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An Uncommon Woman - The Empress Frederick: Daughter of Queen Victoria, Wife of the Crown Prince of Prussia, Mother of Kaiser Wilhelm

4.18  ·  Rating details ·  1,016 ratings  ·  71 reviews
An epic story of wars and revolutions, of the rise and fall of royal families, and of the birth of modern Germany is brilliantly told through the lives of the couple in the eye of the storm--Queen Victoria's eldest daughter, and her handsome, idealistic husband, Crown Prince Frederick of Prussia. of photos.
Paperback, 704 pages
Published November 13th 1997 by Simon & Schuster (first published 1995)
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4.18  · 
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 ·  1,016 ratings  ·  71 reviews


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Wealhtheow
Feb 20, 2009 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: liz
A truly masterful book. Pakula pulls together everything from social theory to medical history to thousands of letters to create a portrait of the Empress Dowager Frederick. The first born and cleverest child of Queen Victoria, Vicky married the Prussian Crown Prince Frederick. Theirs was a truly loving marriage and a meeting of two idealistic, thoughtful minds. Unfortunately, Prussia (led by Frederick's conservative father Wilhelm I and the EVIL EVIL EVIL Chancellor Bismarck) was highly conserv ...more
Kelly
The title of this book lies. This is not, as one might think, a biography-This is three biographies and a history in one. Obstenisbly, this is a biography of Queen Victoria's eldest child, the Princess Royal of England and eventual Empress of Germany, Victoria, or "Vicky", as she is referred to throughout the book. However, this is also a biography of Otto von Bismarck- or as I've taken to calling him The Worst Jerk Who Ever Jerked In the History of Ever, as well as her son, the mad Kaiser Wilhe ...more
Stephanie Duhon
Sep 05, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone who likes European history
This was a very interesting book with a lot of detail. It was time consuming because of the incredible amount of historical information. I enjoyed a different angle of the unification of Germany by seeing it through Vicky's eyes. Victoria was the eldest daughter of Queen Victoria of England who married the heir to the Prussian throne at the age of 17. She was the mother of Kaiser Wilhem II.
Jenni Wiltz
Apr 21, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Rarely has a book made me wonder "what if..." quite this much. The research that went into this biography of Queen Victoria's oldest daughter is amazing. Not only do you get an enjoyable read about an interesting royal personage, you get a detailed look at Bismarck and the creation of the German empire. Without getting too far into the politics of it all, let's just say the world would have been a very different place if Fritz (Vicky's husband and heir to the Prussian throne) hadn't died when he ...more
Dorothy
Mar 09, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: biography
Quite simply a brilliant biography of a complex and highly imperfect woman with perfect and noble intentions in an impossible time, place and world. A "liberal", reformist, constitutional monarchist from England thrown into the gestation of the unified German state where nationalism became an anti-reform movement Crown Princess Victoria met with skepticism and antipathy from the moment she set foot on German soil. The daughter of Victoria and Albert, wife of Frederick and mother of Wilhelm she w ...more
Julie
Jun 19, 2013 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Julie by: Kelly
Shelves: england, german
When I picked up this book, I knew almost nothing about Vicky aka the Empress Frederick. I never intended to read the entire book, but it was so well-written and compelling that I could not stop myself. Queen Victoria and Prince Albert raised their firstborn child to play a role that she was never allowed to perform. She was brilliant and well educated--a woman of many gifts. Raised to admire the British values of a constitutional monarchy and the rule of law, Vicky was expected to transmit thos ...more
Carri
Mar 05, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: European history junkies
I plunged into this book after completing what could be considered a primer on Queen Victoria. Empress Frederick was her name amongst German royalty. Her previous title among English Royalty was Princess Victoria. To her mother, Queen Victoria of England, she was simply Vickie. Who raised a bratty child who grew up to plunge his country into WWI. Bad Kaiser!

I was not prepared for the complex web of detail, but found myself challenged to understand and keep up with the writer.

More often than not,
...more
Christopher
Jul 19, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was a big surprise for me, since I was not familiar with the author and am relatively well read in the subject matter. However, it was fascinating and one of the most enjoyable works of history Ive tackled in a long time.

The author uses letters and primary source materials very effectively here. Also, she provides great historical perspective on the Empress Frederick, so much so that this hefty 600+ page book also serves as a good primer on Queen Victoria and Prince Albert; the foundi
...more
Kerrie
Jun 23, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Biographies of royalty usually don't hold my attention due to the constant referring to family trees and trying to figure out the family relations, and since it's royalty, you're bound to end up at "He's his own grandpa" at least once. I didn't care for Queen Victoria after reading a biography on her (forget the author) but I was interested in World War I, and had just come off the reading high of Robert K. Massie's Dreadnought: Britain, Germany and the Coming of the Great War. This biography is ...more
Dawn
Feb 04, 2016 rated it liked it
I thought this was well researched. I can't believe how she was treated for so long. I understand why the author included all the history and so much info about Bismarck but it got a little boring.
Carolyn F.
Jan 10, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
I read this quite a while ago. It's interesting to see how her son was manipulated and she had no power to stop it.
Elizabeth
Nov 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
If you envision the life of a princess as something from fairy tales, the biography of Vicky, the firstborn of England's Queen Victoria and her Prince Consort Albert of Saxe-Coburg will dispel any such notions. Vicky was a serious, intelligent girl, tutored in principles of liberal governance by her father. At 17, she married a man she loved and admired, the similarly-principled Frederick, in line for the throne of Prussia. But various forces of history conspired to thwart Vicky's ideals and her ...more
Rose
Aug 13, 2014 rated it really liked it
An Uncommon Woman is a well written, intricately researched biography of Queen Victoria's eldest child, Vicki.

Using the forty years of almost daily letters between mother and daughter, Hannah Pakula creates an intimate portrait of Vicki, and the events she lived through. It offers the reader a personal perspective during a period that has been generalized as the Victorian era. But it is so much more complex because of the extensive family ties between the royal monarchs in England, Germany, Russ
...more
Charles
Jul 30, 2011 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: anyone interested in 19th and 20th century history.
This is a much more textured book than the last royal biography I read; but Victoria the Princess Royal who became Kaiserin of Germany and the mother of Kaiser Wilhelm II is much more important to history than the youngest daughter of Czar Alexander III.

Although the book is wonderfully written and rife with notes and bibliography I was left unsatisfied with the description of the Crown Princess of Prussia's relationship with her eldest son. There was a great deal of detail when it came to the l
...more
TAS
May 16, 2014 rated it really liked it
For lovers of history, this is an exceptional biography. Readable, thorough and very well researched and documented. The Empress was certainly a woman ahead of her time: educated, thoughtful, and, despite the expected role of women at her time, deeply involved in the world of international politics.

In Pakula's biography, we learn about the:
• Deep lifelong influence of Princess Victoria's (Vicky) connection with her father, Prince Albert, since both were so very much alike in intelligence, char
...more
Jonathan
Sep 26, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book and look forward to re-reading it again in the future. Hannah Pakula is a great writer and researcher. Queen Victoria was a whinny, demanding, needy person who controlled everyone around her, esp. her children - they could do nothing right! The heroine of the book is her daughter Vicky, who become the princess of Prussia having married Prince Friedrich Wilhelm. It is amazing to learn of Vicky and Fritz's loving marriage and the devotion they had for each other and how Fritz tri ...more
Jan
Dec 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Fabulous biography of Vicky, daughter of Queen Victoria and mother to Kaiser Wilhelmina.
Maria
Nov 30, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography
Very easy to read. The chapters are not too long and the wording is vernacular. Good read of the Dowager Empress and the times leading up to WW1.
Clare Cannon
Sep 26, 2011 marked it as one-day
Recommended for A Rose for the ANZAC Boys
Megan
Nov 12, 2018 rated it liked it
This book has left me conflicted, because although thoroughly researched and well-written, I have reached the end and felt I haven't really learned all that much about Victoria, the Empress Frederick, who the book is supposedly centred on, but more about the state of 19th-20th German politics. At times it read as a biography of Otto von Bismarck or Victoria's son Kaiser Wilhelm than it did about Victoria herself. It is difficult when so much of the source material is male-oriented and in a spher ...more
Debra
Aug 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
The bio, Uncommon Woman, is thoroughly researched. Its author, Hannah Pakula, knows the era's, as well as, the Prussian Court's complicated history and intrigues; and she uses primary sources, as opposed to, relying on what others have said, to write it, which is a strength. Since Prussia's ultra conservative politician, Bismarck, methodically plotted to rob Vicky and her liberal-minded husband, Fritz of their rightful places in history (and his Realpolitik diplomacy made the world ripe for WWI) ...more
Kate
I really enjoyed this biography, and like other reviewers have said, it is more than a biography of Empress Frederick, it is partly a biography of the other important figures in her life: Wilhelm I, Bismarck, Wilhelm II, etc. I was not very familiar with what was happening in Europe in the late 19th century (e.g., most of what I knew about the Franco-Prussian War was that it was a war between France and Prussia), but Pakula did a decent job of explaining the greater goings-on in the world that a ...more
Tracy Mallon
Jan 29, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This is an amazing and in-depth biography of an Empress who is better known as the daughter of another Empress (Queen Victoria) and mother of an Emperor (Kaiser Wilhelm II). But Vicky - as she was known to her family - was a fascinating woman in her own right. Raised by her parents to champion the liberal cause and unification of Germany, she had to fight against the tide of conservatism in the persons of her father-in-law Kaiser Wilhelm I, son Kaiser Wilhelm II and their chancellor Otto von Bis ...more
David Rogers
Jul 30, 2014 rated it liked it
The only reason I gave this 3 and not 4 stars was because there were a few times past the half-way point when I was like "I'm ready for this book to be over". That being said, there were good guys: Friedrich III and Vicky - honest, liberal and naive; and bad guys: Wilhem I - a curmudgeon, Augusta - a selfish bitch, Willy - emotionally unstable brat, and Bismark - the most deceitful and conniving human there ever was. It makes you wonder how the world would have been different had Friedrich not d ...more
Kate
Jan 02, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: bio
This is a thorough and well researched bio. It lags sometimes because of the nature of the people it discusses. Vicky, eldest child of Queen Victoria, is as verbose, self pitying, and hysterical as Queen Victoria herself, so when their letters are quoted it becomes rather tedious. They out-martyr one another, and run through a huge gamut of emotions on almost any topic

With that said, Vicky, who married the heir to what becomes the German throne, lives a difficult life. An intelligent woman, when
...more
Stacey
Dec 12, 2011 rated it really liked it
A wonderful biography of a woman overshadowed by other famous people in her orbit at the time - her mother Queen Victoria, the German Chancellor Otto von Bismark, in power for most of the time she was married to the Crown Prince of Prussia, and her son Kaiser Wilhelm.

From the time she married Prince Friedrich (Fritz), Vicky, as Queen Victoria's eldest daughter was known, was viewed with suspicion by the German people as "too English" with republican views that clashed with the ideas and behavior
...more
Diane Dooley
Jun 13, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: recent-reads
Absolutely fascinating book. It took me a while to read it because it's very densely packed with information and I didn't want to miss anything. I enjoyed the voluminous correspondence between Queen Victoria and her daughter, Vickie. In between spats about breast feeding and busily arranging marriages for their vast family, there is also a ton of opinionated information about the crazy politics of the day. I learned a lot more about Bismark and the unification of Germany than I thought I would. ...more
Chrissy
Jan 18, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
Paluka's biography of the Empress Fredrick is a excellent and sometime rather touching look at a woman no seems to give a thought to.
The daughter of Queen Victoria and the mother of Kaiser Wilhelm (when I told my dad I was reading this he joked "Kaiser Wilhelm had a mother?")was a bright woman who could have changed the world for the better, but was denied the chance and is skipped over by history.
This book is a excellent source of interest for any fans of German, Victorian or WWI history though
...more
Bekah
Apr 08, 2014 rated it really liked it
I might have given this 5 stars if the book did just center on Empress Frederick. The author spent a lot amount of time concentrating on Prussian politics and an obsession with Bismarck. Obviously because Vicky was the Crown Princess and Empress of newly formed Germany, politics should play a huge part but I find myself reading chapter after chapter with no mention of her-just Bismarck.

As a whole I did enjoy this book because prior to reading I had VERY limited knowledge on Empress Frederick and
...more
Jim
Jul 30, 2011 rated it really liked it
This is an excellent book for a lapsed History major. This is an excellent history of the rise of Prussia, the German confederation and the roots of WWI. She was the daughter of Queen Victoria, raised to bring liberal qualities to Germany by her father, Prince Albert. She met Napolean III. Her father-in-law lived too long. Bismark rose to extreme power. Her husband lived too short. He only ruled 99 days. Her son became an autocrat and eventually brought down the house of Hohenzollern. All in all ...more
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Hannah Pakula is the author of "The Last Empress," which was a New York Times notable book, "The Last Romantic: A Biograpy of Queen Marie of Roumania," which was called by Graham Greene the best biography and one of the three best books of the year, and "An Uncommon Woman: Empress Frederick," which was a Los Angeles Times Book Award finalist. Pakula has also written for magazines including Vanity ...more
“I experienced the happiest moment of my life when you took me in your arms as your wife and pressed me to your heart; when I even think of that moment my heart beats madly and I have a terrible longing for you, and I think I would hug you to death if I had you here now.” 4 likes
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