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A Magnificent Obsession: Victoria, Albert, and the Death That Changed the British Monarchy Hardcover – March 13, 2012

4.4 out of 5 stars 50 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


As shocking and immediate as a thriller. . . . [A] gripping read. (People magazine (3 ½ stars) on The Last Days of the Romanovs)

Quite simply, stunning. . . . Chilling and poignant, this is how history books should be written. (Alison Weir, author of Henry VIII: The King and His Court)

About the Author

HELEN RAPPAPORT studied Russian at Leeds University and is a specialist in Russian and nineteenth-century women's history. She lives in Oxford. She is the author of books including The Last Days of the Romanovs and A Magnificent Obsession.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press; Reprint edition (March 13, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780312621056
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312621056
  • ASIN: 0312621051
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.3 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (50 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,003,307 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By John D. Cofield TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on March 15, 2012
Format: Hardcover
To most people today Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, Prince Consort of England, is a shadowy figure remembered, if at all, as Queen Victoria's husband. Helen Rappaport's meticulously researched account of his final days, death, funeral, and their impact on Victoria and her country and Empire, is an excellent reminder of both Albert's role in the monarchy and the changes that came about after his death.

Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha was an intelligent and high minded man who had been destined from birth to marry his slightly older cousin Victoria. Despite the arranged nature of their marriage, Victoria and Albert were deeply in love and utterly devoted to each other. Victoria was a highly emotional woman accustomed to having her ever whim accomodated. She was determined to rule as well as reign and within two years of succeeding to the throne had already caused one major political crisis by refusing to accept a change in Government because it meant giving up her own attending ladies. After marrying her in 1840 Albert gradually gained influence over his wife, limiting the effect her frequent emotional storms had on the day to day running of the government and on their growing family. Successive ministers and other politicians came to appreciate and trust his hard work and common sense, and even though he was never really popular in his adopted home due to being thought excessively earnest and rather dull, by 1861 Albert had become an essential cog in national affairs and indeed king in all but name. Rappaport's prologue describing the 1860 Christmas festivities at Windsor and her first chapter ably depict the many ways in which Albert had become indispensable.

Unfortunately Albert was not a healthy man.
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Format: Hardcover
The author has certainly done her research...

A Magnificent Obsession is truly is a must-read for anyone interested in Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. The reader is taken on a journey into how Victoria and the nation/world reacted to the death of Albert, and how Victoria became obsessed with the memory of her late husband.

Even the most knowledgeable historian will find that this title covers new and interesting material, especially into the cause of Albert's death.

Often-accepted theories are challenged, and done so in such an amazing way, that the reader feels as if they are alongside the writer uncovering the truth. This is all done with great respect, and with the advice and opinions of many experts (including physicians).

A must read...and great addition to any royal library!
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By A Customer on March 13, 2012
Format: Hardcover
This fascinating biography focuses on a pivotal event "that changed the monarchy"; the death of Prince Consort Albert and its subsequent impact on his grieving widow, which in turn affected the Empire. Helen Rappaport makes the case that Queen Victoria not only loved her spouse, she needed him as a mentor and friend. Detested by her subjects, the country mourned alongside their queen his death. The Queen had replacement advisors but none came close to Prince Albert as her partner over the last four decades of her reign. Whereas Victoria concluded that Albert's trepidation over their son "poor Bertie" led to his death; Ms. Rappaport offers alternative possibilities. Queen Victoria never came out of mourning nor did she allow the country to move through the phases of grief as the nation lingered along with their monarch in a forty years mass depression.

This is an excellent refreshing biography with the focus on the impact of the death of Prince Albert in 1861 on his wife and their Empire. Ms. Rapport makes a strong case that Prince Albert's death is one of the key moments in British history. The tone reminds me of The Taylor File: The Mysterious Death of a President by Clara Rising, who makes a case that the one person who may have prevented the Civil War died mysteriously; though her theory arsenic poisoning proved false. Readers will appreciate this profound look at why the Queen needed her mate and a strong argument that his death was the first major step for the sun beginning to set on the British Empire.

Harriet Klausner
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Format: Hardcover
One may never see devotion more true than that which can occur between husband and wife. Some take that devotion to excess, however, living in mourning for decades after their spouses die. Queen Victoria, Great Britain's monarch from 1837-1901, is one such woman. She went so far as to go into virtual seclusion for ten years when her beloved Prince Albert died in 1861. Helen Rappaport studies this period of grief and tragedy for a nation in her book A Magnificent Obsession. Sadly, while the content is interesting, Rappaport's writing isn't that engaging, and the book can become tedious at times.

Rappaport begins with a brief history of Albert and Victoria's marriage in happier times. They married in 1840, begetting twenty years over which Albert assumed more and more responsibility for the royal affairs. This was partially due to Victoria's sense that he could handle things better than she, but also the fact that she had nine children in the first seventeen years of their marriage. Rappaport documents the hostility that some government ministers felt over this invader from Germany having such influence on British affairs.

This is all covered in the first chapter. The book goes on to follow the slow decline of Albert's health until his eventual death on December 14, 1861. Victoria's penchant for intense grief and refusal to do her queenly duties due to such grief first reared its ugly head when her mother had died a few months before. Rappaport talks about Albert's decline, during which he had to support Victoria, even more than he already had been, through the long months following her mother's death. All of this while he was ailing himself.
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