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it’s just a book…

May 20th, 2009 · No Comments · Biography, History, It's just a Book

Hannah Pakula “An Uncommon Woman – The Empress Frederick”

19th century Great Britain is commonly known as “Victorian England” after the monarch who ruled it, although it would be more appropriate if it were called the “Albertian Age” after her Prince Consort.

Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha was a man of progressive and relatively liberal ideas for his time and it is thanks to his attitude and efforts that many of London’s great museums exist today.

His “enlightened influence” on the running of the family nursery ensured the survival of all his nine children into adulthood. The firstborn, Princess Victoria benefitted from her father’s liberal ideas and received a broad education, which would have otherwise been reserved exclusively for her brothers. It was particularly unusual that she received lessons in politics and philosophy.

Her marriage to the German Prince Frederick William of Prussia was as much a love match as a dynastic arrangement. Both were influenced by the liberal tendencies at the time, recognising that the old order of absolute monarchies was coming to an end. This created great tension between the ruling monarch and his Chancellor Otto von Bismarck.

Their son, later Kaiser Wilhelm II, opposed his parents ideas’ and when his father died of throat cancer after only 99 days in the “Three Emperor Year” 1888, he made sure that his name was all but forgotten. Victoria retired to a castle near Frankfurt, watching the development of her adopted country under the rule of her autocratic son from afar.

Hannah Pakula’s book highlights the uncommon development of a royal princess who never quite made it to the forefront of the historical stage.

Family tidbits (Wilhelm’s extreme fondness for ridiculous uniforms, which launched a stock German stereotype, was even mocked within his own family circle) and fine historical details of a turbulent time in Germany’s history round off this fine biographical read.

 

 

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