Tuesday, October 30, 2012

An Uncommon Woman

I am usually not much of a history buff. But I have a huge thing for the podcast, the History Chicks, which discusses women in history. Their podcasts are always interesting and cover a wide range of women, both real and fictional, throughout history. That being said, they have not covered the Empress Frederick. At least not yet. They do however, have two on Queen Victoria which talk a bit about her oldest daughter, the subject of An Uncommon Woman, the Empress Frederick.

To say this is a biography is putting it mildly. This is a hefty book that covers the span of Victoria, daughter of Victoria and Albert and wife to Fritz, the prince of Prussia. Not really knowing much about pre-WWI European history, I learned a lot. Before reading this, all I could tell you about the Kaiser was that I thought he liked parades and that Otto von Bismark had in fact been a real person. In fact I thought that there was only ONE Kaiser. But this book gave such an expansive picture that I now know that both of those two should have been smacked silly. Constantly.

"Bismark has made us great and powerful, but he has robbed us of our friends, they sympathies of the world, and - our conscience."

"For Bismark that was neither good nor evil, only allegiance to the Fatherland."

Victoria has a hard time. She is raised from birth to do great things for her father's homeland of Prussia, to bring them into a new age of liberalism and unification to Germany. She married not only for the greatness of the political match, but for love as well. She grew up with very involved parents who she admired until her death. They both had very high hopes for their eldest child to do great things for Prussia and Germany.

However, Fritz's father, Kaiser Wilhelm I, hung on to life like the current Queen of England and did not see eye to eye with his son and daughter-in-law. His Chancellor, Bismark, ran the show, waged war, encouraged racism and censorship, created treaties, and spread rumor about Vicky and Fritz to the public. Her son, Willy, grew up to be the biggest snot I have ever read about and he wanted to take over after his grandfather's death instead of letting his father rule.

"Certainly, no royal woman of her day had been more meticulously prepared for a throne - or more quickly deprived of it."

I'm not going to go into too much more depth than that because I have about 20 pages of notes from this book and I think that Pakula does such a great job as it is. Victoria is a truly interesting woman who was born to do so much and never really given the opportunity to share her intellect with the world.

As I said, I have not been much of a history buff, but I tore through this book. The little details of history are just as interesting as you would find in a novel. For example, the "Weisse Dame" is the ghost of a white lady that would appear to male members of the Hollenzollerns before they would die. One of them died a few days after his wife ran into his room in her underwear and he believed she was the Weisse Dame.

I have another big history book on my table, Russia and the Russians: A History, which I am now very excited to read. Any other history books that are worth checking out?

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