Books: Reginal Politics

QUEEN VICTORIA by CECIL WOODHAM-SMITH 486 pages. Knopf. $10.95

Victoria: even today the name conjures up a glacial and portly figure swathed in black mourning, the aged face set in its pale exophthalmic stare of hauteur as she proceeds (for monarchs do not walk) across some shaven lawn at Balmoral. She is a living monument, testy, imperious, not amused. When the old die we remember them as old, and so it has been with Queen Victoria.

The Victorian stereotype alone does not explain the woman's extraordinary fascination for biographers. Kings and queens are not, as...

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