‘Enough to kill any man’: the trials of serving Queen Victoria

Monarchy was as characteristic of the 19th century as nationalism and revolution. The Almanach de Gotha was a better guide to power than the Communist Manifesto. Constitutional monarchy, in particular, was considered the panacea of the age. On the first morning of her reign, Queen Victoria announced: ‘I have promised to respect and love the constitution of my native country.’ The Times declared her ‘steeped in the spirit of the constitution’. Gladstone said: ‘All the principles of the constitution have been observed by the Queen… in a manner more perfect than has ever been known.’ In reality, as Anne Somerset’s magnificent, disturbing and innovative history of Queen Victoria and her

Political biographies to enjoy in lockdown

Here are ten political biographies, with a leavening of the classics, for those with time to kill in the present house arrest. The danger with such lists is that what has recently entered the memory becomes most prominent; so this one consists entirely of works published in the 20th century. Charles Moore’sThatcher, Leo McKinstry’s Rosebery and Andrew Roberts’s Churchill, all superb works, therefore do not figure; and I have arranged those that do in chronological order of their subjects. John Ehrman started his magnificent three-volume life of William Pitt the Younger in the late 1950s and published the final part in 1996. He was a gentleman-scholar of the old school