|"The important thing is not what they think of me, but what I think of them."
― Queen Victoria
Queen Victoria was born Alexandrina Victoria, on 24 May 1819, at the Kensington Palace, to Princess Victoria of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld and Prince Edward Augustus, Duke of Kent. She was of German descent. She earned the nickname the 'Grandmother of Europe' early in life having arranged the marriages of all her children and forty-two grandchildren in countries across the continent. This political move was read as an attempt to bind European monarchies together. Since her uncle, William IV had no legitimate children alive, Princess Victoria was declared 'heiress presumptive'. The law prevalent then required the appointment of a 'Regent' to play guide to the young princess, till she reached the age of 18.
The Regency Act of 1830 declared Victoria's mother as Regent. Her reign as a monarch lasted for 63 years and seven months, which still is the longest reign by any female monarch in the world (If still living after September 9, 2015, the current Queen, Elizabeth II, will become the longest serving). Her reign came to be known as the Victorian Era. It was synonymous with industrial, scientific, and military progress, not only within the United Kingdom, but throughout its colonies in Asia and Africa.
The Victorian Era witnessed great advancements in science and technology and economics as well. It came to be known as the Age of Steam that enabled people to travel easily all over the UK and the world. She was highly influenced by two men; her first Prime Minister Lord Melbourne, and her husband, Prince Albert. Both taught her invaluable lessons about being a ruler in a 'constitutional monarchy'.
In 1836, Princess Victoria met Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, her future husband, at the tender age of 17. He was her first cousin, the son of Ernest, her mother's brother. They were married in 1840, in the Chapels Royal, London. Victoria and Albert were part of a long and happy union. They had nine children, and eventually all were married into other royal families of Europe. She was fluent in German, French, and English. When William IV died in June 1837, from congestive heart failure, Victoria became the Queen of England. The coronation took place on June 28, 1838, making Victoria the first monarch to make Buckingham Palace her home.
Era of Queen Victoria
When Victoria ascended the throne, England was an established constitutional monarchy. Although the ruling monarch held limited political power and basically exercised influence via the Prime Minister, Victoria was a symbolic political figure during her tenure. The Victorian Era witnessed expansion of the British Empire, making it a formidable global power. When she ascended the throne, the political decisions were controlled by the Whig Party, headed by Lord Melbourne. He influenced the political life of the inexperienced queen. The Melbourne ministry resigned in 1839, amidst growing unpopularity and the Rebellions of 1837. The Radicals and Tories came to power thereafter, until the suspension of the Constitution of Jamaica by the House of Commons.
King Leopold I of Belgium, her maternal uncle, was Queen Victoria's main adviser. The Bedchamber Crisis arose out of the queen's decision to allow Sir Robert Peel to form a ministry. His preferences for the wives of Tories was challenged by Victoria, and this crisis culminated in the return of Lord Melbourne. An attempt was made on the Queen's life, during her first pregnancy. Edward Oxford attempted an assassination by firing at the monarch while she was riding with Prince Albert, in London. Although he was tried for treason, he was acquitted as 'insane'. Another attempt was made at St. James' Park by John Francis. Francis was charged for treason and given the 'transportation for life' sentence. Days later, John William Bean fired at her, who was later sentenced to 18 months in prison.
Victoria was a part of much political turmoil that was churned out of the repeal of the Corn Laws. The Tories or Conservatives opposed the repeal, while the Whigs supported it. Her complaint in 1849 about the 'hidden' communication between Palmerston and foreign leaders was ignored, until the ousting of Lord Palmerston in 1851. She was very fond of Ireland, but had to keep away on account of the 'potato blight' that hit the region in 1845. She donated £2,000 sterling for the starving Irish population. However, Lord John Russell was blamed for exacerbating the famine, and this adversely affected Victoria's popularity in Ireland. Her visit to the region in 1849 was amidst a number of nationalist party meetings and the coining of 'God Save the Queen'.
When the Prince Albert succumbed to typhoid on December 14, 1861, the queen who was only just recovering from the demise of her mother, was devastated. She entered a state of mourning and wore black for the rest of her life. She avoided public appearances that earned her the nickname the 'Widow of Windsor'. This isolation took a toll on the popularity that the monarchy enjoyed in England and is said to be responsible for the growth of the Republican movement. After the British East India Company that had ruled over India for a long time, was dissolved and formally included into the British Empire. She was made the Empress of India, a move instigated by Benjamin Disraeli and the Parliament who passed the Royals Titles Act in 1876. She regained popularity by making more public appearances and getting involved in charitable causes. She celebrated her Diamond Jubilee in 1897 that marked 60 years of her reign.
On January 22, 1901 Queen Victoria succumbed to cerebral hemorrhage. She was buried beside Prince Albert, in the Frogmore Mausoleum. Victoria's death meant a cessation of the House of Hanover monarchy. She was succeeded by her eldest son, Albert as King Edward VII.
Although several attempts were made on the life of Queen Victoria, she remained unharmed, and her courage helped her to be loved by all the people in her empire. Her era witnessed the start of the modern world through advancements and expansion in all fields, including her empire.