Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, and Empress of India
1819 – 1901 A.D.
Victoria, Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, and Empress of India.
She was the only child of the Duke of Kent, fourth son of George III, and when born held the fifth place in succession to the throne. The first eighteen years of her life were spent, in comparative seclusion, in Kensington Palace, where her education was superintended by Louise Lehzen and the Rev. George Davys.
On June 20, 1837, by the death of William IV, the last barrier between Princess Victoria and the crown was removed, and the following day she was proclaimed queen. The general enthusiasm her decision evoked was partly due to the contrast she presented with those who had lately occupied the throne. The substitution for kings whose personalities inspired no respect of an innocent girl, with what promised to be a long and virtuous life before her, evoked at the onset in the large mass of the people a sentiment of chivalric devotion to the monarchy which gave it new stability and deprived revolution of all foot-hold.
The ceremonial of the coronation in Westminster Abbey was endured with exception splendor, and lasted more than five hours. When at last the queen set out for Buckingham Palace, she drove through the streets wearing her crown and all her apparel of state, and looked to spectators pale and tremulous. Carlyle, who was in the throng, breathed a blessing on her: “Poor little Queen,” he added, “she is at an age at which a girl can hardly be trusted to choose a bonnet for herself; yet a task is laid upon her from which an archangel might shrink.”
One of the first important acts of her reign was the adoption in July, 1939, of Rowland Hill’s scheme for the conveyance and delivery of letters at a uniform rate of one penny throughout the United Kingdom. This gave an enormous impetus to communication among various parts of Great Britain and Ireland for commercial and all other purposes. The usefulness of the new arrangement was greatly increased by the invention at the same time of the adhesive postage-stamp, which bore as its distinguishing mark the queen’s portrait-head, and this rendered her likeness familiar throughout the globe.
On February 10, 1840, she was married to Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, and a new era in the queen’s life and reign began. From a personal point of view the union realized the highest ideal of which matrimony is capable, the queen’s love for her husband was without alloy, and invested him in her sight with every perfection. He, on his part, reciprocated her affection, and he made her happiness the main object of his life.
The queen’s first child, a daughter, afterwards Empress Frederick of Germany, was born the following November, and a year later, November 9, 1841, her second child, a son and heir, was born at Buckingham Palace. The boy was later named Albert Edward, and more than fifty-nine years later succeeded his mother as King Edward VIII.
Queen Victoria and Prince Albert had nine children, four sons and five daughters, and three of these died in the queen’s lifetime. She had forty grandchildren and thirty-seven great-grandchildren.
An important event in the queen’s long reign occurred in January, 1845, when she met for the first time the two men who were later to be her two most brilliant ministers of state – Benjamin Disraeli and Wm. Ewart Gladstone. In 1851 a demonstration of peace and goodwill among the nations which excited the Queen’s highest hopes was the inauguration of the Great Exhibition in the Crystal Palace erected in Hyde park The brilliant opening ceremony, over which she presided, evoked a marvellous [sic] outburst of loyalty. Besides twenty-five thousand people in the building, seven hundred thousand cheered her outside as she passed them on her way from Buckingham Palace. It was, she said, the proudest and happiest day of her happy life.
While attending to public affairs she encouraged social gaiety, and was still regarded as one of the most graceful performers of the day in minuets and country-dances. At a ball at Windsor in June, 1856, she danced every dance, and finally performed a Scottish reel to the bagpipes.
In the autumn of the same year she received at Balmoral, Miss Florence Nightingale, who had reorganied the nursing in the military hospitals of the Crimea, and to whom she had sent a valuable jewel as a memento.
The queen and Prince Albert visited France and Germany in 1858, and during the same year she expressed her interest in the completion of the laying of the first submarine cable between America and the United Kingdom, the most effective bond of union between the two countries that science could devise. She sent an elaborate message of congratulation over the wires to the President of the United States, James Buchanan, and described the enterprise as an additional link between nations whose friendship was founded upon common interest and reciprocal esteem.
About this time the English rule of India began to assume vast proportions. The absorption by the Crown of the territories and administrative powers of the old East India Company added nearly two hundred million human beings to those who already owed direct allegiance to Queen Victoria, and more than eight hundred thousand square miles to the existing area of the British dominions.
By the noble spirit of justice which the queen infused into her proclamation of sovereignty over her new subjects and her new territories, she proved her consciousness of the high responsibilities that imperial rule involved.
But the happy life of the queen was soon to be clouded by sorrow from which she never entirely recovered. On December 14, 1861, after a short illness, Prince Albert passed away at Windsor in the queen’s presence. He was a little more than forty-two years old, and she was only his senior by a month. Almost without warning the romance of the queen’s life was at its meridian changed into a tragedy. Few parallels can be found in history to the length of time during which the actively vivid sense of loss clung to the queen’s heart. She never ceased to wear mourning for him, and lived long in seclusion, taking no part in court festivities or ceremonial pageantry.
The next twenty-five years of the queen’s reign continued with the various celebrated men whom she chose as her advisors, the last being Lord Salisbury who remained her prime minister until her death.
In June 1887, occurred the jubilee with which England celebrated the fiftieth year of hear reign. The entrance on her year of jubilee and the approaching close quarter of a century of widowhood conquered some of her reluctance to figure in public life.
The celebration was of historic import, and the mighty outburst of enthusiasm which greeted the queen, as loudly in the colonies and India as in the United Kingdom, gave new strength to the monarchy.
Ten years later, in 1897, the nation celebrated with appropriate splendor the completion of her sixtieth year of rule – her “Diamond Jubilee.” The festivities lasted a fort-night, and, though the queen was now seventy-eight, she attended almost all the official celebrations.
Though domestic afflictions, and the Boer War which began in 1899 weighed heavily on the queen’s mind, she remained active, and in December, 1900, she welcomed home some of the troops from South Africa, and addressed a few grateful words to the men. On December 14th she celebrated the thirty-ninth anniversary of the Prince Consort’s death with customary solemnity.
On January 14, she engaged in an hour’s talk with Lord Roberts and showed acute anxiety to learn all details fo the recent progress of the war. She appeared to stand the exertion well, but a collapse followed the general’s departure.
On the 19th it was publicly announced that she was growing weaker, and her children who were in England were summoned to her deathbed. Two days later her grandson, the German emperor, arrived, and in his presence, and in the presence of the Prince of Wales, the Duke of Connaught and three of her daughters, she passed away in the evening of January 22, 1901.
The queen was eighty-one years old and eight months, and her reign had lasted sixty-three years and seven months, the longest in English history.
After an imposing funeral, attended by members of every royal family in Europe, the queen’s body wasa placed in the sarcophagus which held the remains of Prince Albert.
Reference: Famous Women; An Outline of Feminine Achievement Through the Ages With Life Stories of Five Hundred Noted Women By Joseph Adelman. Copyright, 1926 by Ellis M. Lonow Company.