I have always been fascinated by the Royals of England, especially Queen Victoria who gave her name to an era, the Victorian era, which coincided with the length of her reign from 1837 to 1901. It can be said at this time that her 63 ½ year reign is the longest in English history. However, Queen Elizabeth II may succeed in taking over that honor if she continues to reign until September 1, 2015, which is in another 10 ½ months.
The young ruler led a charming life, filled with both happiness and tragedy, and remained capable of carrying out her royal duties with the help of those who loved her and those who served her. Her name was actually Alexandra Victoria which brought about her childhood nickname of “Drina.”
An only child, subjected to the domineering personality of her mother, Victoria became the Queen of England in 1837 at the age of 18 when her uncle, King William IV, died with no legitimate children.
As an interesting aside, there have been questions raised in the past concerning the true parentage of the Queen. She was diagnosed with being a carrier of the hemophiliac gene which is transferred to males through their mother. Her son Leopold was hemophiliac, and her daughters Alice and Beatrice were carriers like their mother, who could pass the gene on to their sons. The Queen’s father, the Duke of Kent, was not hemophiliac. The suspicion arose, therefore, that Victoria’s mother, the Duchess of Kent, might have had a hemophiliac lover who was, in truth, Victoria’s father. This speculation, however, was never corroborated.
The ruler’s first cousin, Prince Albert, was the son of her mother’s brother. They knew each other as children. When they were young adults, Victoria fell deeply in love with Albert, and he with her. They were married in 1840 when the bride was 21 years old and had been the Queen for three years. The marriage produced nine children: five girls and four boys.
Albert and Victoria
English citizens, however, were skeptical about Albert’s German background and he was excluded from obtaining an official political position. Neither was he given a title by Parliament, but was named her Prince Consort only after they had been married for 17 years. Albert worked very hard, however, acting unofficially as his wife’s secretary. He conceived the idea and organized the Crystal Palace Exhibition in 1851, a highly profitable industrial convention in Hyde Park which brought in six million visitors. The profits from this exhibit helped to establish the South Kensington museums in London.
In the early years of her reign, two males were strong influences in the Queen’s life - Prince Albert, of course, and Prime Minister Melbourne, who was looked upon by her as a father figure. Both of these men taught her how to be a ruler in a constitutional monarchy where the monarch has very few powers but could exert a lot of influence. She was also fond of a later Prime Minister, Benjamin Disraeli, who oversaw much of the growth of the British Empire under her reign, and succeeded in having her named Empress of India in 1878. On the other hand, she despised the liberal Prime Minister William Gladstone for his political views as well as his grating personality.
Victoria’s beloved husband, Prince Albert, died in December of 1861 after a bout which was diagnosed as typhoid fever. Albert had visited his son Bertie (later King Edward VII) who was away at college in order to dissuade him from a scandalous relationship Bertie had entered with an actress. On that visit, Albert was caught in a severe rainstorm which triggered his illness. His wife blamed their son Bertie for his father’s death and they had a bad relationship from that time.
The monarch, deeply saddened by her husband’s death, secluded herself for over two decades. For the remaining years of her reign, she wore black. She never neglected her official duties and met with her ministers regularly, as well as official visitors, but she was very reluctant to resume a full public life. It is surmised that an entire generation of English citizens never got to see their reigning monarch.
One of Victoria’s servants, John Brown, came into prominence at this time, as the two seemed to spend an inordinate amount of time together, to the point that people jokingly referred to her as “Mrs. Brown.” It is true that they had a very close relationship, but no proof exists that it was scandalous. Victoria did request, however, that a lock of John Brown’s hair be buried with her, which really gave new voice to the speculation.
The Queen’s Golden Jubilee in 1887 served to bring her out of her seclusion. She toured many of the English possessions and spent some time in France. Eight of her nine children married into other royal families of Europe. Either directly or by marriage, she was related to the royal houses of Germany, Russia, Greece, Rumania, Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Belgium. The famed Nicholas II of Russia was married to Victoria's granddaughter Alexandra, and the Emperor of Germany, Kaiser Wilhelm II, was her grandson. She was referred to as “the grandmother of all of Europe” because of her influence in arranging the marriages not only of her children but of her forty-two grandchildren as well.
After a reign of 63 ½ years, Queen Victoria died following a short illness at the age of 81 on January 22, 1901. Lovers of literature and political science both, have reveled in learning about this magnificent woman who delights us in a thousand ways to this very day. At her death, it was said that Britain had a worldwide empire on which the sun never set.
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