Queen Victoria

Queen Victoria

Queen Victoria Facts

Born: May 24, 1819

Died: January 22, 1901

Reign: 20 June 1837 – 22 January 1901

Spouse: Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha

Children: Edward II, Victoria, Alice, Alfred, Helena, Louise, Arthur, Leopold, Beatrice

Articles featuring Queen Victoria

Queen Victoria Summary

Queen Victoria was the longest-reigning British monarch, ruling the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland for 64 years. She was fiercely independent and although she faced dwindling direct political control, she strengthened the monarchy by redefining its role in British life.

Victoria’s Childhood

Alexandrina Victoria was born May 24, 1819, at Kensington Palace, London, to Edward, Duke of Kent, fourth son of George III, and Princess Marie Luise Victoria of Saxe-Coburg. She was christened a month after her birth and was named after her godfather, Tsar Alexander I, but was always called Victoria. Her parent’s marriage and her birth were the result of a succession crisis that arose near the end of the reign of George III upon the death of the only legitimate child of the Prince of Wales, (the future George IV and Prince Regent for his insane father). William, second in the line of succession, did not have any children who survived infancy.

On January 23, 1820, Victoria’s father, Edward, died. Six days later, his father, King George III also died. Victoria’s mother was ambitious and hoped to become regent if George IV and William IV both died before Victoria’s 18th birthday. She kept her husband’s equerry (main attendant), Sir John Conroy, as comptroller and as an advisor. Together, they devised the Kensington System, a set of strict rules used to raise Victoria intended to make her as dependent as possible on her mother and Conroy. Victoria’s life was tightly controlled, monitored, and recorded. She was kept as isolated as the Dowager Duchess and Conroy dared from the rest of the royal family and was not allowed to meet other children or ever to be alone—her first two requests upon reaching her majority at the age of 18 was an hour of solitude a day and a bedroom of her own.

Conroy and the dowager Duchess of Kent did everything they could to force Victoria to appoint Conroy to a position of influence when it became clear that she would become queen. However, the Kensington System and their plans had fostered fierce independence and personal will in Victoria—just the opposite of the intended outcome. King William IV had attempted to create a close relationship with Victoria, but was prevented from doing so by the Duchess of Kent and Conroy. The King had been ill for about a year before Victoria’s 18th birthday but he was also determined not to die before she came of age in order to prevent the Duchess of Kent from becoming Regent. On June 20, 1837, just 26 days after Victoria’s 18th birthday, he died of heart failure. Victoria ascended the throne. Her first prime minister, Lord Melbourne, became a trusted advisor and helped guide her through her first, generally popular years as queen.

Victoria As Queen Of Britain

Victoria immediately took steps to minimize Conroy’s influence. She dismissed him from her household and relegated her mother, who did not dismiss him, to remote living quarters at Buckingham Palace, effectively cutting off contact with them although social convention required her to continue living with her mother. Melbourne counseled her that the only acceptable way to remove them from her day-to-day life and the palace would be if she married.

Her mother and Conroy had considered suitable matches for Victoria before she became queen. Her mother’s brother, King Leopold I of Belgium, had arranged for her to meet to his nephew, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, in May 1836, and Victoria made it clear that she preferred Albert over the other candidates being considered for her. Late in 1839 Victoria and Albert met again. He was now a student at the University of Bonn, intellectually engaging and, she thought, handsome. Five days after his arrival at Windsor, she proposed (he could not propose because of social protocol since she was queen). They were married on February 10, 1840, the first wedding of a reigning Queen of England in nearly 300 years.

Queen Victoria Marries Albert

Although Albert was able to do little in the beginning of their marriage and became disconcerted by this, he began to take on a public role and eventually became Victoria’s primary advisor and political partner. When Victoria became visibly pregnant and could no longer appear ceremonially during her first pregnancy in 1840, Albert assumed her duties. As their family grew—they would have nine children by 1856—the monarchy became a shared partnership between them, with Albert sometimes writing memoranda for the queen to copy in her own hand. Although they were suspected of Russian sympathies during the Crimean War (1853–1856), the dual monarchy proved effective and their popularity increased.

Queen Victoria Becomes A Widow

In December 1861, Albert died at the age of 42. Queen Victoria went into a period of isolated mourning that would last 10 years. She withdrew from all of her public duties, leaving a void in the monarchy that she did not allow the Prince of Wales (her son Albert Edward, called “Bertie”) to even attempt to fill until 1898. Scandal followed Bertie, even after his marriage to Alexandra of Denmark; he kept mistresses throughout his life and the couple led the lives of socialites. Bertie did, however, pioneer the idea of royal public appearances during his long tenure—the longest in the history of the monarchy—as Prince of Wales.

Victoria gradually allowed herself to be drawn back into public life, notably with the second ministry of Benjamin Disraeli, beginning in 1874. During her reign, direct power had shifted away from the crown through a series of acts passed in Parliament. However, Victoria was able to establish a continuing role for the monarchy and was still able to exert political influence. In 1857, the government of India was transferred to the United Kingdom from the East India Company after the Indian Rebellion. In 1877, the Royal Titles Act was passed, making Victoria Empress of India—a sign of her popularity and of British imperial sentiment. Both her Golden and Diamond Jubilees celebrating the 50th and 60th anniversaries of her accession were great displays of her popularity and of the British Empire—Colonial Conferences for the prime ministers of the self-governing colonies were also held.

Queen Victoria’s Final Days

Victoria continued her royal duties to the end, including an official visit to Dublin in 1900 and many reviews of British troops on their way to the Boer War (1899–1902) in South Africa, as well as visits to hospitals for the returning wounded. She died at Osborne House on the Isle of Wight after a series of small strokes on January 22, 1901, at the age of 82, having reigned almost 64 years. Her reign had seen Britain through a period of great changes—the Industrial Revolution, the expansion of the British Empire, and a shift of direct political power away from the monarchy. She was the last British monarch in the House of Hanover—her son Edward IV belonged to his father’s house, the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, renamed the House of Windsor by Victoria’s grandson, George V.