Sunday, May 28, 2006

Win a Copy of Victorias Wars by Saul David

Aficionados of the Flashman novels by George Macdonald Fraser will be familiar with many of Queen Victoria's early wars. The roll-call of famous (not to say infamous) British actions during the first quarter century of the Victorian era – from the queen's accession in 1837 to the death of her husband Prince Albert in 1861, a period known as the "Dual Monarchy" – is nothing short of extraordinary: the Retreat from Kabul, the Thin Red Line, the charges of the Light and Heavy Brigades at Balaklava, the Cawnpore massacres, the storming of Delhi, the relief of Lucknow, the capture of the Taku forts and the burning of the emperor's summer palace at Peking. Incredibly Harry Flashman was (unwillingly) present on all these occasions - or so Macdonald Fraser would have us believe. In reality, no soldier was or could have participated in all these events. The vagaries of a military career prevented even the most gung-ho from serving in every war. Hence my decision to frame the story with the perspective of two civilians who were constantly involved: Queen Victoria and her husband Prince Albert. The more I dug the more I discovered that the royal couple played a far more central role in foreign affairs and the conduct of war than is generally believed. Where Albert led the queen tended to follow. The obvious cut-off point for the book, therefore, was Albert's untimely death in 1861.


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