about Queen Victoria and John Brown Mrs Gill, it would be very well received.
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on 7 January 2015
my daughter loved this book.
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on 1 August 2009
Interesting book but a full bibliography at the end would have been useful, since the research is extensive and should have been conducive to other referenced books. These books are quoted but without giving dates or publishers.
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