The Last Days of Glory: The Death of Queen Victoria

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9780312276720: The Last Days of Glory: The Death of Queen Victoria

Queen Victoria's death in January 1901 shook Britain to its core, and reverberated not just throughout the Commonwealth, but around the world. She was a woman in her eighties, and yet it seems no one could contemplate the end of a reign that had lasted so long. Most could not remember a time when she was not Queen, and the very stability of everyday life seemed to depend on her regency. The anxiety of the government and the royal family about the prospect of the Queen's death was such that the news of her illness was deliberately concealed from the public for more than a week. When it came, people from England to Jamaica wept in the streets, and this grief was surpassed only by fear for the future. "God help us" was the standard reaction from all strata of society.

The Last Days of Glory is the definitive account of those last 23 days in January 1901, when Victoria traveled to Osborne House to die. The momentous reaction to the Queen's passing attached to it more significance and a greater sense of change than the turn of the century had carried just a year earlier. Through the prism of those last days Tony Rennell presents us with a series of resonant and absorbing snapshots of a fading Empire at the end of the Victorian Age, and captures a nation coping with change, balancing comfortable nostalgia with the arrival of a new order.

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About the Author:

Tony Rennell was an Associate Editor of the Mail on Sunday and the Sunday Times before becoming a freelance writer. He lives in London.

From Publishers Weekly:

By the time of her death in 1901, Britain's Queen Victoria had lived longer, ruled longer and reigned over a larger part of the world than any other English monarch. Since few of her subjects could remember a time when she wasn't their queen, and since the era over which she presided was regarded by the British as one of unprecedented social, economic and intellectual development, her death was, as Rennell puts it, "an immense shock, unsettling Britain and the Empire to a degree that now seems inconceivable." Rennell explores the events of the weeks leading up to and following Victoria's demise, focusing on the reactions of the royal family and the public. While the last days of a monarch's life may seem a slight subject for a book, this is ultimately a lively and detailed slice of social history, which captures the mood and mindset of turn-of-the-century England via extensive quotes from letters and newspaper articles. Rennell also reveals some of the less immediately obvious consequences of the royal death: for example, with the whole nation plunged into mourning, textile manufacturers who were in the midst of producing bright-hued spring attire faced financial disaster. Proposing that England's national identity was so intertwined with its monarch's that her death engendered a kind of collective existential crisis, Rennell, formerly an associate editor with London's Mail on Sunday and Sunday Times, is also very attuned to the more personal and intimate consequences of her passing, including the feelings of her six remaining children, the tensions between various members of her household, and her own detailed instructions for her funeral. Victoria's death marked the transition from one era to another; this is a fascinating glimpse of a nation poised on the brink of a major paradigm shift. B&w photos not seen by PW.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

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