“In an odd way, this book caused me to mimic what Rappaport attributes to the British people during Victoria's loooonnnnnnggggg period of mourning. As her people did, I found myself saying, "Come on already. Get on with it!"
That may be the beauty of this book - by showing in such extreme detail everything about Victoria's "feelings" (making no comment on the validity of those feelings), Rappaport caused me to feel as fatigued by the situation as did the Empire, no doubt. Could wax philosophical or make armchair diagnoses of Victoria's mental health, I choose to look to what this book did and did not do. I kept looking for the purpose of the title "... the Death that Changed the British Monarchy." Rappaport didn't really inform me of that until the last chapter. The fact that she had to tell me demonstrates, to this untutored reader, that the book didn't reveal that message more clearly on its own.
I was so frustrated by Victoria's self-delusional claim that she was honoring Albert by her behavior when, in fact, she was sorta spitting all over on what he had taught her - especially and directly about this mourning excess after her mother's death - by not facin' up to the job and gettin' that job done.
However, it is true that Victoria came into her own because Albert died in a way she probably would never have been able to do had he lived. Here's the thing about that part of the story, though. In the last chapter where Rappaport makes that claim, she wraps up the, what, 30 years? or so after Albert's death by saying that Victoria took control and exercised leadership in a variety of areas. This leadership is NEVER shown in this book in any way. Victoria's reign was saved by the happenstance of near tragedy combined with the seemingly inexhaustible love and desire of the British people to support the monarchy - no matter how badly one of those monarchs may behave.
As another reviewer has said, it is better to have known a lot about this period and the people involved in it to truly appreciate this book. I do not have that prior knowledge so I was left with "But, but but...who succeeded Victoria? Did Bertie ever shape up? What did Victoria actually DO besides dedicating innumerable statues, monuments, and other memorials to her beloved Albert? However, I do know enough to fully agree with the fact that Victoria changed the way that the British Royals are expected to behave. Albert's almost Puritan aspect and Victoria's wholesale adoption of those ethics and morals did, at least, put the salacious and irresponsible behaviors of Victoria's forebears into the "hide it at all costs" camp. We'll see how long that lasts.
I enjoyed the read. Well-written in direct contrast to several of the other histories, memoirs, and biographies I've completed in the last year. Just wish, frankly, that Rappaport had provided a bit more detail about the issues and consequences to both the Empire and the rest of the world by Victoria's decisions in those first several years after Albert's death to isolate herself and ignore the calls of her office.
3.5 stars - great writing, less filling than it could have been.”