We Two: Victoria and Albert: Rulers, Partners, Rivals

Written by Gillian Gill
Review by Ellen Keith

Gill, biographer of Florence Nightingale, turns her attention to one of the most famous marriages of 19th-century England, that of Victoria and her Prince Consort. Recent history has focused on her widowhood following his death at age 42 in 1861 (most notably, the film Mrs. Brown) but Gill concentrates instead on their respective childhoods (à la Tolstoy, they were each unhappy in different ways) and their marriage.

This is a fascinating account of a marriage about which much has been assumed but there is still much to reveal. Gill makes a strong case for famed Victorian prudery being Albertian prudery instead. As important as it was that Victoria be a virgin until her marriage, it was equally important that her spouse be unsullied; in Albert’s case, he was more loved than loving. Although proceeding chronologically like a traditional biography, Gill has also written chapters thematically, focusing in turn on their home life, Albert’s relationship with political leaders and his jockeying for power, their attitudes towards childrearing, and their dynastic hopes. To read this book is to unravel much of what became 20th-century European history and to wonder what would have been had Albert survived his wife.