Victorian matchmaking

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Deborah Cadbury, author of 'Queen Victoria's Matchmaking: The Royal Marriages that Shaped Europe,' talks about the queen's wide-ranging impact — for better and for worse — on European history. December 4, History bestows Queen Victoria's name on a repressive era and paints her as ever-unamused.

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And for good reason — for centuries, strategically planned marriages allowed the wealthy and elite to retain their social standing, property and family businesses for generations. Marrying for love was pure fantasy and relegated to works of popular fiction. Respectable behavior and strict courtship rituals were the hallmarks of Victorian romance.

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She thought that she could influence Europe by controlling who her family members married. Luckily, she had plenty of family members with which to do it. Victoria had nine children and 42 grandchildren.

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Our guest this month, historian Deborah Cadbury, on the royal dynasty that ruled Europe. The rise of the royal family at the end of the nineteenth century was spectacular. Looking at the photographs of family gatherings, many of them kings or queens, crown princes and princesses, as they peered unsmiling into the camera in their military uniforms or their fur trimmed gowns, they exuded such an air of confidence.

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Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have swept the world into a media-friendly fairy tale, straight out of a made-for-TV rom com. This is a central image for the story that follows, a handy synecdoche for the maneuverings of a woman acting as both grandmother and queen, welding the two roles together, drawing on her position as grandmother to execute her aims as queen and vice versa. Queen Victoria was a dedicated matchmaker, parachuting her children and grandchildren into various royal houses across Europe, littering the continent with descendants.

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Please refresh the page and retry. Among them, as her subtitle indicates, are partnerships that reverberated beyond palace bedrooms, like that of Nicholas II of Russia and his stubborn, superstitious, beautiful Hessian bride, Alexandra. What it is not, though, is an assessment of Victoria as a royal matchmaker.

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And will the match trade die? Then thirty thousand working girls Will know the reason why. Like I said, versatile.

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Author Deborah Cadbury explained: "Queen Victoria was running the world's most exclusive dating agency because only royals were worthy of consideration for her grandchildren. The Napoleonic wars had devastated Europe and she wanted to shape the future of the continent, especially by forging an alliance with the German Empire. The queen's beloved retreat on Royal Deeside became the setting for much of the romantic intrigue, with the striking scenery and harsh climate used to test the character of the young aristocrats.

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Catherine Best does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment. Republish our articles for free, online or in print, under Creative Commons licence. But these were the women who worked 14 hours a day in the East End of London and who were exposed to deadly phosphorous vapours on a daily basis.


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