The Queen’s Husband
From the cradle Victoria and Albert were destined for each other. Albert, as the younger son of a minor German duke, was acutely aware of what marriage to the Queen of England would mean in terms of his personal ambitions. Victoria wrestled with her desire for independence—until she saw Albert at Windsor in 1839. Then Queen Victoria fell in love.
Together they forged the Victorian Age—the impetuous Queen and her indomitable consort. Through the stormy first years, Victoria was in almost perpetual revolt against any encroachment on her powers of state and against the continual pregnancies she had to endure. Albert, who battled for supremacy in the relationship, was forced to take stock of his wife’s nature, the clinging femininity that disguised a will of iron and a searing streak of vengefulness.
The Queen’s Husband is the third in the Queen Victoria series which also includes The Captive of Kensington Palace (1972), The Queen’s Husband (1973), and The Widow of Windsor (1974), all telling the story of Queen Victoria at different stages of her life.
As the title suggest, the third book explores Queen Victoria’s marriage to Prince Albert and the births of their nine children. The early stages of the novel recount Victoria falling in love with her cousin despite her desire not to marry for a while, however Albert is too hard to resist. Once the young queen’s desires are realised, the attention turns to Albert’s early years in Coburg which shaped the man he was to become. Despite a close relationship with his brother, Ernst, Albert’s childhood in Coburg was not particularly happy and was marred by the banishment of his mother for infidelity. Without a significant female influence in his life, Albert is uncomfortable around women and is socially awkward.
Albert is aware he has been groomed since birth to become the husband of one of the most powerful monarchs in Europe but he is reluctant to play second fiddle to a woman who he believes to be intellectually inferior. After his marriage, Albert wrestles to find his place at Victoria’s side as she maintains her duties as queen rank above those of a wife despite her love for her new husband. Albert also struggles with the negative attitude of society who see him as just another impoverished German prince unworthy of being their young queen’s husband. However, as the babies begin to arrive, Albert manages to take an increasingly larger role in the country’s affairs until he is practically ruling in Victoria’s stead.
As expected The Queen’s Husband is faster paced than the previous books as it has to get through twenty years of married life and the births of nine children. Victoria is presented as being very much in love with her husband who soon becomes her main focus outside of her royal duties, however she is aware of how the country perceives him as an interloper and doesn’t allow him to influence her. Surprisingly, Albert’s love for Victoria never reaches the same heights and he often finds fault with his wife which often becomes very disparaging. As Victoria becomes occupied with her frequent pregnancies, she realises she cannot do everything alone and slowly relinquishes control to Albert.
At the same time, Plaidy is careful to acknowledge Albert did make significant contributions to Victoria’s reign and he is allowed to shine during his various projects like the Great Exhibition. Albert has a strong desire to improve the country even if some of his ideas are brushed aside as interference. At the start of the novel, Albert and Victoria are both still regarded as potential puppets by those seeking to have control over them, however they both have an independent streak and any thoughts of manipulating them soon fall away.
Albert’s overworking soon begins to take its toll on his already precarious health though and the book reaches its climax when his last illness leads to his death. Victoria is distraught by his loss and her reaction is heartbreaking. Having growing so dependent on her husband, Victoria cannot envision life without him and she retreats into herself.
The language is still a tad old-fashioned which makes the dialogue stilted and the interactions between the royal couple too sentimental. Victoria’s constant admiration of her perfect angel of a husband do get on your nerves after a while.