Queen Victoria's Matchmaking: The Royal Marriages that Shaped Europe

Queen Victoria's Matchmaking: The Royal Marriages that Shaped Europe

by Deborah Cadbury


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A captivating exploration of the role in which Queen Victoria exerted the most international power and influence: as a matchmaking grandmother.

As her reign approached its sixth decade, Queen Victoria's grandchildren numbered over thirty, and to maintain and increase British royal power, she was determined to maneuver them into a series of dynastic marriages with the royal houses of Europe.

Yet for all their apparent obedience, her grandchildren often had plans of their own, fueled by strong wills and romantic hearts. Victoria's matchmaking plans were further complicated by the tumultuous international upheavals of the time: revolution and war were in the air, and kings and queens, princes and princesses were vulnerable targets.

Queen Victoria's Matchmaking travels through the glittering, decadent palaces of Europe from London to Saint Petersburg, weaving in scandals, political machinations and family tensions to enthralling effect. It is at once an intimate portrait of a royal family and an examination of the conflict caused by the marriages the Queen arranged. At the heart of it all is Victoria herself: doting grandmother one moment, determined Queen Empress the next.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

British historian and documentarian Cadbury (Princes at War) energetically reveals the extent of Queen Victoria’s meddling in the marriage arrangements of her grandchildren in order to create the family’s ideal British-German alliance. The diminutive and aging Victoria remained an imposing figure to her numerous offspring, but some among them—notably within her favored German branch—defied her and instead married for love. In one case, her own Russian grandson, the future Nicholas II, had to essentially woo her in order to marry her favorite granddaughter, and his own cousin, Alix of Hesse. Victoria’s concerns about Russia’s unstable monarchy and political violence proved well-founded, as Nicholas II and Alexandra Romanov became Russia’s last imperial couple. While high-stakes matchmaking is Cadbury’s central theme, she delves into the fruits of that optimistic enterprise while navigating the religious and personality pitfalls into which the sometimes petulant Victoria drew herself. Cadbury notes that it was Victoria’s own grand plan to reshape Europe that bore unfortunate results; her grandson Kaiser Wilhelm II rebelled and his own instability partially led to the events that caused WWI. While royal matchmaking implies spectacular weddings and the enhancement of power, Cadbury’s engrossing family history proves that it was a deadly serious proposition. (Nov.)

From the Publisher

Wonderfully compelling and packed with new material - a gripping story beautifully told.—Jane Ridley, -

In this enjoyable story for fans of royal machinations, Cadbury ably shows not just the successes, but also the damage inflicted by Victoria's single-mindedness. An instructive European history that effectively shows 'the influence of [Victoria's] matchmaking on the remarkable rise of the royal dynasty'.—Kirkus Reviews

[An] absorbing book... The fall of the Romanovs occupies the superb last pages of Cadbury's book... Dynastic mergers, we may deduce from Deborah Cadbury's account, offer no defence against the whims of history. This catastrophe-laced slice of royal history offers a ripping read.—Miranda Seymour, The Observer

Engrossing...Cadbury engagingly presents [Queen Victoria] as a mesmerising Mrs Bennet, summoning her children and then her grandchildren to Balmoral. ..The stories of [Queen
Victoria's] descendants are mesmerising and often stranger than fiction...From the pen of a writer of skill and style, this surprising narrative leaves you wanting more.—Paula Byrne, TheTimes

Cadbury's account of Victoria's attempts to bend her unruly grandchildren to her matrimonial will is the stuff of melodrama...covered with verve and insight by Deborah Cadbury in her new history.—Daisy Goodwin, TheSunday Times

Deborah Cadbury is an adroit story teller. Her lively colourfully written book...begins in the 1880s and ends in the toppling thrones of the First World War, a panoramic family saga, its players by turns pragmatic and romantic, wilful, dutiful, misguided and, occasionally tragic—Matthew Dennison, TheDaily Telegraph

"A rich history of Queen Victoria's canny use of political power."—Bookpage

"Ms. Cadbury stresses the human element of her story, not least the wayward personalities and unforeseen family rivalries that thwarted Victoria's designs as a monarch and matriarch... Many vivid pen portraits."—William Anthony Hay, Wall Street Journal

"Fantastic...In lively and page-turning prose, author Deborah "Chocolate Wars" Cadbury confirms her place as a leading historian of Britain as she pulls Queen Victoria out of caricature and into our hearts."—Randy Dotinga, Christian Science Monitor

"Queen Victoria's Matchmaking is a look at royalty when it still had a somewhat mystical aura-these people who were both the state and their own particular selves-and a fascinating angle on a time of ferment, when the wheels were finally, permanently coming off this way of running nations...Forget The Crown-what I really want is a Netflix show based on all these royal grandchildren."

Kelly Faircloth, Pictorial

Library Journal

★ 11/01/2017
Queen Victoria had a distinct vision of her grandchildren shaping world politics, and she calculated political marriages across Europe to do just that. However, the increased political instability of Russia in the early 20th century led her to eschew matches with the tsars. The downfall of the Romanovs validated this, although too late to spare her favorite grandchild—the ill-fated Alexandra, tsarina of Russia. Many of the matches Victoria made were successful liaisons. Yet times were changing, and those in power struggled to adapt. It was this lack of flexibility, coupled with the grandiose dreams of Germany's Kaiser Wilhelm II and infighting with other grandchildren of Victoria that heavily influenced the events and alliances of World War I. Cadbury (Princes at War) weaves a captivating history featuring tidbits from letters and journals of sexual proclivities, unrequited love, delusions of grandeur, and the pushback of several of Victoria's grandchildren to her matches. VERDICT By telling the story of how interrelated royal families and their relationships shaped history, Cadbury offers a scintillating portrait of the major royal matches Victoria pursued and their far-reaching effects. A perfect choice for history buffs as well as the average reader; a must-have for libraries.—Stacy Shaw, Orange, CA

Kirkus Reviews

Digging deeper into Queen Victoria's extensive brood, their intermarriages, and their wars.Prince Albert's great plan was to intermarry his children with European royal houses to spread the liberalism of England and prevent wars. That was not to be. World War I ended or fatally harmed the monarchies of most of Victoria's grandchildren. The cousinhood proved to be more harmful than powerful. The great shifts in politics in the early 20th century and the clash of the poor and the wealthy gave rise to anarchists and increasing instances of assassination. BBC producer Cadbury (Princes at War: The Bitter Battle Inside Britain's Royal Family in the Darkest Days of WWII, 2015, etc.) concentrates on Victoria's attempts to find a suitable bride for Eddy, the Prince of Wales, pushing primarily German princesses. Victoria's love of all things German accounts for her deep distrust and dislike of all things Russian, particularly after the assassination of Czar Alexander II. Equally important to Victoria were the marriages of her late daughter's children. Her death left her mother feeling closer to her granddaughters than to her own children. She hoped to wed her favorite, Alix, to Eddy. At her sister's wedding to Grand Duke Sergei in St. Petersburg, Alix met the czarevich, Nicholas, who captured her heart. Princess Victoria, the eldest daughter, was married to reformer Frederick II, German emperor and king of Prussia. Alas, his reign was desperately short, and he was succeeded by his bellicose, even maniacal son, Wilhelm II. Victoria's final choice for Eddy's wife, Mary of Teck, a rank outsider—she was not a royal—might have worked out, except Eddy died unexpectedly. In this enjoyable story for fans of royal machinations, Cadbury ably shows not just the successes, but also the damage inflicted by Victoria's single-mindedness.An instructive European history that effectively shows "the influence of [Victoria's] matchmaking on the remarkable rise of the royal dynasty."

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781541768024
Publisher: PublicAffairs
Publication date: 04/16/2019
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 416
Sales rank: 185,998
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.10(h) x 1.20(d)

Customer Reviews