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Prince Albert: The Man Who Saved the Monarchy


Prince Albert: The Man Who Saved the Monarchy

For those impassioned by all things Victoriana, A.N. Wilson’s generously detailed biography of the iconic British sovereign’s beloved husband, Albert, brings long-overdue recognition to a complex, brilliant and even tragic figure in history.

The title alone, PRINCE ALBERT: The Man Who Saved the Monarchy, states the author’s thesis boldly front and center. The young German aristocrat who captured the teenaged Victoria’s heart just prior to her coronation in 1837 was no ordinary husband, lover, parent or background dignitary. He created a new mold for a new role that has continued to this day.

In just over two decades of turbulent marriage (from 1840 until his death in 1861 at just 42 years of age), Albert and Victoria produced nine royal children, and weathered numerous internal and external political crises. They became symbolic of an era that appeared as an island of stability while European monarchies were dissolving around them, and much of what would become the “free world” struggled with economic and civil upheaval.

Drawing on a vast array of personal correspondence and royal archival documents not previously available, Wilson offers a thorough, deeply engaged and often surprising portrayal of a brilliant yet practical idealist who literally created an indispensable and unprecedented role for himself unlike anything in the history of reigning British monarchs.

"For anyone enthralled by 19th-century history, PRINCE ALBERT is a must-read --- not just once, but at least twice, to savor the full range of Wilson’s abundant research and enticing prose."

By virtue of a solid and wide-ranging education that far surpassed the norm for European nobility at the time, Albert ventured into the labyrinth of British society and constitutional monarchy with a skill set that would profoundly alter the culture, the politics and even the economy of his adopted nation.

Now, on the 200th anniversary of the Prince Consort’s birth, 21st-century readers might not be as impressed as they should on learning how fervently Albert became involved with myriad aspects of British arts, sciences, trade, architecture, transportation, social welfare, housing, military standards, educational reform and, of course, political leadership.

Today, we are all too used to reading, seeing and hearing how extensively H.R.H. Prince Philip (consort to H.R.H. Queen Elizabeth II) and king-in-waiting Charles, Prince of Wales, have thrown their abilities, influence and passion into similar areas of endeavor. However, what Wilson shows so strikingly in the richly detailed and annotated pages of PRINCE ALBERT is how effectively Albert set the tone, created the template, in fact, for the role of a modern partner to a modern monarch.

Through more than 20 chapters highlighting Albert’s background, upbringing, complex familial relationships with Europe’s royal houses, ideals and aspirations, major projects, disappointments, conflicts, and personal and parental trials, Wilson doesn’t simply weave a plethora of exacting data into the fabric of his life. What gives this biography an ever-changing and magnetic texture are the numerous contextual details and commentaries he inserts that give Albert’s story an unusual range of feeling and aesthetic substance.

Everything Albert did, said, wrote, attended or planned in his unique hands-on manner related to larger social movements in the late-19th-century world. Whether working with industrial and academic leaders of the day on projects such as the monumental Great Exhibition of 1851, or providing background support to better the lives of the poor and marginalized, nothing he chose to champion was too minor to receive anything less than his total effort --- an all-or-nothing tendency that even Queen Victoria found worrying at times and may well have shortened his life.

While Wilson gives little or no credibility to the idea that Albert may have really wanted to be on the throne rather than beside or behind it, there is little doubt that he became a respected and authoritative voice for Victoria when she most needed one --- during her many months of prenatal anxiety and acute postnatal depression that spanned their two decades together. She would live nearly twice as long as the man she called “my Angel” and serve as a strong and wise monarch during many decades of widowhood, but Albert’s solid intellect and administrative energy sustained them when it most counted for both government and nation.

For anyone enthralled by 19th-century history, PRINCE ALBERT is a must-read --- not just once, but at least twice, to savor the full range of Wilson’s abundant research and enticing prose.

Reviewed by Pauline Finch on October 18, 2019

Prince Albert: The Man Who Saved the Monarchy
by A. N. Wilson

  • Publication Date: August 25, 2020
  • Genres: Biography, Nonfiction
  • Paperback: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial
  • ISBN-10: 0062749560
  • ISBN-13: 9780062749567