Victoria would have agreed that her life fell into three parts—before Albert, with Albert, after Albert. The death in childbirth in November 1817 of Princess Charlotte, only daughter and heir to the prince regent, prompted a famous ‘rush to the altar’, since none of the seven royal brothers had legitimate offspring, nor any of their sisters, of whom five survived. The duke of Cambridge married in May 1818. His elder brothers, the dukes of Clarence and Kent, were married in a joint ceremony a month later. Clarence's two daughters died as infants, leaving the probable succession to the duke of Kent's daughter the Princess Victoria, born 18 May 1819, christened Alexandrina, and known at first as ‘Drina’. Eight months later her father was dead, taken off by pneumonia in winter at Sidmouth, leaving her to be brought up in a household almost totally female and totally German. Her mother, Princess Victoria of Leiningen, had a boy and girl by her first marriage, and was of the house of Saxe-Coburg: recently arrived in England, she found the language difficult. The other person in constant attendance was Fräulein Lehzen, brought over as governess and companion from Hanover when the princess was 6 months old. They lived at Kensington palace, Victoria sleeping in her mother's room until she came to the throne. The princess adored her half-sister Feodora, but she was twelve years older than Victoria, and went off to Germany to marry when Victoria was 8. The centre of the princess's life was her 132 dolls, given imposing names and elaborate costumes. Years later Feodora reflected on ‘that dismal existence of ours’.
Victoria grew up intelligent and self-possessed. Later in life she regretted that she had not had a more systematic education, but she read widely, spoke several languages, sang well and drew competently, enjoyed music and the theatre. Her upbringing, though sheltered, endowed her with an artlessness and directness—a lack of introspection—which is rare, and never left her. Inevitably the duchess of Kent was on bad terms with George IV and even worse with his successor William IV, to whose demise she looked forward with ill-concealed relish. A clash over precedence meant that the duchess and the young princess boycotted William's coronation in 1831, the princess writing that not even her dolls could console her. ‘I longed sadly for some gaiety’, she wrote to her uncle Leopold at 16, ‘but we have been for the last three months immured within our old palace.’ Her correspondence with Leopold, king of the Belgians and avid to advise her, showed a growing interest in politics, national and international, even if she saw them, as she always did, in highly personal terms. As news of the gravity of King William's illness emerged in 1837 she wrote to Leopold: ‘I look forward to the event which it seems is likely to occur soon with calm and quietness: I am not alarmed at it … I trust that with goodwill, honesty and courage, I shall not, at all events, fail.’ Leopold redoubled his bombardment on ‘the trade’ of kings. She could never praise the English too much: like the French they were ‘almost ridiculous in their own exaggerated praise of themselves’. At her first council, Greville wrote that ‘she appeared to be awed, but not daunted’.
Victoria's education for life started with her first prime minister Melbourne, whom she liked from their first audience, and who stood for father-figure and first love. His kind and pleasant manner, mellow and relaxed, eased her into her new duties: after five days she wrote to Leopold, ‘I do regular, hard, but to me delightful work.’ Melbourne turned many things into fun. Lord Amelius Beauclerk, a naval aide-de-camp, asked permission to wear a sash: Melbourne thought not—‘Your Majesty had perhaps better say that you can make no change … particularly considering Lord Amelius's figure.’ Greville wrote, not unkindly, in 1839 when the queen's affection for Melbourne had dragged her into the Bedchamber crisis, ‘Melbourne is everything to her … her feelings are sexual, though she does not know it.’
She told Melbourne that she might not marry at all: ‘I don't know about that,’ replied Melbourne, sensibly. In October 1839 Leopold played his trump card, sending Victoria's cousin Albert over from Saxe-Coburg on approval. Victoria grew agitated, the subject of marriage was very disagreeable, and she tried to postpone the visit. In the event, one look was enough. ‘It was with some emotion that I beheld Albert,’ she wrote, ‘who is beautiful … so excessively handsome.’ Two days later, even disconcerting the urbane Melbourne, she declared that no time should be lost, and the following day she sent for Albert to propose marriage. The second phase of her life had begun.
Victoria took to matrimony con brio. ‘We did not sleep much,’ she confided to her journal after the wedding night. ‘You cannot imagine how delightful it is to be married,’ she told a female cousin about to embark on the same adventure. Then, to her dismay, within six weeks there were signs of pregnancy. Victoria was quite unsentimental about babies—‘nasty objects’—but after the birth of the princess royal in November 1840, eight more arrived in rapid succession: the future Edward VII in November 1841, the last princess in April 1857. Victoria had no wish to look after the children herself, especially when they were tiny, but her life became a strange juxtaposition of public and private. April 1841 found her with Princess Victoria 6 months old and war with China: ‘Albert is so much amused at my having got the Island of Hong Kong, and we think Victoria ought to be called Princess of Hong Kong in addition to Princess Royal.’ The great chartist demonstration in April 1848 was only three weeks after the birth of Princess Louise and the royal family prudently departed to their new house at Osborne. Two months after Prince Arthur's birth in 1850, Peel died from a fall from his horse: Victoria, who had found him ‘such a cold, odd man’ when he had nearly replaced Melbourne in 1839, now mourned him as a father. The Crimean War was still raging in December 1855 when the 14-year-old prince of Wales submitted a disastrous six-and-a-half-line examination paper on his ancient history course. Albert's influence grew with the years, particularly after the success of the Great Exhibition in 1851, and in 1857 Victoria gave him the unprecedented title of prince consort. But pressure of work and his own sense of duty took its toll. ‘I am sure if I had a severe illness’, he once remarked, ‘I should give up at once. I would not struggle against it.’ In December 1861, he caught typhoid and died at the age of 42.
Victoria faced a widowhood of 40 years. To some, even in her own day, her grief seemed excessive. It was not an age that took death lightly, nor is it easy to say how much other people should mourn. There was a touch of morbidness and some gestures were repeated when the estimable John Brown, her Scottish manservant, died in 1883. There was also perhaps a touch of remorse since she had always inclined to the view that Albert made a fuss about his ailments. For several years, her disappearance from public life was total. Albert's room at Osborne was left untouched, his towel laid out and his hot water brought, busts and statues commissioned, an official biography commanded from Theodore Martin, and plans laid for the erection of the Albert memorial and its afterthought, the Albert Hall. But slowly the family took over as it grew inexorably—such ‘swarms of children’, wrote Victoria without enthusiasm. Her nine children produced by the time of her death 40 grandchildren (31 still alive) and a further 40 great-grandchildren. Life became a welter of match-making, weddings, christenings, teething, mumps, visits, and birthdays (remembered or missed)—and, the penalty of advancing years, of deaths. In the midst of the Franco-Prussian War old Baroness Lehzen died, the last link with Victoria's childhood. In 1879 the prince imperial, Napoleon III's only son, was killed while a volunteer with the British army in South Africa—‘those horrid Zulus’, lamented the queen. Disraeli, once detested for his unkindness to Sir Robert Peel, long a dear friend, died in 1881, ‘the Queen bowed down with this misfortune’. In 1892 there was a terrible shock when ‘Eddy’, the prince of Wales's eldest son, succumbed to pneumonia at Sandringham. And gradually the courts and thrones of Europe filled up with Victoria's relatives and descendants. Willi, the princess royal's son, became emperor of Germany in 1888: Alix, a granddaughter, married Nicholas II, tsar of Russia, in 1894; cousin Alexander (‘Sandro’) was briefly king of Bulgaria and, in due course, granddaughters became queens of Sweden, Norway, Spain, Greece, and Romania. The tiny lady in the wheelchair was ‘the matriarch of Europe’.
Her political influence as queen has been much debated and analysed, but the more extravagant claims should not be entertained. In the give and take of appointments over more than 60 years, the queen was bound to have victories and defeats. It has been suggested that she was personally responsible for choosing Aberdeen and Rosebery as prime ministers. But in 1852, when Derby's ministry was defeated over Disraeli's budget, Derby himself advised her to send for Lansdowne and Aberdeen, united in the new Liberal coalition. Lansdowne, at the age of 72, declined to become prime minister and the queen, agreeing that he was too old and infirm, authorized Aberdeen to form a government. She had little choice. Rosebery, in 1894, was already foreign secretary and the almost unanimous choice of the cabinet, who dreaded serving under Harcourt. The queen did not consult Gladstone, the outgoing prime minister, but since he would have recommended Spencer who would have recommended Rosebery, the result would have been the same. The two politicians she most distrusted were Palmerston (‘Pilgerstein’) and Gladstone (‘half-crazy’), but this did not stop the former being prime minister for nearly ten years and dying in office at the age of 81, nor the latter being prime minister on four occasions. Her importance lies in her role, with Albert, in restoring the dignity and reputation of the monarchy. She rescued it from a situation in which George III had been mad for the last ten years of his reign; George IV's private life was scarcely very private since his estranged wife gatecrashed his coronation demanding to be let in; William IV had a bevy of no fewer than fifteen illegitimate children, the FitzClarences, to be found anywhere in the royal palaces. Though her friendship with Melbourne and her consequential Whig partisanship gave much offence at first and her seclusion after Albert's death fuelled a brief republican movement, Victoria's standing rose with the years, and she enjoyed memorable triumphs at her Golden and Diamond Jubilees in 1887 and 1897. Much of it, of course, was illusion, and her ministers and advisers were aware of the importance of public opinion in a way that had scarcely occurred to anyone in previous centuries. The queen mother and empress was a tiny, fat old lady, painfully short-sighted, gobbling her food and eating too much. But nobody took liberties. The ribald jokes about John Brown had bounced off her, and H. G. Wells's mother, the housekeeper at Uppark, was not the only woman to identify with the poor widow of Windsor, ‘with a passionate loyalty’. Bismarck, the arbiter of Europe, faced an audience in 1888 nervously and came out saying, ‘That was a woman.’ Though the queen herself did not fit the stereotype of ‘Victorian England’ (she never quite got over the dislike she had taken to bishops as a toddler), the phrase took hold so firmly that one wonders how other countries manage without the adjective. She remained to the end a mass of contradictions—self-centred yet considerate and dutiful; homely yet grand; excitable and passionate but with shrewd judgement. At her death Henry James the novelist, a sophisticated observer of human nature, wrote: ‘we grovel before fat Edward—Edward the Caresser, as he is privately named … But I mourn the safe and motherly old middle-class queen, who held the nation warm under the fold of her big, hideous Scotch-plaid shawl … I felt her death more than I should have expected.’
J. A. Cannon
Longford, E. , Victoria R.I. (1964);
Strachey, L. , Queen Victoria (1921);
Weintraub, S. , Victoria (1983).
Victoria (1819-1901) was queen of Great Britain and Ireland from 1837 to 1901 and empress of India from 1876 to 1901. She presided over the expansion of England into an empire of 4 million square miles and 124 million people.
A woman who gave her name to an age, Victoria was a richly contradictory character. Intensely virtuous, at the age of 11 upon learning she was next in succession to the British crown, she reacted by promising "I will be good, " a promise which she faithfully kept. With innate good manners and a great love of truth, she was also immensely selfish, keeping aged ministers and ladies-in-waiting out in all weathers and up to all hours, and ruining the life and character of her eldest son (later Edward VII) by refusing to allow him any responsibility. Her prudery was famous, yet her letters reveal her completely unafraid to face unpleasant facts, even about her nearest and dearest. Tremendously personal and partisan in her handling of her ministers, she never succeeded in understanding the English party system; she considered that her own view of what would best benefit her country gave her the right to oppose any policy and person, and she frankly preferred coalitions, while accepting that the Crown must be above party. Living all her adult life subject to the guidance of wise men, she remained both innocent and devious, arbitrary and simple, courageous and timid, "unconstitutional in action while constitutional by temperament." In fact she was so completely an expression of the dominant views and characteristics of her time that she truly embodied and interpreted her people throughout her reign. As queen, she saw slavery abolished in the colonies, the Reform Bill passed, the Poor Law reformed, the Corn Laws repealed; she saw her country undertake successful wars in the Crimea, Egypt, the Sudan, and South Africa, acquire the Suez Canal, and establish constitutions in Australia and Canada.
Alexandrina Victoria was born in Kensington Palace, London, on May 24, 1819. She was the only child of Edward, Duke of Kent (1767-1820; fourth son of George III), by Mary Louis Victoria (1786-1861; fourth daughter of Francis Frederick Anthony, reigning Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, and widow of Edward, Prince of Leiningen). Victoria was baptized on June 24, 1819, Alexander I of Russia being one of her sponsors, and her uncle, the prince regent (later George IV), the other. She grew up under her mother's care and that of Louisa Lehzen, her German governess, and spoke only German until she was 3. From 1832 Victoria's mother took her on extended tours through England. On May 24, 1837, she came of age, and on June 20, on the death of her uncle William IV, she succeeded to the throne, receiving the news of her accession in a cotton dressing gown at 6 A.M. Her chief advisers at first were the prime minister, Lord Melbourne, a Whig (Liberal), and Baron Stockmar, a German sent to London by her uncle King Leopold of the Belgians as adviser to his 18-year-old niece.
Queen Victoria had large blue eyes, a cupid-bow mouth, smooth light-brown hair that darkened with age, and a receding chin. She was under 5 feet and as a girl was slender, then plump. By the time she was 26 she was stout and remained so, except after periods of illness, until the end. She had a silvery voice, enunciated excellently, without a trace of the German accent of her eldest son, and had a radiant, though rare, smile. Those she disliked, William Gladstone for example, found her somber and terrifying; her ladies, servants, and grandchildren thought she looked "so dear" and idolized her.
First Years of Reign
Victoria's hand was kissed on her accession by members of her council, which included the Duke of Wellington, Sir Robert Peel, Lord John Russell, and Lord Palmerston, with all of whom she was to be closely associated. She opened her first Parliament on Nov. 20, 1837, and read her own speech; Parliament voted her an annuity of £385, 000, plus the revenues of the duchies of Lancaster and Cornwall, another £126, 000. Victoria proceeded to pay her father's debts. On June 28, 1838, her coronation took place. Next year her initial popularity waned, resulting from her dependence on Lord Melbourne and from her unjust treatment of Lady Flora Hastings, one of her ladies-in-waiting. When Lord Melbourne resigned, Victoria sent for the opposition leader, Sir Robert Peel; but when she refused to change her ladies, as was then the custom on a change of government, Peel refused to take office and Victoria recalled Melbourne.
In October her two first cousins, Ernest and Albert Edward (1819-1861) of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, came to London. Albert had written in his diary at 11, "I intend to train myself to be a good and useful man." Victoria fell in love with him instantly and proposed to him; they were married on Feb. 10, 1840. It was an ideally happy marriage and restored the prestige of the Crown, which had sadly deteriorated during the reigns of Victoria's three inept predecessors. Prince Albert was granted £30, 000 annual income by Parliament, was named regent in the event of the Queen's death in childbirth, and in 1857 was made Prince Consort by Victoria. Albert described his functions to the Duke of Wellington in April 1850 as: "the husband of the Queen, the tutor of the Royal children, the private secretary of the sovereign and her permanent Minister."
In June 1842 Victoria made her first railway journey from Slough, the station nearest Windsor Castle, to Paddington, and in that same year she first went to Scotland, traveling by sea. In 1843 Victoria and Albert visited King Louis Philippe. She was the first English monarch to land in France since Henry VIII visited Francis I in 1520. King Louis Philippe's return visit was the first voluntary visit to England of any French ruler. In 1845 Victoria, with Albert, made the first of many trips to Germany, staying at Albert's birthplace, Rosenau.
In 1834, after Lord John Russell had failed to form a ministry (principally owing to Victoria's opposition to Palmerston as foreign minister), Lord John "handed back the poisoned chalice, " as Disraeli put it, to Peel. But Peel's ministry fell on a measure for Irish coercion, and by 1847 the Irish famine, in which 1½ million people died and 1 million emigrated, postponed Victoria's planned visit there, which did not take place until 1849, when she landed at Cove, changing its name to Queenstown. In 1846 Victoria tangled with Palmerston over the marriage of the Spanish queen Isabella, and in 1850 she informed him that he " (1) should inform her of the course of action he proposes, and (2) should not arbitrarily modify or alter a measure once it had received her sanction." Lord Palmerston "affected pained surprise" at these injunctions but did not alter his ways. In 1851 the Whig government was outvoted and Lord John resigned, but as Lord Derby, the Conservative (Tory) leader refused to form a government, Victoria again sent for Lord John Russell. She was at this time so happy and blessed in her homelife that she wrote, "Politics (provided my Country is safe) must take only 2nd place." In 1844 she had Osborne Palace built for her on the Isle of Wight and in 1848 Balmoral Castle in Scotland; thereafter until the end of her life she spent part of each spring and fall in these residences. In 1851 she and Prince Albert were much occupied with the Great Exhibition, held in London, the first of its kind.
In 1851 Victoria was furious with Palmerston for informing Walewski, the French ambassador to London, that he approved of the coup by which Prince Louis Napoleon made himself Emperor Napoleon III. Victoria was largely instrumental in compelling Lord John Russell to demand Palmerston's resignation. In 1852 the Whigs finally fell, and Lord Derby led a Tory Government. But in July the Tories were beaten in the general election, and in December Lord Derby resigned. At Victoria's request, Lord Aberdeen made a coalition government, with Palmerston relegated to the Home Office. In 1853 Victoria and Albert suffered unpopularity for their apparent pro-Russian stand but regained public approval after the British declared war on Russia Feb. 28, 1854. In January 1855 the government was defeated on their conduct of the war, and Palmerston formed an administration. On March 30, 1856, Victoria admitted that she admired Palmerston's winning of the war. In 1856 Victoria and Albert visited Napoleon III in Paris, and in 1857 the Indian Mutiny against British rule, as represented by the East India Company, led to Victoria's writing that there now existed in England "a universal feeling that India [should] belong to me." In 1858 the East India Company was abolished. That same year Victoria's eldest child, Victoria, married Prince (later Emperor) Frederick of Prussia. In March 1861 Victoria's mother died, and her eldest son, Albert Edward, while in camp in the Curragh in Ireland, had an affair with an actress called Nelly Clifden, distressing Victoria and Albert, who were planning his marriage to Princess Alexandra of Denmark. Prince Albert, already ill, went in icy weather to Cambridge to remonstrate with his son; Albert was suffering from typhoid and died on Dec. 14, 1861, aged 42.
The widowed Victoria held her erring son as partly the cause of his father's death and never forgave him. She retired into complete seclusion and wore mourning until her death.
In 1862 Victoria's daughter Alice married Prince Louis of Hesse, and a year later her eldest son, now created Prince of Wales, whom his family called "Bertie, " married Princess Alexandra of Denmark. Victoria supported Prussia during its war with Denmark over Schleswig-Holstein, whereas her daughter-in-law, her ministers, and her people openly upheld Denmark. She approved Russia's brutal suppression of Poland's national uprising in 1863. In 1865 in the Seven Weeks War between Prussia and Austria, which ended in Prussia's victory at Sadowa, Victoria was again pro-Prussian. In 1867 Victoria entertained the Khedive of Egypt and the Sultan of Turkey. In 1868 Benjamin Disraeli became prime minister but was defeated by William Gladstone over the disestablishment of the Irish Church. Disraeli offered to resign, but Victoria kept him in office for six months after his defeat. Victoria, though she thought him "odd" and his wife odder, much appreciated Disraeli because he treated her as a woman. Gladstone, she complained, treated her as though she were a public department. In the Franco-Prussian War of 1870, Victoria was still pro-Prussian, though she welcomed the exiled French empress Eugénie and allowed her and the Emperor to live at Chislehurst. In 1873 Gladstone resigned, and in 1874, to Victoria's delight, Disraeli became prime minister. He called the plump, tiny queen "The Faery" and admitted he loved her—"perhaps the only person left to me in this world that I do love." That same year Victoria's son Prince Alfred married Marie, daughter of the Russian czar, who insisted she be called Imperial, not Royal, Highness. This encouraged Victoria to make "preliminary enquiries" about officially assuming the title Empress of India, which she did on May 1, 1876. In 1875 Disraeli, with the help of the Rothschilds, bought the majority of the Suez Canal shares from the bankrupt Khedive of Egypt, to Victoria's delight. That same year Gladstone roused the country with stories of "Bulgarian atrocities": 12, 000 Bulgarian Christians had been murdered by Turkish irregulars. In 1877 Russia declared war on Turkey; Victoria and Disraeli were pro-Turk, sending a private warning to the Czar that, were he to advance, Britain would fight. Disraeli complained that Victoria "writes every day and telegraphs every hour." In 1878 at the Congress of Berlin, Disraeli obtained, as he told Victoria, "peace with honour."
In 1879 Victoria visited Italy and Germany. In the fall Gladstone's Midlothian campaign led to the government's defeat in April 1880. In 1882 a third attempt was made on Victoria's life. Africa gave trouble, the Zulu killed Empress Eugénie's son, and the Sudanese killed Gen. Gordon in Khartoum before Lord Wolseley, sent at Victoria's urging to relieve him, arrived. In 1885 Victoria went to Aix-les-Bains; she thought Gladstone a humbug, and "he talks so very much." In June he resigned, but Lord Salisbury, who became prime minister, lost the ensuing general election. Gladstone, pledged to Irish home rule, came in again, to Victoria's unconcealed annoyance. When he was defeated on this issue, Lord Salisbury returned to power.
In 1887 Victoria's golden jubilee was celebrated, and in 1888 she actually approved of Gladstone—when he persuaded Parliament to vote £37, 000 annually for the Prince of Wales' children. In 1889 the German kaiser, Victoria's grandson, visited England; in 1892 Gladstone again became prime minister. His Home Rule Bill was passed in the House of Commons but thrown out by the House of Lords. Gladstone resigned, to be succeeded by Lord Rosebery. In 1897 Victoria's diamond jubilee was magnificently celebrated, the apotheosis of her reign and of her empire. In 1897 the repression of the Sudan culminated in Lord Kitchener's victory at Omdurman on September 2. Victoria was joyful; "Surely Gordon is avenged, " she wrote. In 1899 the Boer War broke out, and in 1900 Victoria went to Ireland, where most of the soldiers who fought on the British side were recruited. In August she signed the Australian Commonwealth Bill and in October lost a grandson in the war. On Jan. 22, 1901, she died in the arms of the Kaiser. Her last word was "Bertie." She was the mother of four boys and five girls, all of whom had issue. In her lifetime she had 40 grand-children and 37 great-grandchildren. During her reign the British crown ceased to be powerful but remained influential.
An authoritative biography, enriched by records unavailable to older biographers, is Elizabeth Longford, Queen Victoria: Born to Succeed (1965). Other biographies are Lytton Strachey, Queen Victoria (1921); J. A. R. Marriott, Queen Victoria (1934); Edith Sitwell, Victoria of England (1936); Hector Bolitho, Queen Victoria (1948); and Roger Fulford, Queen Victoria (1960). Studies of the Victorian age include Asa Briggs, The Age of Improvement, 1783-1867 (1959); Ernest Llewellyn Woodward, The Age of Reform, 1815-1870 (1938; 2d ed. 1962); and R. J. Evans, The Victorian Age, 1815-1914 (1950; 2d ed. 1968). Joan Evans, The Victorians (1966), is a handsome picture-and-document history of Victorian England.
Sharp, Geoffrey B., Byrd & Victoria, Sevenoaks: Novello, 1974. □
Victoria was queen of Great Britain and Ireland from 1837 to 1901 and empress of India from 1876 to 1901. During her reign, England grew into an empire of 4 million square miles and 124 million people. As queen, she saw slavery end in the colonies, saw her country undertake successful wars in the Crimea, Egypt, the Sudan, and South Africa, acquired the Suez Canal, and established constitutions in Australia and Canada.
Early life and the throne
Alexandrina Victoria was born in Kensington Palace, London, on May 24, 1819. She was the only child of Edward, Duke of Kent (1767–1820), by Mary Louis Victoria (1786–1861). Her father died when she was very young and her early years were disrupted by family arguments. She grew up under her mother's care and that of Louisa Lehzen, her German governess. The education Victoria received from Lehzen was limited, and she spoke only German until she was three years old.
From 1832 Victoria's mother took her on extended tours through England. On May 24, 1837, she came of age, and on June 20, after the death of her uncle William IV (1765–1837), she inherited the throne. Her chief advisers at first were Prime Minister Lord Melbourne, a Whig (or a member of the liberal political party), and Baron Stockmar, a German sent to London by her uncle King Leopold of the Belgians as adviser to his eighteen-year-old niece. On June 28, 1838, her coronation (crowning ceremony) took place.
In October her first cousin Albert Edward (1819–1861) of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, came to London. Victoria fell in love with him instantly, proposed to him, and they were married on February 10, 1840. It was a happy marriage and restored the influence of the Crown, which had weakened during the reigns of those that ruled before her. Prince Albert was granted a thirty-thousand-pound annual income by Parliament, the governing body of Great Britain. He also was named regent (acting ruler) in the event of the queen's death in childbirth, and in 1857 was made Prince Consort by Victoria.
In June 1842 Victoria made her first railway journey from Slough, the station nearest Windsor Castle, to Paddington, and in that same year she first went to Scotland, traveling by sea. In 1843 Victoria and Albert visited King Louis Philippe (1773–c.1850). She was the first English monarch to land in France since Henry VIII (1491–1547) visited Francis I (1494–1547) in 1520. King Louis Philippe's return visit was the first voluntary visit to England of any French ruler. In 1845 Victoria, with Albert, made the first of many trips to Germany, staying at Albert's birthplace, Rosenau.
Queen of England
In 1844 Queen Victoria had Osborne Palace built for her on the Isle of Wight and in 1848 Balmoral Castle in Scotland. Until the end of her life she spent part of each spring and fall in these places. In 1851 she and Prince Albert were much occupied with the Great Exhibition, a world's fair held in London and the first of its kind.
In 1856 Victoria and Albert visited Napoleon III (1808–1873) in Paris, and in 1857 the Indian Mutiny against British rule in India led to Victoria's writing that there now existed in England "a universal feeling that India [should] belong to me." In 1858 the British charter that opened trade with Asia, known as the East India Company, was dismantled. That same year Victoria's eldest child, Victoria, married Prince (later Emperor) Frederick of Prussia (today known as Germany). In March 1861 Victoria's mother died, and her eldest son, Albert Edward, while in camp in the Curragh in Ireland, had an affair with an actress called Nelly Clifden. The affair worried Victoria and Albert, who were planning his marriage to Princess Alexandra of Denmark. Meanwhile, Albert was suffering from typhoid fever, a terrible disease that causes fever and other symptoms and is easily spread, and died on December 14, 1861, at the age of forty-two.
In 1862 Victoria's daughter Alice married Prince Louis of Hesse, and a year later her eldest son, the Prince of Wales, married Princess Alexandra of Denmark. Victoria supported Prussia during its war with Denmark over Schleswig-Holstein (a state in northwest Germany) and she approved Russia's brutal crushing of Poland's national uprising in 1863. In 1865 in the Seven Weeks War between Prussia and Austria, Victoria was again pro-Prussian. In 1867 Victoria entertained the Khedive of Egypt and the Sultan of Turkey.
In the Franco-Prussian War of 1870 between France and Prussia, Victoria was still pro-Prussian, though she welcomed the French empress Eugénie and allowed her and the emperor to live at Chislehurst. In 1873 Prime Minister William Gladstone (1809–1898) resigned, and in 1874, to Victoria's delight, Benjamin Disraeli (1804–1881) became prime minister, the chief advisor to the throne. He called the plump, tiny queen "The Faery" and admitted he loved her. That same year Victoria's son Prince Alfred married Marie, daughter of the Russian czar (king), who insisted she be called "Imperial," not "Royal Highness." This encouraged Victoria to look into officially assuming the title "Empress of India," which she did on May 1, 1876.
In 1875 Disraeli bought the majority of the Suez Canal, a key waterway for trade in the Mediterranean Sea, from the bankrupt Khedive of Egypt. That same year Gladstone roused the country with stories of "Bulgarian atrocities" where twelve thousand Bulgarian Christians had been murdered by the Turks. In 1877 Russia declared war on Turkey; Victoria and Disraeli were pro-Turk, sending a private warning to the czar of Russia that, were he to advance, Britain would join in the fight against Russia. In 1878 at the Congress of Berlin, Disraeli obtained, as he told Victoria, "peace with honour."
In 1887 Victoria's golden jubilee (fifty years in power) was celebrated, and ten years later, her diamond jubilee (sixty years in power) was magnificently celebrated. In 1899 the Boer War broke out, where British soldiers fought against Dutch forces in South Africa. In 1900 Victoria went to Ireland, where most of the soldiers who fought on the British side were recruited. In August she signed the Australian Commonwealth Bill, bringing Australia in the British Empire, and in October lost a grandson in the war.
On January 22, 1901, Queen Victoria died. At sixty-three years, Queen Victoria enjoyed the longest reign in British history. During her reign the British crown was no longer powerful but remained very influential. The Victorian age witnessed the birth of the modern world through industry, scientific discovery, and the expansion of the British empire. Her reign also witnessed the beginnings of pollution, unemployment, and other problems that would plague the twentieth century.
For More Information
Erickson, Carolly. Her Little Majesty: The Life of Queen Victoria. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1997.
Hibbert, Christopher. Queen Victoria: A Personal History. New York: Basic Books, 2000.
Rennell, Tony. Last Days of Glory: The Death of Queen Victoria. New York: Viking, 2000.
Weintraub, Stanley. Victoria: An Intimate Biography. New York: Dutton, 1987.
Victoria (queen of Great Britain and Ireland)
Victoria (Alexandrina Victoria) (ăl´Ĭgzăndrē´nə), 1819–1901, queen of Great Britain and Ireland (1837–1901) and empress of India (1876–1901). She was the daughter of Edward, duke of Kent (fourth son of George III), and Princess Mary Louise Victoria of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld.
Victoria's father died before she was a year old. Upon the death (1830) of George IV, she was recognized as heir to the British throne, and in 1837, at the age of 18, she succeeded her uncle, William IV, to the throne. With the accession of a woman, the connection between the English and Hanoverian thrones ceased in accordance with the Salic law of Hanover. One of the young queen's advisers was Baron Stockmar, sent by her uncle, King Leopold I of the Belgians.
Her first prime minister, Viscount Melbourne, became her close friend and adviser. In 1839, when Melbourne's Whig cabinet resigned, Victoria refused to dismiss her Whig ladies of the bedchamber, the accepted gesture of confidence in the incoming party. The Tory leader, Sir Robert Peel, declined to form a cabinet, and Melbourne remained in office.
Marriage to Albert
In 1840, Victoria married her first cousin, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. Albert, with whom she was very much in love, became the dominant influence in her life. Her first child, Victoria, later empress of Germany, was born in 1840, and the prince of Wales, later Edward VII, in 1841. Victoria had nine children. Their marriages and those of her grandchildren allied the British royal house with those of Russia, Germany, Greece, Denmark, Romania, and several of the German states.
Through Albert's efforts, Victoria was reconciled with the Tories, and she became very fond of Peel during his second ministry (1841–46). She was less happy with the Whig ministry that followed, taking particular exception to the adventurous foreign policy of Viscount Palmerston. The resulting friction was a factor in Palmerston's dismissal from office in 1851. The queen and Albert also influenced the formation of Lord Aberdeen's coalition government in 1852. Royal popularity was increased by the success of the Crystal Palace exposition (1851), planned and carried through by Albert.
It began to wane again, however, when it was rumored on the eve of the Crimean War that the royal couple was pro-Russian. After the outbreak (1854) of the war, Victoria took part in the organization of relief for the wounded and instituted the Victoria Cross for bravery. She also reconciled herself to Palmerston, who became prime minister in 1855 and proved a vigorous war leader.
Widowhood and Later Years
In 1861, Albert (who had been named prince consort in 1857) died. Victoria's grief was so great that she did not appear in public for three years and did not open Parliament until 1866; her prolonged seclusion damaged her popularity. Her reappearance was largely the work of Benjamin Disraeli, who, together with William Gladstone, dominated the politics of the latter part of Victoria's reign.
Disraeli, adroit in his personal relations with Victoria, became the queen's great favorite. In 1876 he secured for her the title empress of India, which pleased her greatly; she was ardently imperialistic and intensely interested in the welfare of her colonial subjects, particularly the Indians. Victoria's relations with Gladstone, on the other hand, were very stiff; she disliked him personally and disapproved of many of his policies, especially Irish Home Rule.
In her old age, Victoria was enormously popular. Jubilees were held in 1887 and 1897 to celebrate the 50th and 60th years of the longest English reign. The queen was not highly intelligent, but her conscientiousness and strict morals helped to restore the prestige of the crown and to establish it as a symbol of public service and imperial unity.
See her letters (9 vol., 1907–30); The Girlhood of Queen Victoria (extracts from her journal, ed. by Lord Esher, 1912); biographies by L. Strachey (1921, repr. 1960), S. Weintraub (1987), D. Thompson (1990), and A. N. Wilson (2014); C. Hibbert, Queen Victoria: A Personal History (2001); G. Gill, We Two, Victoria and Albert: Rulers, Partners, Rivals (2009).
Victoria and Albert Museum a national museum of fine and applied art in South Kensington, London, having collections principally of pictures, textiles, ceramics, and furniture. Created in 1852 out of the surplus funds of the Great Exhibition, the museum moved to its present site in 1857.
Victoria Cross a decoration awarded for conspicuous bravery in the Commonwealth armed services, instituted by Queen Victoria in 1856. The medals were originally struck from the metal of Russian guns captured at Sebastopol during the Crimean War.
Victoria Falls a spectacular waterfall 109 m (355 ft) high, on the River Zambezi, on the Zimbabwe–Zambia border, discovered in 1855 by David Livingstone. Its native name is Mosi-oa-tunya ‘the smoke that thunders’.
Victoria or Port Victoria, town (1987 pop. 24,325), capital of the Seychelles, in the Indian Ocean. A port on the NE coast of Mahé Island, Victoria is an administrative, commercial, tourist, and shipping center. Copra, essential oils and spices, and fish products are exported. Victoria has a botanic garden and a polytechnic institute; Seychelles International airport is to the southeast.