After watching the movie, Young Victoria, I was inspired to read and learn more about Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. My grandmother happened to have We Two by Gillian Gill lying about. Someone gave it to her for Christmas and she was finished with it and she loaned it to me. While this book gave me some good information, I felt that the book was organized poorly, and the writing wasn’t as good nor as engaging as books by Alison Weir who has also written about the British Monarchy.
We Two is a sort of a double biography about Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. It covers both their childhoods, their courtship and how they reigned together after married. One weakness of the book, to me, is the fact that it doesn’t talk much about Victoria’s reign after Albert, and yes I know it is a book about both of them, but I don’t think the book should have abruptedly stopped after Albert’s death.
The book begins with each of their childhoods. We know everything about Victoria’s childhood because she was an avid journal keeper. Even though many of her journals were destroyed later, there is still plenty of information about Victoria through letters and journals. We come to know about and understand the strife between her and her mother and her mother’s secretary Sir John. And through the experiences in her childhood we come to understand many of her later motivations. The author admits they don’t know much about Albert’s childhood. He did not journal like Victoria or commit important things to letters or tell anyone including Victoria about his childhood. Much of his childhood is inferred from what we know about his family. Albert is a bit of an enigma and an unusual man for his time and his family. But it seems that both Victoria and Albert had rather sad childhoods. We move from their childhoods to their courtship and early marriage.
This book shows a different relationship then the one in Young Victoria the movie. The movie shows a passionate love affair where the couple was never at odds, and this makes a nice story and in Queen Victoria’s case, a nice memory, but it simply wasn’t true. This book gives up the truth behind the fairy tale of Victoria’s and Albert’s marriage. They were always pushing and pulling for power because they both wanted to be in charge so a lot of friction ensued. Sometimes Victoria won and sometimes Albert did. It seems for a while later in their marriage, Albert got the upper hand and how could he not when Victoria was busy have nine children! Albert did some great things for the English people but was never really accepted by the people of England because he was German and was hated by the English public until his death. We follow their reign with its failures and success, and vacations to Scotland up until Albert’s death. The book gives us a little bit of information about Victoria’s children (and how much she hated being pregnant) but not much. I was glad however, to see the book talked about Victoria’s genetic disorder, hemophilia, because in biology class we actually use her family as the text book example.
I liked that the book was a good historical account of Victoria and Albert’s lives and that they were pretty much given equal time in the book. It wasn’t like reading the biography of one and getting just mention of the other. The author Gillian Gill writes well but her historical biography is not as entertaining nor as easy to read as another historian, Alison Weir, who has written books about other English Monarchs. It gets a little slow sometimes, and her chronology suffers a bit at the end as she shuffles a few events around which was a bit confusing. The other thing I didn’t like about her book is she didn’t do the notes and references in her book as I have seen standard in other biographies or even classic novels. I am one of those people who like footnotes, explanations, and references (probably comes from being a biologist). But I had no idea that this book even had any notes because she didn’t do the APA style referencing. I got to the end of the book and noticed there were 30 pages of notes (that might have been helpful during parts of the book where I didn’t know exactly what was going on) but by that time it was too late to read them and the context was lost. I would comment to Gillian Gill she isn’t writing a novel and we need those context and explanations, give me footnotes please.
Overall if you are just curious about Victoria and Albert, this book will do, get it from the library. I don’t think however that I will be reading more of this author’s biographies although she has a few more on some interesting people. And I might look for a better written biography on both Queen Victoria and Albert.