A Life

Additional Formats
  • Hardcover
  • ISBN 9781594205996
  • 624  Pages
  • Penguin Press
  • Adult


“[A] shimmering and rather wonderful biography.” The Guardian (UK)

When Queen Victoria died in 1901, she had ruled for nearly sixty-four years. She was a mother of nine and grandmother of forty-two and the matriarch of royal Europe through her children’s marriages. To many, Queen Victoria is a ruler shrouded in myth and mystique, an aging, stiff widow paraded as the figurehead to an all-male imperial enterprise. But in truth, Britain’s longest-reigning monarch was one of the most passionate, expressive, humorous and unconventional women who ever lived, and the story of her life continues to fascinate.

A. N. Wilson’s exhaustively researched and definitive biography includes a wealth of new material from previously unseen sources to show us Queen Victoria as she’s never been seen before. Wilson explores the curious set of circumstances that led to Victoria’s coronation, her strange and isolated childhood, her passionate marriage to Prince Albert and his pivotal influence even after death and her widowhood and subsequent intimate friendship with her Highland servant John Brown, all set against the backdrop of this momentous epoch in Britain’s history—and the world’s.

Born at the very moment of the expansion of British political and commercial power across the globe, Victoria went on to chart a unique course for her country even as she became the matriarch of nearly every great dynasty of Europe. Her destiny was thus interwoven with those of millions of people—not just in Europe but in the ever-expanding empire that Britain was becoming throughout the nineteenth century. The famed queen had a face that adorned postage stamps, banners, statues and busts all over the known world.

Wilson’s Victoria is a towering achievement, a masterpiece of biography by a writer at the height of his powers.


Kirkus Reviews (starred):
“A shimmering portrait of a tempestuous monarch…[Wilson] lends a lively expertise to his portrayal of the forthright, formidable, still-enigmatic sovereign…During her long reign, Victoria had come to embody the experience of an entire age, overseeing great reform and the strengthening of ties between India and the British Empire. A robust, immensely entertaining portrait from a master biographer.”

Booklist (starred):
“Few if any previous biographers have viewed [Queen Victoria] as incisively and absorbingly as Wilson does in his lengthy but smoothly flowing treatment of the queen’s long life. The considerable detail he brings to his greatly balanced portrait not only strengthens his estimation of the significance of the queen in British governmental history but also successfully conveys for the general reader all the nuances of character that Wilson so carefully shares.”

Library Journal (starred):
“[A] comprehensive, highly accessible work…rooted in the complex political and international details of the era… Wilson is most successful in identifying and highlighting the monarch’s paradoxes: the contrasts between the ‘little woman in a bonnet’ and the queen who proudly controlled the British empire. Highly recommended for readers fascinated by the lives of notable individuals and British royalty.”

Publishers Weekly:
“More than a Victoria biography, Wilson skillfully weaves the vast narrative of the Victorian landscape.”

The Guardian (UK):
“Subtle, thoughtful…Wilson picks up the pieces and puts the jigsaw back together again, creating in the process a Victoria for our own times…[A] shimmering and rather wonderful biography.”

The Spectator (UK):
“Superb…The book that [Wilson] was born to write…Wilson clearly loves and admires his subject, but this is a critical biography—funny, insightful, original, and authoritative. At last Victoria has been rescued from her widow’s weeds.”