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

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

A captivating exploration of the role in which Queen Victoria exerted most international power and influence: as a matchmaking grandmother.By the 1890s, Queen Victoria had over thirty grandchildren, 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 appar...

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Title:Queen Victoria's Matchmaking: The Royal Marriages that Shaped Europe
Author:Deborah Cadbury
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Queen Victoria's Matchmaking: The Royal Marriages that Shaped Europe Reviews

  • Susan

    Prince Albert and Queen Victoria saw dynastic marriages between their children and European royalty as a safeguard against war, and as a way of creating a balance of power, in Europe, as well as spreading British values across the continent. With Prince Albert’s death, Queen Victoria was determined to make his vision come true and, with forty two grandchildren, the ‘cousinhood’ formed a unique club at the very top of European society. This book looks at Queen Victoria’s desire to be involved in

    Prince Albert and Queen Victoria saw dynastic marriages between their children and European royalty as a safeguard against war, and as a way of creating a balance of power, in Europe, as well as spreading British values across the continent. With Prince Albert’s death, Queen Victoria was determined to make his vision come true and, with forty two grandchildren, the ‘cousinhood’ formed a unique club at the very top of European society. This book looks at Queen Victoria’s desire to be involved in matchmaking marriages for her grandchildren and looks, in greater depth, at seven of her grandchildren who were elevated to the throne at a crucial time in Europe’s history. These include Kaiser Wilhelm (her oldest, and most troublesome, grandson), Sophie, Queen of Greece, George V, Princess Maud, Queen of Norway, Alix, Empress of Russia, Marie ‘Missy’ Queen of Romania and Victoria Eugenie or ‘Ena’, Queen of Spain.

    There is no doubt that Queen Victoria felt that, through her grandchildren, she could shape the political landscape of Europe. Although much of this book was familiar to me, such as Victoria’s desperate attempts to stop the marriage of Nicholas and Alexandra, Deborah Cadbury does include many snippets from personal letters from Queen Victoria and these make fascinating reading – especially her long correspondence with her eldest daughter, and mother of the Kaiser, Vicky. She does sometimes quote from other research , or authors, and I was not impressed by her taking one small piece of information from Patricia Cornwall; whose odd ranting about Jack the Ripper leads to any research she comes across being biased to concur with her bizarre theories and so is suspect in my eyes... That aside, the majority of the research comes from sources which are obviously directly from Victoria herself and makes the book, which could be all too familiar, come alive.

    Queen Victoria comes across as a figure who is feared, and respected, in her family; the central character in a spider web which spreads across Europe. Her letters are manipulative, she is often insensitive and she is extremely demanding. Nor is she always successful in her attempts and some of the most interesting parts of this book deal with her failed attempts to create a marriage; such as her wishes to marry Prince Albert ‘Eddy’ to her beloved ‘Alicky,’ the later Empress Alexandra. However, even here, you can see how perceptive Victoria was; she thought Alicky’s ‘gauche’ qualities, such as her shyness and her dislike of social occasions, would be seen in England as a positive and make her liked by the press, and public, whereas they would be failings in the Russian Court. She correctly sensed danger for her favourite grand-daughter in Russia, and was also well aware of the dangers that being royal meant. Her ability to deal with Kaiser Wilhelm was not passed on by her son, who disliked the Kaiser, and, by her death, Europe was changing. Anarchy, revolution and war were in the air and Europe was on the brink of danger.

    Overall, this is a very interesting read. The author really makes the time come alive and there are some very moving stories in this book, such as Prince Eddy’s attempts to find a bride and the fluctuating fortunes of Princess May of Teck; plus a lot of detail about other members of the royal family, as well as those featured. For anyone with an interest in British history, this is an enjoyable, well written, account of Queen Victoria’s attempts to manipulate her children’s, and grandchildren’s, marriages and to influence politics in Europe with mixed success. I received a copy of this book from the publisher, via NetGalley, for review.

  • Jim Cabaj

    First, "Thank you" to GoodReads and Hatchette Book Group for allowing me an advance look at "Queen Victoria's Matchmaking".

    Many of us have read about Queen Victoria's power and reign in the world, but I have never come across the details of her matchmaking skills. You read in Queen Victoria's own words on how she influenced and set up her children and grandchildren with other princes, princesses, or other members of the royal families of Europe. Each chapter sweeps you into a different matchmaki

    First, "Thank you" to GoodReads and Hatchette Book Group for allowing me an advance look at "Queen Victoria's Matchmaking".

    Many of us have read about Queen Victoria's power and reign in the world, but I have never come across the details of her matchmaking skills. You read in Queen Victoria's own words on how she influenced and set up her children and grandchildren with other princes, princesses, or other members of the royal families of Europe. Each chapter sweeps you into a different matchmaking match some successful and others not.

    You really get swept away into the time period by the authors incredible research. At times, it reads like a novel that you cannot put down. You have those in love and those who do it as a obligation to their crown and beliefs in royalty. You get to travel with the various royal families as they do for vacations and state functions. You get ease drop on the very thoughts each has through their written words. Each chapter exposes you to weddings, funerals, murders, war, births, etc allowing you into the Royal world.

    Queen Victoria and her husband Prince Albert's vision of a new Europe controlled with various Royal families each connected to their own. You get to see success and failures. You get to see the impact then, after Queen Victoria's death, and to today.

    Bravo to all research Deborah Cadbury did to make Queen Victoria's matchmaking come alive. I want to see this book nominated GoodReads best of the the year.

  • Cait

    This is excellent, Deborah Cadbury is excellent.

    This was also low key about one of my favourite things: Historical What If's. What if Eddy had lived? What if Frederich was Kaiser longer? What if Ella didn't marry Serge? What if Alix didn't marry Nicholas? What if George married Missy?

  • Michell Karnes

    This book tells about the matchmaking schemes of Queen Victoria. Victoria continued Prince Albert's belief that by marrying his children into various royal houses the peace of Europe would be secure at the hands of family members. After his death the Queen continued this practice. The book though looks at how other family members manipulated events as well.

    I learned many details before that were unknown to me. I did not realize King George V wanted to marry another cousin rather than Queen Mary

    This book tells about the matchmaking schemes of Queen Victoria. Victoria continued Prince Albert's belief that by marrying his children into various royal houses the peace of Europe would be secure at the hands of family members. After his death the Queen continued this practice. The book though looks at how other family members manipulated events as well.

    I learned many details before that were unknown to me. I did not realize King George V wanted to marry another cousin rather than Queen Mary but was turned down and so fell to the pressure to marry Princess May. Princess Marie who became Queen of Romania was manipulated by her mother to marry the King of Romania simply because she did not like the British Royal family. It is doubly sad to know how much Queen Victoria feared her granddaughter Alix's fate by marrying the Russian Tsar. Queen Victoria knew Alexandra did not have the personality to be a successful Empress of Russia.

    A small detail that puzzles me in the book is Prince Eddy often refers to talking to his brother-in-law Louis of Battenberg. This confuses me because Prince Eddy did not have a brother-in-law let alone it not being Louis of Battenberg. If I am wrong I hope someone can explain.

    All in all a great book and worth the read for anyone who loves British History.

  • Jill Meyer

    Queen Victoria - Britain's second-longest reigning monarch - died on January 22, 1901. She'd been a widow since December, 1861 and had worn widows-weeds ever since, mourning her beloved husband, Prince Albert of Saxe-Gotha. They had had nine children. At the time of her death, Victoria had 20 some-odd grandchildren. It was these children and grandchildren whose marriages with other members of European royalty Victoria plotted as almost her legacy. She and Prince Albert had seen their children as

    Queen Victoria - Britain's second-longest reigning monarch - died on January 22, 1901. She'd been a widow since December, 1861 and had worn widows-weeds ever since, mourning her beloved husband, Prince Albert of Saxe-Gotha. They had had nine children. At the time of her death, Victoria had 20 some-odd grandchildren. It was these children and grandchildren whose marriages with other members of European royalty Victoria plotted as almost her legacy. She and Prince Albert had seen their children as marrying into the other (Protestant) royal houses and bringing along their shared sense of liberal rule. In some marriages they succeeded, in others they failed. Victoria's grandchildren - often first cousins - were then married off to each other. Historian Deborah Cadbury explains Victoria's chess board and chess pieces in her new book, "Queen Victoria's Matchmaking: The Royal Marriages that Shaped Europe".

    Cadbury does an excellent job in picking several children and grandchildren to follow through the diplomatic and personal paths to love and marriage. Some paths were more difficult than others and some marriages turned out better than others. But that is the way it is in most families, isn't it? Victoria, though, was playing for the future of Europe and personal happiness might not have always taken first place in her consideration of which cousin would go with which cousin. Victoria was marrying off first and second cousins to each other and wasn't concerned - or knowledgeable - about the genetic dangers of kissing cousins going further than kissing.

    A side concern of Victoria's was the growing acts of anarchist terrorism in Europe. Russia, in particular, was the scene of several horrific political assassinations and Victoria worried about her favorite granddaughter, Alix of Hesse (daughter of her late daughter, Alice) and her choice of Nicholas of Russia as her husband. She also oversaw the marriage of her heir Bertie's first son (and then second son when the first died at a young age) to May of Teck. Now, that was a long, double courtship!

    Deborah Cadbury's book is very readable. She's an easy writer and doesn't waste a sentence. The reason I mention that is because I had started her previous book, "Princes at War", but didn't finish it. I may go back and try again. In any case, she does a great job laying out the complicated chessboard of British royal marriages.

  • Jenny

    Extremely well-written, thorough biography of the widowhood of Queen Victoria and her influence over Western civilization as “The Grandmother of Europe.”

  • Nicole Burrell

    I remember my mom telling me that, when she was a teenager, her mom [aka my grandma] would approach lifeguards on the beach and brazenly introduce them to her daughters. At the time, I didn’t think anyone could top that level of bold matchmaking. Then I read “Queen Victoria’s Matchmaking” by Deborah Cadbury. Let’s just say Queen V could give my grandma a run for her money.

    “Matchmaking” chronicles the efforts of Queen Victoria to orchestrate the marriages of her children and grandchildren. At its

    I remember my mom telling me that, when she was a teenager, her mom [aka my grandma] would approach lifeguards on the beach and brazenly introduce them to her daughters. At the time, I didn’t think anyone could top that level of bold matchmaking. Then I read “Queen Victoria’s Matchmaking” by Deborah Cadbury. Let’s just say Queen V could give my grandma a run for her money.

    “Matchmaking” chronicles the efforts of Queen Victoria to orchestrate the marriages of her children and grandchildren. At its root was a desire to honor the vision of her beloved husband, Prince Albert, to bring unity in Europe through a network of marriages that would tie different countries and empires to each other. However noble the plan was, as the years passed and Queen Victoria found herself a widow destined to execute the plan on her own, things got more and more complicated...even messy.

    This book succeeds in showing the overarching dynamics playing out in Europe at this time, as well as the intimate inner workings of a family that spread itself from England to Germany, Greece, Russia and numerous other countries. Each story, each individual member of the family, is more fascinating than the last. Seeing their love stories play out is more gripping still.

    Cadbury tells a story that I knew very little of. So many of the names that star in this book were mere footnotes in my knowledge of history until I read this book. Within a few chapters, I found myself anxious to learn the fates of the colorful characters that made up one of the most intriguing families you will ever encounter. And I must admit, in spite of her shocking frankness and shameless interference, I was rooting for Queen Victoria’s Matchmaking to win out every time. Because you always have to root for grandma.

    *I have been provided with an advanced copy of this book for review by Public Affairs*

  • Jeanette

    This is better than 3 stars- 3.5 star to be fair. Although I'm not quite sure that this is titled correctly or at least as accurately as it could have been titled. Because this is more about Queen Victoria's children and grandchildren (and their own choices and departures) just as much as being about the matchmaking tendency that they experienced with their elders and especially with their Matriarch Queen Grandmother. With a huge side category of the position and oversee that Queen Victoria and

    This is better than 3 stars- 3.5 star to be fair. Although I'm not quite sure that this is titled correctly or at least as accurately as it could have been titled. Because this is more about Queen Victoria's children and grandchildren (and their own choices and departures) just as much as being about the matchmaking tendency that they experienced with their elders and especially with their Matriarch Queen Grandmother. With a huge side category of the position and oversee that Queen Victoria and Albert had, that is TRUE. A rather "master plan" to connect European nations in ally/ peace functions that they spoke of and planned for their own 9. But I don't feel like she actually had dibs on picking much in exact dictated matches as this title presupposes she did. Or leads you to believe that she did for the ones which did develop. Her disapproval was vast and known- but making a match a "sure thing" was really not how she operated. Quite differently than in much earlier centuries, when it was a given, the monarch decided, and you just obeyed by duty and oath to marry who was chosen for you.

    But it was 5 star in telling the recorded and unrecorded (hearsay of witness and family) positions (both physical and mental)of many of her nearly 3 dozen grandchildren and their possible mates. And that was shocking, IMHO. As many seem to have great variance in mental/emotional abilities, blood related clotting disease of hemophilia or being a carrier for such (although they downplayed this immensely), or in some way also having far from infrequent intersect with anarchists or terrorists during the travel and "meet" process. Physical safety and personal marriage choice (such a small group of choices by royal blood requirement being available) being truly negative particulars, especially for the female offspring. The males seem to have more choices- more European princesses available at young ages of easier compliance?

    Regardless, this is a GREAT window into Queen Victoria as a person. Her dislike for children and the more usual emotional distance from the majority of her own offspring, with just a few exceptions. She had great dislikes, and basically from the get-go saw all children, grand-children as secondary to her own roles and especially her own marriage. Before Allbert's early death, she saw the time he spent with the children as "not hers". I think it is ironic that she was considered the great Mother Monarch with her bonnet, instead of a crown.

    So extremely sad that she foresaw the dangers of Russia and especially of her female children or grandchildren choosing Russian consorts. And the tale of what happened to her own Sergei, she never forgot that. What a HORRID death!

    Actually I appreciated the pages of historical photos and especially all the anarchist attempts drawings of the 1880's and 1890's as much as I was embedded in Victoria's opinions. So many bombs and so many terrorist shots. It's nothing new.

    Just a last thought- I hated all the nicknames that they evolved. You would think with all the choices that they would come up with more than a few different names in each generation.

    And the most shocking observation. It was that Nicholas (who became Tsar of Russia) and George (Vicky's second son who became King of England) looked SO MUCH ALIKE. They looked like twins. If you saw them side by side in those pictures, I doubt unless they opened their mouths and spoke you could tell them apart. Same beards and facial hair, same hairstyle, same built/weight/height. So many cousins! And so many sick and early deaths!

  • Beth

    tells a story that is more complex than what the title would suggest. The book reads more as an indictment of Prince Albert's grand but naïve vision of a Europe united in peace and harmony by royal intermarriage. Cadbury examines how Queen Victoria (and her descendants) sought to make Albert's vision a reality while simultaneously arguing that these efforts failed to make Europe more peaceful. In support of her argument, Cadbury cites the rise of (often anarchist) te

    tells a story that is more complex than what the title would suggest. The book reads more as an indictment of Prince Albert's grand but naïve vision of a Europe united in peace and harmony by royal intermarriage. Cadbury examines how Queen Victoria (and her descendants) sought to make Albert's vision a reality while simultaneously arguing that these efforts failed to make Europe more peaceful. In support of her argument, Cadbury cites the rise of (often anarchist) terrorism towards the close of the 19th century and the absolutist antics of Victoria's bizarre and bellicose grandson, the German Emperor Wilhelm II. Cadbury lays out her argument well, but as I read this book, I couldn't help but feel a bit deceived by the title. Cadbury focuses on Victoria's matchmaking for only a handful of her grandchildren (primarily those who came to sit on a throne), and I was a bit disappointed that the cast of characters was so small. Furthermore, Cadbury spends a several pages throughout the book focusing on the growing revolutionary fervor throughout Europe, and while I understand the point that she was trying to make with these snippets, I frequently found myself eagerly awaiting the return of the royal drama. The final two chapters almost dispense entirely with the matchmaking, focusing on the lead up to and the ensuing devastation of World War I. Again, I understand the author's intent here, but I couldn't help but feel that it was all a bit excessive and would have been better as a summary in an afterword.

    was well-researched and well-written, but it wasn't quite what I had hoped that it would be from the title and summary.

  • Nate

    2.5 stars

    Queen Victoria's Matchmaking is supposed to describe the attempts of Queen Victoria to find partners for her grandchildren in order to ensure their happiness and/or fix them up in a way that augments their stability and power. What it actually chronicles is the relationships between the future crowned heads of Europe and Queen Victoria's grandchildren, with Victoria being mentioned regularly but having little actual influence over their choices. The majority of relationships talked abou

    2.5 stars

    Queen Victoria's Matchmaking is supposed to describe the attempts of Queen Victoria to find partners for her grandchildren in order to ensure their happiness and/or fix them up in a way that augments their stability and power. What it actually chronicles is the relationships between the future crowned heads of Europe and Queen Victoria's grandchildren, with Victoria being mentioned regularly but having little actual influence over their choices. The majority of relationships talked about in this book, including Marie and Ferdinand of Romania, Ena and Alfonso of Spain, and Eddy and Helene, had little to do with Queen Victoria except tangentially as a doting grandmother. The actual matches she did make, such as Victoria Melita and Ernest of Hesse, were barely mentioned except in he space of a few pages chronicling them getting together, unlike other relationships that got analysed till death of the participants. The relationships that got explored after the marriage, like Emperor Nicholas and Alexandra, had nothing to do with Queen Victoria. For some of them, she wasn't even alive from the get go (Ena and Alfonso). The book is an obvious example of marketing that doesn't match the interior. This book was more about the relationships that the grandchildren had rather than about the setting up of them by Queen Victoria and how that affected their marriage. The book also tried to delve into some heavy politics on its many tangents, particularly as done by the Kaiser, which also doesn't fit in the scope of this book and felt like a case of trying to seem ultra-important, which it didn't need to do. It would have been fine as a book that simply focused on the personal romantic relationships of her grandchildren without needing to dive into the muddy, irrelevant waters of pre-World War I politics in order to make it important. The main instance of this was the chapter titled "Ena and Alfonso," which didn't even mention either of them until 2/3 of the way through the chapter and missed mentioning on the other granddaughters of Queen Victoria that caught his eye. Nothing was wrong with the research, premise, or writing of this book, the book's problems were all caused by the author's not knowing what type of book to write or what to focus on.

    A digital copy of this book was provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review

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