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Queen Victoria is one of the best-known British monarchs in the West European history. For a long time, her reign was considered the longest in the history of the United Kingdom, it lasted from June 20, 1837, to January 22, 1901, until her death, and became referred to as the Victorian era.
Her biography is a fascinating story of how Queen Victoria managed in the times when the monarch of the British Empire had already only symbolic meaning and title, to influence both the British nation and the colonies abroad through her example of morals and ideals.
Queen Victoria had many challenges on her way of becoming one of the most recognizable monarchs, who ever lived. The story of her life more than once was a subject to both the interest of the researchers and speculations and legends.
The objective of this biography research paper is to research and clarify the most important points and events of the life of Queen Victoria, from examining her ancestry and youth, analyzing her reign and adult life to defining the meaning of such concept as the Victorian era and the relation of the Queen to it.
Queen Victoria’s young years
Queen Victoria was born in 1819 to the family of Prince Edward, the Duke of Kent in the times of complicated circumstances in the royal family. Before she was born, her father had the title of the Duke of Kent Strathearn as the fourth son of the reigning king of the United Kingdom; he was not married and had no legitimate children.
King George’s III expected heir to the British throne was Princess Charlotte of Wales, who died in 1817, and “the succession to the throne that seemed so satisfactory settled, now became a matter of urgent doubt”1.
Thus, out of confusion about the uncertainty of who was going to be the next king or queen, Queen Victoria’s father, the Duke of Kent married Princess Victoria of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld, and a year after that the young Victoria was born. Since her father was still alive and had three elder brothers, the newborn Victoria Alexandrina was the fifth in succession for the throne.
She was the king’s granddaughter, and “willful as she was, however, the little girl, intelligent and lively and with an astonishing retentive memory”2, she progressed in her lessons and studying, although the other source suggests that the only thing she did not like was the strictness of schooling3.
However, despite the fact that she was only a child, her family members were looking for opportunities to influence if not to manipulate her. In such a way by the year 1830 young Victoria had the status of heiress presumptive, that meant she was going to success the throne after her uncle, William IV unless he had a child of his own.
Her mother the Duchess of Kent, and Sir John Convoy took care of Victoria’s good acceptance among the people of the country and representatives of great houses. During her adolescent years, they organized series of journeys for Victoria across the kingdom “to make her better known to the people over whom she was destined to rule, and to introduce her to introduce her to the leading families”4.
The probability that she would be the next queen was growing, so there were more than enough matrimonial plans and royal intrigues concerning finding her a proper husband. In the year 1836, when Victoria was just about 17 years old, her uncle from the mother’s side, Leopold, tried to organize a match for her with his nephew, Albert.
They did not make the formal arrangements about the marriage at once; however, the sources suggest, that Victoria was interested in Albert, and the wedding was waiting for the appropriate time5.
Adult life and early reign
Victoria’s uncle, King William IV died on 20 June 1837, and 18-year-old Victoria became the queen of the United Kingdom. People were enthusiastic about the new queen; they cheered and greeted her. Despite her young age, even her critics admitted that after she was crowned, everyone was impressed by “the contrast between her childish face and sometimes rather a different smile and the dignity of her queenly manner”6.
Although, no matter how popular the young queen was, at the time, she was still politically inexperienced. She was under quite an influence of Lord Melbourne, who was the prime minister of the Whig government. Also, Queen Victoria did not trust anymore Sir John Convoy and her mother’s surroundings.
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The coincidence of these two factors led the scandal when she believed rumors about Lady Flora Hastings’s extra-marital pregnancy from Convoy. The story turned out to be false, and Lady Flora after her soon death was diagnosed with the terminal disease.
Soon after this unpleasant for all parties situation, Lord Melbourne had to resign, and Queen Victoria lost quite a bit of her popularity for being allegedly merciless7.
Nevertheless, the political intrigues and the queen’s confrontation with her former attendant were not the only focus of attention of the young monarch. In winter 1840, she was finally able to get married to Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha8, the same cousin Albert she had met in adolescence.
He probably became one of the most influential figures in her life, since she could finally live separately from her mother, and therefore not experiencing any pressure from her and Sir Convoy. Still on the other hand, even at that time, the queen was quite young, and could rely on the support of Prince Albert. He became not only her husband but also a political advisor and an asset.
Till the year 1857 Victoria and Albert had nine children, first two a girl and a boy, traditionally named after themselves. Most sources suggest that their family life was happy, as Queen Victoria was fond of her husband, and always referred to him in her diary with “praise for his goodness, his kindness, his perfection”9.
Later reign and widowhood
During the long reign of Queen Victoria, a number of prime ministers successes each other. After her ally Lord Melbourne eventually lost support in the Parliament in 1841, the Whigs were replaced by the Tories in the government, and the Tory prime minister Sir Robert Peel replaced Queen Victoria’s confidant.
The next decade were marked by the challenges and struggle, as the Great Famine in Ireland took place between 1845 and 1849, and almost a million people died10.
In the mid-1850s, the United Kingdom was involved in the Crimean Wars, under the government of Queen Victoria and her prime minister Lord Aberdeen. Aberdeen was soon discovered to supervise and manage troops very poorly, and the queen had to find a replacement for him herself11.
1861 was a devastating year for the queen. Her mother, the Duchess Victoria died, and she could not find herself comfort. Prince Albert took care of the most of the royal responsibilities, their daughters were trying to comfort the mother, but her grief was excessive.
She and her husband had a confrontation with their son, the Prince of Wales who was accused by his mother of “being heartless and selfish”12, because he was too reserved, and left Windsor without seeing the queen. Soon after that Prince Albert went to see his son in Cambridge, but on the road felt unwell, and by the end of 1861 he died of typhoid fever.
Queen Victoria in her grief blamed the Prince of Wales for this, and for the next years she preferred isolated living and less political participation.
Given the fact that Queen Victoria, since the 1860s, was quite distanced from the public, the power of the monarchy as a politically influential component of society has decreased. Changes in the manufacturing, industry and economy “came too quickly for the government to make the necessary readjustments”13. It was a time of major technological changes that awakened people’s faith in progress.
Industrial Revolution led to the transformation of the other societal aspects, including political emancipation, changes in labor, lifestyle and morals. On the other hand, Britain was expanding its colonies and turning in the biggest empire.
In conclusion, the response to this new kind of society was the attributing the leading role in the political life to the Parliament, so that people had more freedom to choose their representatives. Meanwhile, Queen Victoria became a monarch who at the end of her life was contributing not as the political figure, but as an example of moral role model for the nation.
Hibbert, Christopher. Queen Victoria. New York: Basic Books, 2001.
Inge, William Ralph. Victorian Age. Cambridge: Cambridge Univ Press, 2015.
Longford, Elizabeth. Queen Victoria. New York: The History Press, 2011.
Strachey, Lytton. Queen Victoria. London: I.B. Tauris, 2012.
1 Strachey, Lytton. Queen Victoria (London: I.B. Tauris, 2012), 12.
2 Hibbert, Christopher. Queen Victoria (New York: Basic Books, 2001), 18.
3 Longford, Elizabeth. Queen Victoria (New York: The History Press, 2011), 13.
4 Hibbert, Christopher. Queen Victoria (New York: Basic Books, 2001), 34.
5 Longford, Elizabeth. Queen Victoria (New York: The History Press, 2011), 37.
6 Hibbert, Christopher. Queen Victoria (New York: Basic Books, 2001), 60.
7 Hibbert, Christopher. Queen Victoria (New York: Basic Books, 2001), 81-89.
8 Strachey, Lytton. Queen Victoria (London: I.B. Tauris, 2012), 83.
9 Hibbert, Christopher. Queen Victoria (New York: Basic Books, 2001), 158.
10 Longford, Elizabeth. Queen Victoria (New York: The History Press, 2011), 350-360.
11 Hibbert, Christopher. Queen Victoria (New York: Basic Books, 2001), 228-229.
12 Hibbert, Christopher. Queen Victoria (New York: Basic Books, 2001), 267.
13 Inge, William Ralph. Victorian Age. Cambridge: Cambridge Univ Press, 2015.