Queen Victoria and her Prime Ministers: A Personal History

Queen Victoria and her Prime Ministers: A Personal History
Published by William Collins on 28th March 2024

It is generally accepted that Queen Victoria reigned but did not rule. This couldn’t be more wrong.

In Queen Victoria and Her Prime Ministers, Anne Somerset masterfully traces Victoria’s political evolution, from headstrong teenager to seasoned octogenarian. This book demonstrates her passionate involvement in state affairs, and casts fresh light on her relationships with her ten prime ministers.

Victoria herself acknowledged that when it came to ‘likes and dislikes’ of her prime ministers, ‘she had them very strongly’. She showed girlish adoration for her first Prime Minister, the worldly-wise Lord Melbourne, whose delightful conversation and kindly guidance enchanted her. Later in her reign, Benjamin Disraeli – who flattered her shamelessly, tirelessly praising her sagacity and judgement and filling her life with ‘poetry, romance and chivalry’ – became her favourite.

While she developed a powerful bond with several of her Prime Ministers, in other cases the relationship fell little short of mutual detestation. Victoria’s keenest antipathy was reserved for Disraeli’s great rival, the Liberal William Gladstone. When he became prime minister for a fourth time at the age of 82, Victoria declared it ‘a bad joke’ that this ‘dangerous old fanatic’ should be ‘thrust down her throat’.

Queen Victoria and Her Prime Ministers charts the bitter clashes and affectionate interactions Victoria had with her ten premiers in often hilarious detail. Drawing extensively on unpublished sources such as material from the Royal Archives and never-before-seen prime ministerial papers, it casts a fresh and highly illuminating perspective not just on Victoria, but on the exceptionally able politicians who served her in government.