Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “A Magnificent Obsession: Victoria, Albert, and the Death That Changed the British Monarchy” as Want to Read:
A Magnificent Obsession: Victoria, Albert, and the Death That Changed the British Monarchy
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

A Magnificent Obsession: Victoria, Albert, and the Death That Changed the British Monarchy

3.81  ·  Rating details ·  1,188 ratings  ·  138 reviews
As she did in her critically acclaimed The Last Days of the Romanovs, Helen Rappaport brings a compelling documentary feel to the story of this royal marriage and of the queen's obsessive love for her husband - a story that began as fairy tale and ended in tragedy.

After the untimely death of Prince Albert, the queen and her nation were plunged into a state of grief so prof
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published March 13th 2012 by St. Martin's Press (first published November 1st 2011)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about A Magnificent Obsession, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about A Magnificent Obsession

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.81  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,188 ratings  ·  138 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of A Magnificent Obsession: Victoria, Albert, and the Death That Changed the British Monarchy
Dec 09, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
Where I got the book: purchased on Amazon.

I guess I haven't read an in-depth biography of Queen Victoria before, just scads and scads of books about the era, and my view of the Queen was the standard one: a great monarch but also a passionately engaged family woman, who was distraught about her husband's death and remained in mourning for him for the rest of her life but otherwise got on with queening.

This thoroughly entertaining history has revised my view. QUITE a bit. I heard Helen Rappaport
Shawn Thrasher
Jul 28, 2012 rated it liked it
The meat of this book is in the title: Queen Victoria was obsessed with her husband Prince Albert when he was alive, and then became obsessed by and with his death. The subtitle though - "the death that changed the British monarchy" - that's where this book gets tricky (or I suppose if I'm following idiom here, vegetarian). I have no doubt that the queen's longest of mournings changed the British monarchy, but I'm not sure Rappaport proved that anywhere in her book. I do think the prince consort ...more
Mary Ronan Drew
Mar 17, 2012 rated it it was amazing
The brilliant Helen Rappaport has done it again, written a book about a subject we thought we knew all about and made it fresh and new and in this case mesmerizing. I knew Victoria wore black for the rest of her long life after Albert died, but I had no idea of her obsession with death and mourning etiquette. Nor was I aware that she was such a typical 19th century hysterical female. Nor did I realize the extent of her "royal malingering," as one of her courtiers called her reluctance - her refu ...more
The Lit Bitch
Mar 06, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: first-reads
The book was good, well researched, informative, and presented an interesting topic. But at times I felt like I was reading a long history paper.

I think the average reader might struggle with this book a bit. As an academic whose focus is in that time period, I could draw on my knowledge of the time period and related the info I was reading in this book to other historic events of the time. This is a must read for historians and Victorian scholars, but that average reader….??? it’s hard to say w
Ryan Santle
This book is for those people who hunger for more information as to what really happened during the final days of Prince Albert, and the effects it had to Queen Victoria. This is intended as a "companion book" to existing biographies of this mythical royal couple.

As a fan of biographies, I am deeply much in love with books that explores the human side of its subject rather than just narrating the events that I could just simply read in free articles such as Wikipedia. This book offers way more t
Kate Lynn
Sep 23, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is actually the first non-fiction book I've read over Queen Victoria. It challenged my knowledge and perceptions of the queen and her reign.
Amy Bunn
Mar 29, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
I've done a lot of reading on the Tudors, but I'm less familiar with the later monarchs. Victoria's great love for her consort, Prince Albert, has always been a source of fascination, and this book fleshes out their story.

In a traditional Victorian era household, the man was in charge, but Victoria and Albert's relationship was made unique by her status as Queen. Denied a kingly title by convention, Albert was actually a quite active participant in Great Britain's government, and his ideas had a
Jun 28, 2015 rated it did not like it
Shelves: gave-up-on
While the subject matter was intriguing, the writing made it very difficult to stay interested. I tried really hard to stick with it because of the subject matter. The dry, repetitive, and robotic writing style quickly made reading it a chore. Will look for another book on the topic.

Jun 22, 2019 rated it it was ok
After having really enjoyed the author’s series on the Romanovs, I was all set to love this book too-especially since it’s about a subject I didn’t really know much about at all. However, the book tended to drag in many places and often felt more like reading a report than a simple book. I enjoyed the meticulous research that had obviously gone into it and the attention and respect given to a very complicated event in British history, but I just couldn’t get into it as much-perhaps because the e ...more
The book lives up to its title, by showing the grand scale of Victoria's obsession with Albert in life and in death. It does not live up to its subtitle. It tells how the monarchy was managed during and after Albert's life with Victoria, but does not discuss whether the monarchy, itself, was changed.

Despite some kind words by the author, Victoria is shown to be stubborn and self-centered throughout. She seemed to need the status of her role but did not want its responsibility. Albert helped her
Apr 06, 2012 added it
In life Victoria had a cloying love of Prince Albert. In death this turned into an overbearing and overriding obsession that dominated her monarchy and nearly ruined it.
Queen Victoria’s world came to an end on Dec. 14, 1861, when her husband, Albert, died supposedly of Typhoid fever. The book describes in detail all of the intimated details of Albert's untimely death. Victoria continued to mourn her husband's death in a consuming way until her death in 1901.

Like many Victorians, Victoria had a
Mary Rose
Why read 50 Shades of Grey when you can read this unfortunate account of how creepy and awful Victoria's marriage to Albert was? Seriously, ick. If you had any inclination that Victoria was a good monarch, read this book. The whole marriage comes across as weirdly abusive and controlling, but there's probably a generational divide that I'm missing here. I hope I never love someone that much.

Subject matter aside, it's a pretty good book, but it drags on forever. Albert dying alone takes up pages
Jessica (booneybear)
Queen Victoria certainly was a woman obsessed. In the beginning I was questioning the title of this book. I couldn't imagine why a book about British Royalty would be entitled A Magnificent Obsession (for some reason I had visions of Fatal Attraction in my head). But as I was reading it became very obvious that Queen Victoria was obsessed with her husband Albert and also obsessed with mourning him after his death.

I thought Helen Rappaport did a fabulous job keeping the reader involved and infor
Jul 03, 2012 rated it really liked it
What I Learned:

1. Queen Victoria was quite the selfish old bird.
2. Prince Albert would not have approved of her endless memorializing of him (and really, how many statues do you need?).
3. Doctors in the late 19th century were little more than total quacks.
4. Albert and I apparently have tummy troubles in common, as the author proposes that complications due in part to Crohn's disease is what really killed him. Am now even more thankful to live in 2012 and not 1861.

This book is amazingly research
Although excellently read, I kept waiting for more to happen, for Victoria to come out of her grief and start leading. While it was fascinating to learn more about Albert and Princess Alice, Victoria was not that interesting herself. I got as tired of her grief as did the country. Useful to understand more about how little the medical professional knew at the time and also how Victoria and Albert populated the crowns of Europe and grieving rituals but though it had a great start it got tiresome.
I really enjoy the way Rappaport takes on huge historical themes and makes them understandable even without the reader having studied them prior reading. The book first gives you an idea why Albert is such an important person for Victoria as well as the realm, before the circumstances of his death are described. How Victoria turns her mourning and grief into "a magnificent obsession" is well explained and logical argumented. At some point though it gets very repetitive and I felt like Rappaport ...more
Daniel Kukwa
Apr 01, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
This is equal to Helen Rappaport's previous gold standard volume on the last days of the Romanov family. The detail is thorough without being overpowering, and once again Ms. Rappaport manages to turn out an epic story from an event everyone believes they know and understand. This volume is full of new insights and "who knew" examinations into an exhausting family...and I look forward to the next Rappaport-authored winner.
Apr 08, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Friends and family
Recommended to Gail by: Website for book reviews
An absolutely tremendous book from the first page to the last. Helen Rappaport is a terrific writer (I read her previous book called "The Last Days of the Romanovs" and enjoyed that one, too).
To me, Queen Victoria had three obsessions: her husband, Albert, while he was alive, his death and being in mourning for him until she herself died, and everything that was either built or sculpted for Albert in commemoration.
The writing is superb.
Dec 02, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Magnificent Obsession is a very readable and insightful account of the effects of Albert’s death politically, socially, and culturally in the years that followed. Helen Rappaport has that rare skill; she can make a scholarly historical work come alive. Superb.
Feb 06, 2013 rated it really liked it
I came away from this book not liking Queen Victoria at all. What a selfish, deluded woman. I was, however, very interested in what happened to her daughters which proved to be a fascinating story on its own.
Susan (the other Susan)
Did the grieving queen take a Scottish servant as her lover decades after Prince Albert died? I hope so. Loves me some Highlanders! Recommended for fans of the Victorian era, and history lovers who want to know how Albert's death changed Victoria's rule.
Elizabeth Berger
Jul 04, 2020 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed the well-researched look at this particular era of Queen Victoria's reign -- specifically the elements regarding the practice of medicine, mourning, and the royal family's complex family dynamics in the wake of their patriarch's passing. There's also a fascinating appendix at the end of the book titled "What Killed Prince Albert?" that reexamines the prince's cause of death through the more modern lens of medicine.
Apr 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
I suspect I gave a 4 star rather than 5 because of how I felt about the “characters”.
This book was “unexpected; very well written. I confess I became frustrated with the behaviours of some which should not reflect on the author. Ok, give it a 5! 😃
Connie Howell
Sep 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
After watching the BBC series Victoria I wanted to read more about Victoria and Albert. This book deals with their marriage and Alberts death and how the queen virtually went into everlasting mourning after he died. Not one that particularly found solace in her nine children Victoria went into a kind of seclusion and though her subjects wanted to see her in public she rarely obliged.
Sep 06, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those who are fascinated with the British monarchy

I have always been a fan of Victoria and have read a biography about her several years ago, but this book takes on a different angle -- the death of Albert and how it changed the British monarchy. At first I didn't understand the title, but as the book ended, I completely got it. For a good part of the book it seems like the author was very pro-Albert and very anti-Victoria who really changed a great deal after she married Albert. At first she didn't want to get married right away because
Jan 08, 2012 rated it really liked it
As an American, I have to admit that Queen Victoria was mostly an unknown historical figure to me. I knew she ruled for a very long time and that her era produced a certain architectural style of which I see many examples in San Francisco. I've seen Dame Judi Dench in Mrs. Brown. That's it! Thus this book was more than a little informative for me! I appreciate Helen Rappaport's detailed research and her careful synthesis of information. Perhaps I will have to read her work, Queen Victoria, A Bio ...more
Sep 18, 2012 rated it really liked it
The archetypal image of Queen Victoria has always been of a short dumpy woman clad in black widows' weeds, sober and disapproving and endlessly mourning her beloved husband Prince Albert. This book charts the evolution of that image, exploring Victoria's devoted love for her husband and her obsessive mourning of him for forty years after his death in 1861.

Death was an obsessive with Victoria, an obsession that began with the death of her mother several years before Alfred. Victoria wallowed in h
Kathleen Hagen
Magnificent Obsession: Albert, Victoria, and the Death that Changed the British Monarchy, by Helen Rappaport, narrated by Wanda McCadom, produced by Tantor Media, Downloaded from

This book isn’t as dramatically revealing as the title would suggest, but the author has done a wonderful job of researching letters and journal entries, (Queen Victoria kept a journal throughout her entire reign. We see how Prince Albert took on the work of ruling the British kingdom without a title, trying
John Wetterholt
Sep 10, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
Few love stories are as celebrated as that of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. From the uneasiness of their first meeting as teenagers to their enduring devotion over 21 years of marriage, their tale is the stuff of legend.

No aspect of their lives illustrates this ideal more than the Queen's more than decade of mourning after the Prince Consort's unexpected death in 1861 at age 42. Victoria resolutely refused to engage in any more public functions than were absolutely necessary and only began t
The Visual
Sep 12, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Victorian Age was one of the glorious and successful periods in British History and it might not have happened if Prince Albert, The Queen Consort, did not die of illness in 1861.

Queen Victoria's reign could be divided in 2 eras, During-Albert and Post-Albert. While Prince Albert was alive, he served as the Queen's unofficial Private Secretary, Mentor and Adviser. He did more Royal duties whenever Queen Victoria was with child. And she was pregnant 9 times during their 21 years of Marriage.
« previous 1 3 4 5 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Mad about Royal H...: A Magnificent Obsession - winter read option 1 4 8 Dec 06, 2015 12:17PM  

Readers also enjoyed

  • We Two: Victoria and Albert: Rulers, Partners, Rivals
  • Matriarch: Queen Mary and the House of Windsor
  • The Heir Apparent: A Life of Edward VII, the Playboy Prince
  • Victoria's Daughters
  • The Husband Hunters: Social Climbing in London and New York
  • Queen Victoria: Daughter, Wife, Mother, Widow
  • The Season: A Social History of the Debutante
  • The Sentimentalists
  • Jackson Brodie 4-Book Bundle
  • The Queen's Secret: A Novel of England's World War II Queen
  • The Burnside Mystery Series, Box Set # 3, Books 7-9 (The Burnside Mystery Series Box Set)
  • Eat the Buddha: Life and Death in a Tibetan Town
  • The Silent Quarry (DI Winter Meadows, #1)
  • Court of Killers (Daniel Pike #2)
  • The Death of Vivek Oji
  • Dear Rosie Hughes
  • Queen Victoria's Mysterious Daughter: A Biography of Princess Louise
  • About Your Father and Other Celebrities I Have Known: Ruminations and Revelations from a Desperate Mother to Her Dirty Son
See similar books…
Born in Bromley, England, Helen Rappaport studied Russian at Leeds University but ill-advisedly rejected suggestions of a career in the Foreign Office and opted for the acting profession. After appearing on British TV and in films until the early 1990s she abandoned acting and embraced her second love - history and with it the insecurities of a writer’s life.

She started out contributing to biograp

Related Articles

There is nothing like reading a history or biography book and being so completely transported to another time and place that you find...
60 likes · 19 comments