Queen Victoria was queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and empress of India. It was a period of political, military, scientific and industrial change within the United Kingdom, and was marked by a great expansion of the British Empire. During her reign the English empire took on its modern ceremonial character. She was queen of the world’s largest ever empire.
Alexandrina Victoria was born on 24 May 1819 to the Duchess of Kent at Kensington Palace in London. Her father was Prince Edward, Duke of Kent and Strathearn, the fourth son of the reigning King of the United Kingdom, George III. Her mother was Victoria Saxe-Saalfield-Coburg, sister of Leopold, king of the Belgians. Queen Victoria’s father died in January 1820, when Victoria was 8 months old. A week later her grandfather died. Her mother became a domineering influence in her life. Victoria’s mother used a strict code of discipline for her, and Victoria was raised largely isolated from other children under the so-called “Kensington System”, an elaborate set of rules and protocols devised by the Duchess. Victoria’s early life was dominated by her mother and her ambitious adviser Sir John Conroy. The system prevented the princess from meeting people whom her mother and John Conroy deemed undesirable. Queen Victoria shared a bedroom with her mother every night, studied with private tutors to a regular timetable, and spent her play-hours with her dolls. Her lessons included German, French, Latin, and Italian, but she spoke only English at home. Victoria was famously tiny in stature, measuring just 5 feet tall but she succeeded in projecting a grand image.
On June 20, 1837, Victoria received a call from the archbishop of Canterbury and the lord chamberlain and learned of the death of William IV, third son of George III. Later that morning Privy Council was impressed by the graceful assurance of the new queen’s demeanor. She was small, carried herself well, and had a delightful silvery voice. William IV died at the age of 71, and Victoria became Queen of the United Kingdom. Official documents prepared on the first day of her reign described her as Alexandrina Victoria, but the first name was withdrawn at her own wish and not used again. A crowd of 300,000 gathered on the streets of London to catch a glimpse of the Queen on her Coronation Day. She was crowned in Westminster Abbey. She wore robes of white satin and red velvet.
Lord Melbourne was Victoria’s first prime minister, who served in 1834 and again from 1835 to 1841. He acted as the queen’s political advisor and confidant during the early years of her reign.
In the lead up to her 17th birthday party, then Queen Victoria met her first cousin, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. Four years later, Queen Victoria proposed to Prince Albert on October 15, 1839, and they were married on February 10, 1840, in the Chapel Royal of St. James’s Palace in London.
Since Victoria was queen, Albert couldn’t propose to her. So she proposed to him.
Queen Victoria was deeply in love with Albert. She claimed to be truly happy for the first time in her life. After their wedding night, Queen Victoria wrote in her diary, “I never, never spent such an evening!! My dearest dearest dear Albert … his excessive love and affection gave me feelings of heavenly love and happiness I never could have hoped to have felt before!”
At the time of her wedding, it was common for wedding dresses to come in a variety of colors. Queen Victoria, however, wished to show off the lace embroidery of her dress and requested it in white.
Over the course of her life, Queen Victoria was mother to nine children with Prince Albert.
Internationally, Queen Victoria took a keen interest in the improvement of relations between France and Britain. She donated £2,000 (equivalent to between £178,000 and £6.5 million in 2016) to the British Relief Association in January 1847, more than any other individual famine relief donor, also supported the Maynooth Grant to a Roman Catholic seminary in Ireland, despite Protestant opposition. In Ireland, Victoria was labelled “The Famine Queen”.
Victoria became the Empress of India to tie the monarchy and empire closer together. She accepted the title on the advice of her 7th prime minister Benjamin Disraeli. She approved of his imperialist policies, which established Britain as the most powerful nation in the world. Queen Victoria’s popularity in Britain soared as she became a symbol of the empire towards end of her reign. On September 1896, Queen Victoria surpassed her grandfather George III as the longest-reigning monarch in British history.
Queen Victoria and Abdul Karim:
Karim was the son of a hospital assistant in Northern India and was brought to England to serve at the Queen’s Golden Jubilee in 1887. He quickly impressed the queen with his cooking, and Queen Victoria asked him to teach her Urdu. Queen Victoria lavished Abdul with gifts including a private carriage, titles and honors.
Queen Victoria recorded in her diary: “I am learning a few words of Hindustani to speak to my servants. It is a great interest to me for both the language and the people, I have naturally never come into real contact with before”.
Queen Victoria and Abdul close relationship was scandalous to the royal family. Although the family followed through with the queen Victoria wish for Karim to be among a small group of mourners at her funeral. Later they evicted Abdul from the home Victoria gave to him and sent him back to India.
In July 1900, Queen Victoria’s second son Alfred died. She wrote in her journal- “Oh, God! My darling Affie (Alfred) gone too. It is a horrible year, nothing but sadness and horrors of one kind and another.”
After a long period of poor health, Queen Victoria died on 22 January 1901 at half-past six in the evening at the age of 81. Her son and successor, King Edward VII, and her eldest grandson, Emperor Wilhelm II of Germany, were at her deathbed.
With a reign of 63 years, seven months, and two days, Queen Victoria was the longest-reigning British monarch and the longest-reigning queen regnant in world history.