Queen Victoria: Biography, Reign and Facts
Reigning from 1837 to 1901, Queen Victoria was a monumental 19th-century matriarch that ruled the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. Her longevity on the British throne was as staggering as the economic and territorial expansion she oversaw. Her 63-year rule puts her second only to Queen Elizabeth II as the longest-serving monarch in British history. Although history will forever remember her as one of the most beloved monarchs of the British crown, her child-rearing skills will always stick out like a swollen thumb. Perhaps her 9 children were a tar bit more than she could handle.
The article below presents everything that you need to know about Queen Victoria, in terms of the monarch’s biography, reign, and facts:
Her Childhood and Early Life
Born as Alexandrina Victoria on May 24, 1819, this future Queen of England was the only child of the Duke and Duchess of Kent and Strathearn. Her father, Prince Edward, was the fourth son of King George III. Her mother was the beautiful German noblewoman by the name of Princess Victoria Maria Louisa of Saxe-Coburg. Unfortunately, Victoria got no chance of being raised by both parents because her father, Prince Edward, died 8 months after her birth. This meant that Victoria was raised entirely by her mother. Regardless of this, she did get a lot of help from the numerous court servants and aids, particularly from Germany. Her mother’s brother, Prince Leopold of Belgium, also played a very active role in Victoria’s upbringing. Victoria learned a great deal of politics from this maternal uncle of hers.
Victoria becomes Heiress-Apparent to the British Throne
At the time of her birth, Victoria was the fifth in line for the British throne, behind her three uncles (Prince George, the Duke of Cornwall; Prince Fredrick, the Duke of York; Prince William, the Duke of Clarence) and her father. Very few of the household or the general public gave her much attention simply because no one ever expected her to one day become queen. Well, history proved otherwise. Upon her father’s death, she became the fourth in line to the throne. And in less than 11 years since her birth, the young Victoria had moved from being a long short from ever sitting on the British throne to becoming heiress apparent to the crown. Exactly how did Victoria rise up the inheritance line to become the Queen of England?
Even though King George III (Victoria’s paternal grandfather) had three sons in line for the throne, it turns out that none of those sons produced any children. The records show that Victoria’s parents purposely got married so as to bear children for the throne. And after King George III died in 1820, her uncle became George IV. Her uncle was not so much fond of the young Victoria and her mother. The two women remained relatively isolated under George IV’s rule. Princes and governesses from her mother’s family in Germany filled this vacuum by providing the young Victoria a lot of training and financial support.
Back in England, the general public and the British politicians and ministers did not take delight to King George IV’s unusual lifestyle of drinking and partying. One could say that the king was not the most beloved of kings the country had ever seen. Misfortune also struck his house, the House of Hanover, as his brother died in 1827. His brother was the Duke of York and one of the heirs to the British throne. Three years later, in 1830, King George IV died. And because he bore no heir to the throne, his second younger brother (King William IV) took the reins of the Empire in 1830. What this meant was that young Victoria was now heiress-apparent to the throne. She started gaining the public’s attention and was even given a fixed income (as tradition demands).
King William IV, unlike his predecessor, was a much kinder person to Victoria and her mother. However, his kindness and benevolence were not always taken in good faith by Victoria’s mother. On countless occasions, Victoria and her mother refused the income and household that William IV bestowed upon them.
Bitter Feud with her Mother and Sir John Conroy
Queen Victoria’s mother (the Duchess of Kent) had a very close relationship with her private secretary, Sir John Conroy. It is believed that Conroy had so much sway over the Duchess of Kent. Both Conroy and the Duchess hatched a plan to have greater control over the heir-apparent, Princess Victoria. In the plan would be appointed a private secretary to Victoria. As a result of this plan, Victoria’s mother somewhat became an unpopular figure in the royal family as well as in the public’s eyes. The duchess and Conroy shielded the young Victoria from other members of the family. Their intention was to make Victoria rely solely on them when she eventually became Queen. She even started denying King William IV access to his niece, the young Victoria.
In spite of all the rift between King William and Victoria’s mother, young Victoria was fond of both the King and his wife (Queen Adelaide). Also, the latter very much adored her niece, Victoria. Bar for Victoria’s mother and Conroy, King William IV and the entire royal family would have had a very lovely relationship with the heiress presumptive to the British Crown, Victoria.
However, all the plans that Victoria’s mother cooked fail. King William IV survived long enough for Victoria to attain the age of 18. This meant that there was not going to be any regency government led by Victoria’s mother. And upon becoming Queen Victoria, the young queen became very resentful of her mother and Conroy. Her mother even pressured her into making her personal secretary. Eventually, Victoria saw through the plan of her mother. Conroy’s services were later terminated. And as time went on, the two women reconciled their differences. The birth of Victoria’s first child, Princess Royal Victoria, made things smooth for both Queen Victoria and her mother.
The house of Hanover made a very savvy decision by proactively looking for an heir long before King George III died. This decision paid dividends because had Victoria’s father (who was the fourth in line) not produced a child, the house of Hanover would have seen its worst nightmare come to being the moment William IV passed away. Victoria’s last surviving and childless Uncle, William IV, sadly passed away in 1837. The heiress to the throne, Princess Victoria, was a little bit north of 18 years at the time of his passing.
Exactly a month later, Victoria no longer went by the name Princess Victoria. The young woman was now Queen Victoria, queen of all Britain and her colonies. It was an unbelievable elevation for the young Victoria. The records show that upon hearing of her uncle’s death (William IV), Victoria shut herself indoors for quite some time in order to process everything.
Marriage to Prince Albert
Social convention dictated that the Queen resides with her mother because she was still single at that time. As a result of the fall out she had had with her mother, the Queen and queen mother did not see eye to eye. To avoid any further fall out with her mother, Queen Victoria thought it was best she got married in order to completely free herself from the clutches of her mother. Her beloved maternal uncle, Prince Leopold (later King Leopold, King of the Belgians) introduced her to his cousin, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. Albert was a gentleman and very often made the Queen laugh. As a Protestant, Albert was a perfect match for the Queen.
After several visits and interactions between the young Queen and Prince Albert, Queen Victoria eventually proposed to Prince Albert on October 15, 1839. On February 10, 1840, the two got married in the Chapel Royal of St. James’ Palace, London.
Prince Albert immediately hit the ground rolling as a husband to the Queen. He became her most trusted confidante and adviser. Prince Albert and the Queen worked tirelessly to portray to the general public traditional values of family and motherhood. Albert was also a very good father to their kids. In the space of about 19 years, Queen Victoria had nine children – five daughters and four sons. The first of their kids was Victoria and the last was Beatrice. The former was born on November 21, 1840, while the latter was born on April 14, 1857. The future King Edward VII (born 9 November 1841) was the second child of Queen Victoria.
The Queen’s parenting and child nurturing skills were tested time and time again. And in most cases, she failed miserably. She simply hated being pregnant and breastfeeding. This made her employ the services of wet nurses for her children. It would be later revealed that what the Queen had was a mild case of postnatal depression. She often shied away from being directly involved with the children. This role was perfectly carried out by her husband, Albert. As it was normal in most royal families, the children had several governesses to attend to them. Victoria’s childhood governess, Baroness Louise Lehzen of Hanover, played a huge role in the lives of her children. However, Prince Albert later terminated her services over some disagreements in her methods.
Queen Victoria’s Era – the Victorian Age
Aside from being a naturally gifted father, Albert served beside the Queen in truth and honesty. He played an influential role in preventing several political stalemates and embarrassments to Queen. He was also involved in diffusing the numerous tensions Queen Victoria had with some of her Prime Ministers. Albert’s strategy of gradually placing the Queen as an apolitical ruler was vital in building Victoria’s public reputation over the next 20 years. Also, Albert was phenomenal in maintaining a very cool head all throughout the American Civil War. His calmness was crucial in diffusing tensions when Union forces abducted a foreign diplomat of the Confederate States on their visit to Europe.
The big royal family frequented Germany and other European countries a lot. Certainly, Victoria and Albert were received very warmly by the various European monarchs. These sorts of trips often helped her to shape the kingdom’s foreign strategy. In 1857, the Queen conferred the title of Prince Consort on Albert. This was after two attempts in parliament had failed.
Queen Victoria goes into a Decade-long Mourning and Isolation
Tragedy struck when the Queen mother, Victoria, passed away on March 1861. Victoria’s mother’s death came as a huge shock to her considering the fact that their relationship got better during her marriage. She leaned strongly on her husband for comfort. Albert also stepped up by taking most of the Queen’s duties both domestic and abroad.
A few months after the Queen mother’s passing, the House of Hanover saw another scandal. The Prince of Wales, Prince Edward, was engaged in an affair with another woman in the lead up to his marriage with Alexandra of Denmark. Victoria and Albert quickly rushed in aid of their son. As usual, Albert aptly handled the situation to prevent any further public fallout. This and many more royal demands started to take a toll on the Prince Consort. On 14th of December 1861, Prince Albert died after succumbing to a cold that he caught on one of his numerous visits to his son, Prince Edward. Prior to the cold, Prince Albert had been in a fierce battle with cancer. Many historians believe that the sheer workload of his regal responsibilities was the most contributory factor to his death.
The news of her husband’s passing away turned the Queen’s life upside down. Some say, she never fully recovered from Albert’s death. She became very gloomy afterward and was always seen in black clothes. The very much active and jubilant Queen faded away and made way for a secluded and very sorrowful queen for close to a decade. The public at some point in time got impatient as the queen could not get over the death of her beloved husband. She had isolated herself so much so that the public started calling her the “widow of Windsor”. She also gained a lot of weight from taking comfort in eating. All of these further alienated her from the public.
Her lack of fondness for her children meant that she could not draw close to them in her time of emotional stress. Her children were either married off across Europe or were at best not serious like the Prince of Wales, Prince Edward. Therefore, the Queen’s only source of comfort and strength often came from her court advisers and ministers. One particular adviser of hers that filled the void left by Prince Albert was John Brown, the Queen’s manservant from Scotland.
When the queen got back to her feet (around the 1870s), she went straight into steering the affairs of the empire. She was instrumental in building strong relationships with countries abroad. However, some sections of the public criticized her for being too friendly with the Germans. Who could blame her for doing this? After all, she was in part German. She spoke fluent German. And the times she and Albert spent in Germany were one of the best in her life.
Queen Victoria’s Illness and Death
In the later years of her life, Queen Victoria was plagued by a number of illnesses. Most notable of them all was the rheumatism in her body. She gradually lost her eyesight to cataracts. She became really ill. Her second son’s (Prince Alfred) death in July 1900 was also too much for the ailing monarch. She constantly felt sad and weak. Eventually, Queen Victoria gave up the ghost and died on January 22, 1901, in the company of her eldest son, Prince Edward, and Emperor Wilhem II (her grandson). She chose white for her funeral procession. On February 4, 1901, Queen Victoria was interred beside her husband, Prince Albert, in Frogmore Mausoleum at Windsor Great Park.
Read More: What Caused the Death of Queen Victoria?
Queen Victoria’s Legacy
Her longevity on the throne saw the affairs of the country grow in strength. Her era has famously been referred to as the Victorian Era. She was a huge matriarchal figure all across Europe. What she lacked in height, she made up for in a disciplined approach to managing the affairs of the royal family. One must remember that her time marked the beginning of Britain moving into a full constitutional monarchy. Therefore, Queen Victoria had very little real power over these politicians. However, her wise words and consultations are what set her apart. Her reign also saw about 11 different British Prime Ministers. She was a very affable and honest straight-talking person. Victoria always had an unflinching sense of having strong family bonds and values. She was a different type of monarch than the uncles and grandfather who reigned before her. Victoria will go down in history as the British monarch that restored British monarch’s image and reputation.
On a lighter note, it was during her era that the Christmas tree tradition became popular. During the festive season, Victoria, along with all her family, would bring pine trees into Windsor Castle and personally decorate the tree with assorted sweets and candles. And most of the Christmas carols and hymns that we enjoy today were most likely written during the Victorian Era.
Pop culture references and On-Screen portrayal of Queen Victoria
In popular and urban culture, Queen Victoria holds the record of being the most featured British monarch on television and radio. Here are three very famous depictions of Victoria:
- 2016 ITV drama, Victoria. This drama series stars a host of spectacular actors and actresses such as Jordan Waller, Jenna Coleman, and Adrian Schiller.
- Blackadder’s Christmas Carol (1988). This was a light comedy with stellar acts from Rowan Atkinson and Stephen Fry. The movie highlighted Victoria’s generous side during the festive Christmas season.
- Mrs. Brown (1997) that starred Billy Connolly and Judi Dench. Dench’s performance was so good that it won her an Academy nomination for Best Actress.
11 Quick Facts about Queen Victoria
- Both her father (Prince Edward, Duke of Kent and Strathearn) and her Grandfather (King George III) died in the same year, 1820.
- She is regarded as the “Grandmother of Europe” because all 9 of her children married royals and nobles across Europe.
- Victoria’s husband, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, was her first maternal cousin. The two got married in 1840.
- She was the first British monarch to officially rule India. She went by the title: Empress of India.
- Queen Victoria is the 2nd longest-reigning British monarch.
- She was the last British monarch to hail from the House of Hanover.
- One of Queen Victoria’s uncles was Leopold, the future king of the Belgians.
- Queen Victoria had two other half-siblings: Prince Carl of Leiningen (1804-1856) and Princess Feodora of Leiningen (1807-1872). The prince and princess were Queen Victoria’s mother’s children from her first marriage to Charles, 2nd Prince of Leiningen (1763-1814).
- The Queen is said to be the originator of the “royal disease”, hemophilia, in the royal family. Hemophilia is a disease that prevents the blood from clotting after a cut to the skin. She passed this gene on to 3 of her children: Leopold, Alice, and Beatrice. These royal members went on to introduce it to the House of Windsor as well as other royal families across Europe.
- Queen Victoria was not the tallest of the British monarchs. She was a mere five feet tall.
- Throughout her reign, there were a total of six separate assassination attempts on her life.