Heiress to the Throne
Victoria was born in Kensington palace in 1819. Her uncle, William IV was the father of ten illegitimate children by his mistress, the actress Dorothy Jordan, but had no surviving legitimate children. As a result, the young princess Victoria became heiress presumptive.
The law at the time made no special provision for a child monarch. Therefore, a Regent needed to be appointed if Victoria were to succeed to the throne before coming of age at the age of eighteen. parliament passed the Regency Act 1830, which provided that Victoria's mother, the Duchess of Kent, would act as Regent during the Queen's minority, if she acceded to the throne while still a minor.
Parliament did not create a council to limit the powers of the Regent. King William disliked the Duchess and, on at least one occasion, stated that he wanted to live until Victoria's 18th birthday, so a regency could be avoided. Princess Victoria met her future husband, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, when she was just seventeen in 1836. But it was not until a second meeting in 1839 that she said of him: "...dear Albert... He is so sensible, so kind, and so good, and so amiable too. He has besides, the most pleasing and delightful exterior and appearance you can possibly see." Prince Albert was Victoria's first cousin; his father was her mother's brother, Ernest. As a monarch, Victoria had to propose to him and in 1840 they married. Their marriage proved to be very happy.
On 24 May 1837 Victoria turned 18, and the regency was avoided. On 20 June 1837, William IV died from heart failure at the age of 71, and Victoria became Queen of the United Kingdom. In her diary she wrote, I was awoken at 6 o'clock by Mamma who told me the Archbishop of Canterbury and Lord Conyngham was here and wished to see me. I got out of bed and went into my sitting-room, alone and dressed only in a gown when I saw them. Lord Conyngham then acquainted me that my poor uncle, the King, was no more, and had expired at 12 minutes past 2 that morning, and consequently I was Queen..."
Her coronation took place on 28 June 1838, and she became the first Monarch to take up residence at Buckingham Palace. under Salic Law, however, no woman could be heir to the throne of Hanover, a realm which had shared a monarch with Britain since 1714. Hanover passed to her uncle, the Duke of Cumberland and Teviotdale, who became King Ernest Augustus I. (He was the fifth son and eighth child of George III.) As the young queen was as yet unmarried and childless, Ernest Augustus also remained the heir presumptive to the throne of the United Kingdom until Victoria's first child was born in 1840. At the time of her accession, the government was controlled by the Whig Party, which had been in power, except for brief intervals, since 1830. The Whig prime Minister, Lord Melbourne, at once became a powerful influence in the life of the politically inexperienced Queen, who relied on him for advice - some even referred to Victoria as "Mrs. Melbourne". However, the Melbourne ministry would not stay in power for long; it was growing unpopular and, moreover, faced considerable difficulty in governing the British colonies, especially during the Rebellions of 1837. In 1839, Lord Melbourne resigned after the Radicals and the Tories (both of whom Victoria detested at that time) joined together to block a Bill before the House of Commons that would have suspended the Constitution of Jamaica. Victoria's principal adviser was her uncle King Leopold I of Belgium (her mother's brother). The Queen then commissioned Sir Robert Peel, a Tory, to form a new ministry, but was faced with a d?b?cle known as the Bedchamber Crisis. At the time, it was customary for appointments to the Royal Household to be based on the patronage system (that is, for the6
prime Minister to appoint members of the Royal Household on the basis of their party loyalties. Many of the Queen's Ladies of the Bedchamber were wives of Whigs, but Sir Robert Peel expected to replace them with wives of Tories. Victoria strongly objected to the removal of these ladies, whom she regarded as close friends rather than as members of a ceremonial institution. Sir Robert Peel felt that he could not govern under the restrictions imposed by the Queen, and consequently resigned his commission, allowing Melbourne to return to office.
Assassination attempts and marriage
The Queen married her first cousin, Prince Albert, on 10th February 1840, in the Chapel Royal of St. James's Palace, London. Albert became not only the Queen's companion, but an important political advisor, replacing Lord Melbourne as the dominant figure in the first half of her life following Melbourne's death.
During Victoria's first pregnancy, eighteen-year-old Edward Oxford attempted to assassinate the Queen while she was riding in a carriage with Prince Albert in London. Oxford fired twice, but both bullets missed. He was tried for high treason, but was acquitted on the grounds of insanity. Despite the shooting, the first of the royal couple's nine children, named Victoria, was born on 21st November 1840.
Further attempts to assassinate Queen Victoria occurred between May and July 1842. First, on 29th May at St. James's Park, John Francis fired a pistol at the Queen while she was in a carriage, but was immediately seized by police Constable William Trounce. Francis was convicted of high treason. The death sentence was commuted to transportation for life. Additionally, on 13th June 1842, Victoria made her first journey by train, travelling from Slough railway station (near Windsor Castle) to Bishop's Bridge, near Paddington (in London), in a special royal carriage provided by the Great Western Railway. Accompanying her were her husband and the engineer of the Great Western line, Isambard Kingdom Brunel.
The Queen and the Prince Consort both complained the train was going too fast at 20 mph (30 km/h), fearing the train would derail off the railway line. Then, on 3rd July, just days after Francis's sentence was commuted, another boy, John William Bean, attempted to shoot the Queen. Prince Albert felt that the attempts were encouraged by Oxford's acquittal in 1840. Although his gun was loaded only with paper and tobacco, his crime was still punishable by death. Feeling that such a penalty would be too harsh, Prince Albert encouraged parliament to pass the Treason Act 1842. under the new law, an assault with a dangerous weapon in the monarch's presence with the intent of alarming her was made punishable by seven years imprisonment and flogging. Bean was thus sentenced to 18 months' imprisonment; however, neither he, nor any person who violated the act in the future, was flogged.
The Prince Consort died of typhoid fever on 14th December 1861 due to the primitive sanitary conditions at Windsor Castle. His death devastated Victoria, who was still affected by the death of her mother earlier that year. She entered a state of mourning and wore black for the remainder of her life. She avoided public appearances and rarely set foot in London in the following years. Her seclusion earned her the name "Widow of Windsor." She blamed her son Edward, the Prince of Wales, for his father's death, since news of the Prince's poor conduct had come to his father in November, leading Prince Albert to travel to Cambridge to confront his son. Victoria's self-imposed isolation from the public greatly diminished the popularity of the monarchy, and even encouraged the growth of the republican movement. Although she did undertake her official government duties, she chose to remain secluded in her royal residences Balmoral Castle in Scotland, Osborne House on the Isle of Wight and Windsor Castle. As time went by Victoria began to rely increasingly on a manservant from Scotland, John Brown. A romantic connection and even a secret marriage have been alleged, but both charges are generally discredited. However, when Victoria's remains were laid in the coffin, two sets of mementos were placed with her, at her request. By her side was placed one of Albert's dressing gowns while in her left hand was placed a piece of Brown's hair, along with a picture of him. It was learned in 2008 that Victoria's body wore the wedding ring of John Brown's mother, placed on her hand after her death. Rumours of an affair and marriage earned Victoria the nickname "Mrs Brown". The story of their relationship was the subject of the 1997 movie Mrs. Brown.
Golden Jubilee and Assasination Attempt
Victoria's Golden Jubilee silver double florin, struck 1887 In 1887, the British Empire celebrated Victoria's Golden Jubilee. Victoria marked the fiftieth anniversary of her accession on 20th June with a banquet to which 50 European kings and princes were invited. Although she could not have been aware of it, there was a plan ostensibly by Irish anarchists to blow up Westminster Abbey while the Queen attended a service of thanksgiving. This assassination attempt, when it was discovered, became known as the Jubilee plot. On the next day, she participated in a procession that, in the words of Mark Twain, "stretched to the limit of sight in both directions". By this time, Victoria was once again an extremely popular monarch.
On 22nd September 1896, Victoria surpassed George III as the longest-reigning monarch in English, Scottish, and British history. The Queen requested all special public celebrations of the event to be delayed until 1897, to coincide with her Diamond Jubilee. The Colonial Secretary, Joseph Chamberlain, proposed that the Diamond Jubilee be made a festival of the British Empire. The Victorian Cross The prime Ministers of all the self-governing dominions and colonies were invited. The Queen's Diamond Jubilee procession included troops from every British colony and dominion, together with soldiers sent by Indian princes and chiefs as a mark of respect to Victoria, the Empress of India. The Diamond Jubilee celebration was an occasion marked by great outpourings
of affection for the septuagenarian Queen. A service of thanksgiving was held outside St. Paul's Cathedral. Queen Victoria sat in her carriage throughout the service; she wore her usual black mourning dress trimmed with white lace. Many trees were planted to celebrate the Jubilee, including 60 oak trees at Henley-on-Thames in the shape of a Victoria Cross. The VC was introduced on 29 January 1856 by Queen Victoria to reward acts of valour during the Crimean War, and it remains to this day the highest British award for bravery.
Death and Succession
Following a custom she maintained throughout her widowhood, Victoria spent the Christmas of 1900 at Osborne House on the Isle of Wight. She died there from a cerebral hemorrhage and declining health on Tuesday 22nd January 1901 at half past six in the afternoon, at the age of 81. At her deathbed she was attended by her son, the future King, and her eldest grandson, German Emperor William II. As she had wished, her own sons lifted her into the coffin. She was dressed in a white dress and her wedding veil. Her funeral was held on Saturday 2nd February, and after two days of lying-in-state, she was interred beside Prince Albert in Frogmore Mausoleum at Windsor Great Park. Since Victoria disliked black funerals, London was instead festooned in purple and white. When she was laid to rest at the mausoleum, it began to snow. Flags in the United States were lowered to half-staff in her honour by order of President William McKinley, a tribute never before offered to a foreign monarch at the time and one which was repaid by Britain when McKinley was assassinated later that year. Victoria had reigned for a total of 63 years, seven months and two days - the longest of any British monarch - and surpassed her grandfather, George III, as the longest-lived monarch three days before her death. Her record of longest lived British monarch was subsequently surpassed by her great-great-granddaughter Elizabeth II on 21st December 2007. Victoria's death brought an end to the rule of the House of Hanover in the United Kingdom. As her husband belonged to the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, her son and heir Edward VII was the first British monarch of this new house. Later, in 1917, her grandson King George V changed the house name from Saxe-Coburg and Gotha to the (currently serving) House of Windsor. Victoria outlived 3 of her 9 children, and came within seven months of outliving a fourth (her eldest daughter, Vicky, who died of spinal cancer in August 1901 aged 60). She outlived 11 of her 42 grandchildren (3 stillborn, 6 as children, and 2 as adults).
Legacy within Britian
Queen Victoria's reign marked the gradual establishment of
modern constitutional monarchy.
A series of legal reforms saw the House of Commons' power increase,
at the expense of the House of Lords and the monarchy,
with the monarch's role becoming gradually more symbolic.
Since Victoria's reign the monarch has had only,
in Walter Bagehot's words, "the right to be consulted,
the right to advise, and the right to warn".
As Victoria's monarchy became more symbolic than political,
it placed a strong emphasis on morality and family values,
in contrast to the sexual, financial and personal scandals
that had been associated with previous members of the House of Hanover
and which had discredited the monarchy.
Victoria's reign created for Britain the concept of
the "family monarchy" with which the burgeoning middle classes could identify.
Victoria was the first known carrier of haemophilia in the royal line. Since no haemophiliacs were among her known ancestors, hers was quite possibly an instance of spontaneous mutation, which account for about 33% of all haemophilia A and 20% of all haemophilia B cases. The sudden appearance of haemophilia in Victoria's descendants has led to suggestions that her true father was not the Duke of Kent but a haemophiliac. This belief is dismissed by geneticists, who consider it more likely that the mutation arose because Victoria's father was old (haemophilia arises more frequently in the children of older fathers). There is no documentary evidence of a haemophiliac man in connection with Victoria's mother, and as male carriers always suffer the disease, even if such a man had existed he would have been seriously ill. Evidence indicates Victoria passed the gene on to two of her five daughters: Princess Alice and Princess Beatrice. Her son, Prince Leopold, was affected by the disease. The most famous haemophilia victims among her descendants were her great-grandson, Alexei, Tsarevich of Russia, and Alfonso, Prince of Asturias and Infante Gonzalo of Spain, the eldest and youngest sons of King Alfonso XIII of Spain and Queen Victoria Eugenie (Victoria's granddaughter). Queen Victoria experienced unpopularity during the first years of her widowhood, but afterwards became extremely well-liked during the 1880s and 1890s. In 2002, the BBC conducted a poll regarding the 100 Greatest Britons; Victoria attained the eighteenth place. The design of the Queen's head on the first postage stamp was based upon the 1837 Wyon City medal engraved by a famous coin engraver William Wyon. The design of Queen Victoria's head is based on a sitting when she was a princess aged 15. Victoria also started the tradition of a bride wearing a white dress at her wedding. Before Victoria's wedding a bride would wear her best dress of no particular colour.