Queen Victoria was Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland for 63 years, overseeing six decades of huge change in the industry, economy and society of Great Britain. Born and raised to take over the British throne, Victoria was known as a strong and principled monarch and a dedicated mother and wife. In 1876, Victoria became the Empress of India; her empire expanded so dramatically during her reign that it was said that the sun never set over the British Empire.
Known affectionately as the Grandmother of Europe, Victoria’s marriage to Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha produced nine children, all of whom married into royal and noble families across Europe. After Prince Albert’s sudden death at the age of 42, Victoria entered a period of mourning from which she never fully emerged.
Key Facts about Queen Victoria
- Queen Victoria was born on May 24th, 1819 at Kensington Palace.
- She succeeded as Queen of Great Britain and Ireland on the 20th of June 1837, and became Empress of India in 1877.
- Victoria was married to Albert, Prince of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha on the 10th of February, 1840 at Chapel Royal, St James Palace. They had nine children together.
- Queen Victoria died of old age at 81 after a reign lasting 63 years. She is buried at Frogmore, Windsor.
Highlights of Queen Victoria’s Life
The birth of Queen Victoria was a carefully planned affair. George IV had only one daughter, Charlotte, who died in childbirth in 1817. Suddenly there was no legitimate heir to the British throne. King George III was near his death and although he and his wife had produced a mighty brood of 12 children, the five princesses and seven princes were all remarkably without legitimate offspring. Four of the seven princes were not even married and so, in the interests of securing a suitable heir to the throne, parliament made an official appeal to the four Dukes to marry immediately and procreate.
One of the Dukes was partnered in a morganatic marriage (a marriage in which the spouse of lower rank has no claim to the titles or assets of the higher ranking partner) and the other three dukes had long term partners who were understandably aghast to read a public exhortation for their lovers to marry in the morning papers. Regardless, in the coming months, Adolphus Duke of Cambridge married Princess Augustus of Hesse-Cassel, Edward Duke of Kent abandoned his long term lover and proposed to Victoria of Saxe-Coburg, Princess of Leiningen and William of Clarence married Adelaide of Saxe-Meiningen. Now the race was on to produce an heir. The Kents, of course, won and produced Victoria who was born on the 24th of May 1819, at Kensington Palace and went on to live for 81 years, 63 of them as Queen of Great Britain.
Victoria was born fifth in line for the British throne. The Duke of Kent died just months after Victoria’s birth and George III had died days earlier, leaving the throne to George IV who was already acting as King’s Regent. The Duke of York died in 1827 and George IV died in 1830, leaving Victoria next in line to the throne after William IV.
Victoria’s childhood is said to have been a sad and somewhat lonely one. Raised by her mother, the Duchess of Kent, and Sir John Conroy, who is thought to have been the Duchess’s lover, Victoria was educated at home in seclusion. The Duchess did not have a good relationship with King William IV, who publicly declared that he hoped to live until Victoria’s 18th birthday to ensure the Duchess would not rise to the position of Regent.
William got his wish and died at the age of 71 on the 20th of June, 1837. Victoria was crowned Queen of Great Britain at her coronation on the 28th of June, 1838 and immediately took up residence in Buckingham Palace. The title of Monarch of Hanover could not be passed down the female line and so went to her uncle, the Duke of Cumberland, who became King Ernest Augustus I of Hanover. A young queen who had experienced a very secluded childhood, Victoria immediately sought the advice and influence of the then prime minister Lord Melbourne.
Victoria married Prince Albert of Saxe-Gotha and Coburg on February10th, 1840. In a bold move for the time, Victoria proposed to Prince Albert of Saxe-Gotha and Coburg and they were married at the Chapel Royal of St James’ Palace. Victoria and Albert are known to have been besotted with each other and their long and happy marriage produced nine children, each of whom were married into every royal house in Europe.
At the time of Queen Victoria’s reign, Great Britain was already a constitutional monarchy in which the Queen had little to no real political power. She did, however, have the power of influence and she exerted this influence regularly, particularly when it came to the appointment of Britain’s prime minister. Victoria’s popularity with the British public waxed and waned depending on public scandals and political circumstances. Various attempts were made on Victoria’s life throughout her early years as Queen and the courageous way in which she dealt with such threats led to a peak in her popularity. However, her popularity plummeted during the Irish Potato Famine of 1845, during which time she was thought to have offered little in the way of assistance to the millions of Irish men, women and children who suffered. This antagonism towards the monarchy led directly to the growth of Irish Nationalism.
In 1861, Victoria’s beloved husband Albert died and she entered a period of mourning from which she never fully recovered. Victoria wore black for the remainder of her life, avoided London and made few, if any, public appearances. Queen Victoria became known as the ‘Widow of Windsor’ and her self-imposed seclusion from the public sphere helped to encourage Britain’s lean towards republicanism in the mid nineteenth century. By 1870, with the establishment of the Third French Republic, republican sentiment in Britain had reached its peak. A rally in Trafalgar Square demanded the Queen’s removal and radical MPs criticized her publicly.
During Victoria’s long reign, steps were taken towards democracy as political power moved away from the sovereign and a series of parliamentary acts gave more power to the electorate. Most notably, the introduction of the secret ballot in 1872 and the Representation of the Peoples Act of 1884, which gave certain members of society the right to vote, sought to create a fairer system of political representation. Queen Victoria however, did not support the suffragette movement which demanded the right to vote be extended to women.
Queen Victoria became Empress of India in 1877 when the British East India Company was dissolved and Britain’s lands and resources in India were incorporated into the British Empire. Victoria supported Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli’s foreign policy of expansion and colonialism which led to conflicts such as the Anglo-Zulu War and Anglo-Afghan War. Victoria’s view of expanding her empire was that it was a necessary and benign act by the British, essentially protecting native people from themselves. The British Empire became vast and in 1887, they celebrated Victoria’s Golden Jubilee.
Ten years later, Victoria celebrated her Diamond Jubilee which was made a festival of the British Empire with the Queen’s procession through London featuring troops from all over the empire. Queen Victoria was as popular as she had ever been but this popularity was short-lived and the last few years of Victoria’s reign were overshadowed by the unpopular Boer War.
Victoria was buried at Windsor in the Frogmore Royal Mausoleum, which she had built especially for herself and Prince Albert’s final resting place. Victoria’s words, “farewell best beloved, here at last I shall rest with thee, with thee in Christ I shall rise again.”
Legacy of Queen Victoria
Victoria and Albert had a total of 42 grandchildren, but Victoria’s careful management of her children’s marriages into the most powerful houses in Europe was undone within the next generation, as this regality was washed away into republicanism and communism. Nevertheless, Victoria became an icon of the reach and might of the British Empire, as well as a symbol of strong moral values in family and public life.
Victoria was a natural diarist and wrote up to 2500 words a day during her adult life. Many of her journals and letters are still in existence in various forms, edited mostly by her daughter, Princess Beatrice, and Lord Escher. Through these diaries we are able to see her real influence behind the scenes of British politics.
The Victorian Era was one of substantial and rapid change. The world Victoria left behind after 81 years, 63 years and seven months of which she spent as Queen of Great Britain, was very different then the one she was born into. The Victorian Era was one of rapid and monumental change in all spheres of public and private life and memorials to Victoria’s reign exist all over the world.
Films and TV Shows Featuring Queen Victoria
- Mr Turner (2014)
- Hysteria (2011)
- Young Victoria (2009)
- Around the World in 80 Days (2004)
- Mrs Brown (1997)
- Disraeli (1978) TV Show
- Edward the Seventh (1975) TV Show
- Victoria the Great (1937)
- Wilson (2014) Victoria: A Life
- Matther Dennison (2012) Queen Victoria: A Life of Contradictions
- Giles Lytton Strachey (2012) Queen Victoria
- Christopher Hibbert (2010) Victoria: A Personal History
Locations Related to Queen Victoria
- Some of the most notable places named after Queen Victoria include the states of Queensland and Victoria in Australia, Victoria Falls, the capitals of British Columbia, Newfoundland and Saskatchewan in Canada and the capital of the Seychelles.
- In the UK and Scotland, there are a huge number of streets, bridges, hospitals and other buildings named after the Queen.
- Victoria was born in Kensington Palace.
- As soon as she was crowned Queen, she took up residence in Buckingham Palace.
- Balmoral Castle was Victoria and her family’s country home for the majority of her life and is open to visits from the public when the royal family are not in residence.
- The Albert Memorial in London’s Kensington Gardens is a beautiful and moving tribute to Victoria’s beloved husband.