I’ve been following author, broadcaster, journalist, and fellow Australian Julia Baird for more than a decade. In fact, I’ve been lurking around waiting for an opportunity to speak with her because I admire her work so much. Now she’s written the most incredible book, Victoria the Queen: An Intimate Biography of the Woman Who Ruled an Empire, I’ve got my chance!
Don’t be fooled by the demure portrait of Victoria on the cover—here is a woman who reigned over a quarter of the world’s population at the height of her rule. (She also bore nine children and survived eight assassination attempts.) In Baird’s deft portrayal, Victoria lives, breathes, and struts before us in all her complexity, and so do her consorts, particularly her politically ambitious husband Prince Albert—and later her “Scottish stallion” and probable lover, John Brown. On a geopolitical level, Baird’s sweeping historical portrait also illuminates just how interconnected the European royal families were during this time—Victoria’s Belgian cousin, King Leopold II, perpetrated genocide in the Congo while her German nephew, Kaiser Wilhelm II, would go on to initiate World War I. Historical astuteness aside, the pages gallop along enhanced by titillating morsels of info—like a certain Prime Minister’s predilection for whipping, in and out of the bedroom.
I hope this conversation gives you a taste of just how compelling Queen Victoria is as a subject, and most of all, how fabulous a story teller and biographer Julia is. Please let us know what you think of the conversation @litupshow & @bairdjulia on Twitter.
Buy Victoria the Queen: An Intimate Biography of the Woman Who Ruled an Empire here.
Julia Baird a journalist, broadcaster and author based in Sydney, Australia. She hosts The Drum on ABCTV and writes columns for the Sydney Morning Herald and the International New York Times. Her writing has appeared in a range of publications including Newsweek, The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, the Guardian, the Good Weekend, The Sydney Morning Herald, the Sun-Herald, The Monthly and Harper’s Bazaar.
Baird was based in the USA until 2011, working at Newsweek as columnist and deputy editor. She began work at the magazine as senior editor for Science, Society and Ideas. She edited and wrote cover stories on subjects including human evolution, the history of climate change denial, the mysterious lives of surrogate mothers, the politics of transgender, the significance of 1968, and the then vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin, as well as a profile of MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow. In 2010 she moved with her family to Philadelphia and worked as a columnist for the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Baird began her career in journalism at the Sydney Morning Herald, where she worked as a columnist, oped editor, education reporter and election editor. In 2006 and again at the end of 2011 she was the host of the in depth interview radio program “Sunday Profile” on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. In 2012, she covered the US presidential campaign in Iowa for The Monthly, the ABC, and the Sun-Herald.
In 2005, Baird was a fellow at the Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press and Public Policy at Harvard, researching the global response to American opinion in the lead-up to the Iraq War. Her Ph.D., on female politicians and the press, formed the basis of her book, Media Tarts: How the Australian Press Frames Female Politicians (2004). Baird has also taught history (20th century cultural history and personal narratives, involving the study of letters, diaries and journals), and made radio documentaries on subjects as diverse as black metal music and convent education.
Baird received both her B.A. and Ph.D. in history from Sydney University. She is a regular commentator on television and radio. She has also become expert in making play-doh, bug catchers and brownies for her two little kids, and lives near the sea, which she swims in as long and often as she can.