Queen Victoria was born on 24 May 1819, at Kensington Palace, London, a daughter to Prince Edward, Duke of Kent and Strathearn, and his wife German born Princess Victoria of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld.
Victoria’s father, Prince Edward was the fourth son of the reigning King George III, and after the death in 1817 of the King’s only legitimate grandchild, Princess Charlotte of Wales, pressure was on Prince Edward and his unmarried brothers to marry and produce a child.
Princess Victoria of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld, was a widow with two children and the sister of Leopold, the widower of Princess Charlotte. Prince Edward and Princess Victoria married on 29 May 1818 at Schloss Ehrenburg, Coburg, and again on 11 July 1818 at Kew Palace, Kew, in Surrey.
A year later the Duke and Duchess of Kent’s only child was born, and was christened on 24 June 1819 at Kensington Palace, and was baptised Alexandrina, after one of her godparents, Emperor Alexander I of Russia, and Victoria after her mother.
In 1820 both Princess Victoria’s grandfather and father died within a week of each other, and her uncle the Prince of Wales (later Prince Regent) reigned as King George IV.
Another of Princess Victoria’s uncles, the Prince William the Duke of Clarence succeeded his brother George VI, and reigned as William IV until his death on 20 June 1837, when 18 year old Princess Victoria inherited the throne.
Victoria had a strict and, as later described by herself, a “rather melancholy” childhood. The Duchess of Kent was very protective of her daughter, having her share her bedroom every night, and isolated her from other children. Private tutors kept a regular timetable and her lessons included French, German, Italian and Latin, but she only spoke English at home. Her playtime was spent with her dolls and ‘Dash’ her King Charles spaniel.
Between 1830 and 1835 the Duchess of Kent took Victoria on journeys throughout England and Wales on public appearances as heiress presumptive. This not only distressed Victoria, making her tired and ill, but also annoyed King William, who was concerned that the public portrayed Victoria as his rival. However, the Duchess of Kent dismissed his complaints as motivated by jealousy and Victoria was forced to continue the tours.
The Duchess of Kent had arranged with her brothers, Ernest I, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha and Leopold, to introduce her daughter to her nephew Albert, the son of Ernest I. The visit was planned to take place in May 1836, to the disapproval of William IV, as he favoured Prince Alexander of the Netherlands, second son of the Prince of Orange.
The visit with Albert proceeded and Victoria was reported in her diary to have enjoyed her meeting “Albert is extremely handsome; his hair is about the same colour as mine; his eyes are large and blue, and he has a beautiful nose and a very sweet mouth with fine teeth; but the charm of his countenance is his expression, which is most delightful”.
Her letter to her uncle Leopold thanked him “for the prospect of great happiness you have contributed to give me, in the person of dear Albert … He possesses every quality that could be desired to render me perfectly happy. He is so sensible, so kind, and so good, and so amiable too. He has besides the most pleasing and delightful exterior and appearance you can possibly see.”
On 24 May 1837 Victoria turned 18, and just a few weeks later on 20 June, aged 71, her uncle King William IV died and Victoria was to become Queen where she withdrew her first name of Alexandrina. Her coronation took place on 28 June 1838, and became the first monarch to reside at Buckingham Palace.
The politically inexperienced Queen became dependable on Lord Melbourne, the Prime Minister, for advice, especially in 1839 when her reputation suffered when a campaign began implicating the Queen in the spreading of false rumours about one of her mother’s ladies-in-waiting, Lady Flora Hastings.
Lady Flora Hastings, developed an abdominal growth that was widely rumoured to be an out-of-wedlock pregnancy by Sir John Conroy, who was also said to have been having an affair with the Duchess of Kent. Victoria believed the rumours, and she hated Conroy, and despised “that odious Lady Flora”, because she had conspired with Conroy and the Duchess of Kent in the Kensington System, which was the system in which Victoria was raised as a child. At first, Lady Flora refused to submit to a naked medical examination, until in mid-February she eventually agreed, and was found to be a virgin. Conroy, the Hastings family and the opposition Tories organised a press campaign implicating Queen Victoria in the spreading of false rumours about Lady Flora. When Lady Flora died in July, the post-mortem revealed a large tumour on her liver that had distended her abdomen. At public appearances, Victoria was hissed and jeered as “Mrs. Melbourne”, due to her close friendship with the Prime Minister.
During the same year, due to a political crisis Melbourne resigned after a defeat in parliament. The queen invited the Conservative leader Sir Robert Peel to form a government, but he insisted that the queen’s Whig ladies of the bedchamber be replaced with Tory ones, which was the usual practice. The queen refused, so Peel declined to form a government and Melbourne returned to office.
Although Victoria was required by social convention to live with her mother, at Buckingham Palace the Duchess of Kent was provided with a remote apartment, with the Queen often refusing to meet with her due to their indifferences and her mother’s continued reliance with Sir John Conroy, and with only possible avoidance from the threat of further years of torment Melbourne suggested, what Victoria described as “shocking alternative” of her getting married.
Although she refused to rush into marriage, Victoria showed interest as to Albert’s education in the role of which he would play as the Queen’s husband.
Albert’s second visit took place on 10th October 1839 and just five days into his visit, a besotted Victoria proposed to him.
On 10 February 1840, the couple married in the Chapel Royal of St. James’ Palace.
Of her wedding she was reported as writing in her diary, I NEVER, NEVER spent such an evening!!! MY DEAREST DEAREST DEAR Albert … his excessive love & affection gave me feelings of heavenly love & happiness I never could have hoped to have felt before! He clasped me in his arms, & we kissed each other again & again! His beauty, his sweetness & gentleness – really how can I ever be thankful enough to have such a Husband! … to be called by names of tenderness, I have never yet heard used to me before – was bliss beyond belief! Oh! This was the happiest day of my life!
Albert not only became the Queen’s husband, but also her companion and political adviser, replacing the influential Lord Melbourne.
The Duchess of Kent was moved out of Buckingham Palace and into Ingestre House in Belgrave Square, before being provided with both Clarence and Frogmore House after the death of Princess Augusta in 1840, and due to Albert’s mediation, relations between mother and daughter improved slowly over the years.
Soon after their marriage, Victoria found she was pregnant with her first child. While travelling in her carriage to visit her mother with Albert, 18 year old Edward Oxford attempted to assassinate the Queen firing twice at her. The royal couple were unhurt, and Oxford was tried and found guilty of high treason, being acquitted on grounds of insanity.
Later the same year, on 21 November 1840, Victoria gave birth to her first child, a daughter she named Victoria.
Although she did not enjoy pregnancy, Victoria and Albert had eight more children.
Her second child was born just a year after her first, on 9 November 1841, a son who was named Albert Edward.
Their third child was to be their second daughter, Princess Alice, was born on 25 April 1843 and just over a year later on 31 July 1844 Victoria gave birth to another son, Prince Alfred.
Their fifth child was a daughter, Princess Helena, born on 25 May 1846 and another daughter Princess Louise was born on 18 March 1848.
Their seventh child was Prince Arthur, born on 1 May 1850 and another son Prince Leopold became her eighth child being born on 7 April 1853.
During the birth of Leopold, Victoria used the new anaesthetic, chloroform, and was so impressed from the pain relief it provided during childbirth that she used it again in 1857 at the birth of her ninth and final child, Beatrice, despite opposition from members of the clergy, who considered it against biblical teaching, and members of the medical profession, who thought it dangerous.
Victoria may have suffered from post-natal depression after many of her pregnancies. Letters from Albert to Victoria intermittently complain of her loss of self-control. For example, about a month after Leopold’s birth Albert complained in a letter to Victoria about her “continuance of hysterics” over a “miserable trifle”.
During her reign as Queen of England, further assassination attempts were made against Victoria since her first attack by Edward Oxford. On 29 May 1842, whilst travelling along the Mall in her carriage, a male by the name of John Francis aimed a pistol at her but did not fire, and escaped. In order to catch Francis, the following day, although with a greater escort and travelling much quicker, Victoria took the same route, and as was expected Francis aimed and fired and was seized by plain clothes police officers, and convicted of high treason where he was commuted to transportation for life.
The next attempt occurred on 3 July 1842, with John William Bean, who tried to fire a gun of which was loaded with paper and tobacco, and was sentenced to 18 months in jail.
In 1849 a powder filled pistol was fired by unemployed Irishman William Hamilton, at Victoria’s carriage as it travelled along Constitution Hill in London. He was sentenced to seven years transportation.
The next attack caused the Queen injury to her forehead when she was assaulted by ex-army officer, Robert Pate. Believed to be possibly insane, Pate struck Victoria on the head with his cane, causing her bonnet to crush and suffer from bruising on her forehead. Pate was also sentenced to seven years transportation.
As Queen, Victoria took a keen interest in improving relations between Britain and France, and hosted several visits between the British Royal family and the House of Orleans. In 1843 Victoria and Albert stayed with King Louis Philippe I at Chateau d’Eu in Normandy becoming the first English monarch to visit a French monarch since Henry VIII of England met with Francis I of France during 1520.
In 1844, King Louis Philippe made a reciprocal visit to Britain, being the first French King to visit a British sovereign and Victoria and Albert returned one again to Chateau d’Eu in 1845.
In 1845 with Ireland suffering from the disease Phytophthora infestans, commonly known as blight, a four year period saw over a million Irish people die and another million emigrated. Queen Victoria was reported to personally donated £2,000 to famine relief, and became known in Ireland as “The Famine Queen”.
On 25 January 1858, at 17 years of age, Victoria’s eldest daughter married Prince Frederick William of Prussia in London. The couple had been betrothed since September 1855, when Princess Victoria was 14-years-old; the marriage was delayed by the Queen and Prince Albert until the bride was 17. Although the Queen and Albert hoped that their daughter and son-in-law would be a liberalising influence in the enlarging Prussian state, Victoria felt “sick at heart” to see her daughter leave England for Germany; In a letter to her daughter she wrote; “It really makes me shudder”, “when I look round to all your sweet, happy, unconscious sisters, and think I must give them up too – one by one.”
Almost exactly a year later, Princess Victoria gave birth to the Queen’s first grandchild: Wilhelm.
In 1861 Victoria suffered heartbreak through the deaths of her mother and husband.
It was March 1861 when Victoria was at her mother’s side when the Duchess of Kent died.
Victoria was heartbroken when she discovered how deeply her mother had loved her when through reading her mother’s papers and blamed both Conroy and Lehzen for wickedly estranging her from her mother.
Although ill himself with chronic stomach issues, Albert took over many of Victoria’s duties during her grief, and in August took Victoria to visit their son, the Prince of Wales as he attended army manoeuvres near Dublin.
Albert visited his son again during November this time to Cambridge where he was studying. Albert was appalled when he had been made aware of gossip of his son having slept with an Irish actress while he was in Ireland, and although unwell he needed to confront his son.
Just a month later William Jenner had diagnosed Albert with suffering from Typhoid fever, and on 14 December Albert died. Victoria was devastated and blamed the death through worrying over their son’s philandering claiming he had been “killed by that dreadful business”. Victoria entered a state of mourning and for the rest of her life she remained wearing black clothing.
Victoria rarely entered London, avoided public appearances and only conducted her official government duties. Remaining secluded in her royal residences of Windsor Castle, Osborne House and Balmoral Castle of which she and Albert had acquired in 1847, her popularity diminished and she became known as the “Widow of Windsor”.
In 1864, after a protester had placed a notice on the railings of Buckingham Palace announcing “these commanding premises to be let or sold in consequence of the late occupant’s declining business”, Victoria’s uncle Leopold wrote to her advising to appear in public. This was agreed and she attended the gardens of the Royal Horticultural Society at Kensington and took a drive through London in an open carriage.
With having relied upon John Brown, a Scottish male servant, slanderous rumours circulated and appeared in print of a romantic connection and a secret marriage. The Queen was then labelled “Mrs Brown”.
In 1866, for the first time since Albert’s death, Victoria attended the State Opening of Parliament and the following year supported the passing of the Reform Act 1867
In 1870, republican sentiment in Britain, fed by the Queen’s seclusion, was boosted after the establishment of the Third French Republic. A republican rally in Trafalgar Square demanded Victoria’s removal, and Radical MPs spoke against her.
In August and September 1871, Victoria was seriously ill with an abscess in her arm, which Joseph Lister successfully lanced and treated with his new anti-septic, carbolic acid spray.
In late November 1871, at the height of the republican movement, the Prince of Wales contracted typhoid fever, the disease that was believed to have killed his father, and Victoria was fearful her son would die. Her son’s condition hadn’t improved on the approach of the 10th anniversary of Albert’s death, and Victoria’s distress continued. However, he pulled through, and on 27 February 1872, mother and son attended a public parade through London and a grand service of thanksgiving in St Paul’s Cathedral, and republican feeling subsided.
Another assassination attempt was made on the Queen just two day’s after her attendance of the thanksgiving service, when 17 year old Arthur O’Connor, the great-nephew of Irish MP Feargus O’Connor, waved an unloaded pistol at Victoria’s open carriage just after she had arrived at Buckingham Palace. John Brown, who was attending the Queen, grabbed him and O’Connor was later to receive 12 months’ imprisonment. As a result of the incident, Victoria’s popularity recovered further.
On 14 December 1878, on the 17th anniversary of Albert’s death, Queen Victoria’s second daughter Alice, who married Louis of Hesse, died of diphtheria in Darmstadt. Victoria found the coincidence of dates “almost incredible and most mysterious”.
The following year, in May 1879, she became a great-grandmother with the birth of Princess Feodora of Saxe-Meiningen and felt “aged” by “the loss of my beloved child”.
Roderick Maclean, a poet, was apparently offended when Victoria refused to accept one of his poems, and on 2 March 1882, as Victoria’s carriage left Windsor railway station, Maclean shot at the Queen. Victoria was unharmed as two Eton College schoolboys beat the attacker with their umbrellas until a police officer bundled him away. Maclean was found not guilty by reason of insanity, of which outraged the Queen, but she was so touched by the expressions of loyalty that so many displayed that she commented it was “worth being shot at, to see how much one is loved”.
After having fallen down some stairs at Windsor on 17 March 1883, Victoria was lame until July, yet she never fully recovered as she suffered with rheumatism thereafter.
Just 10 day’s after her fall, her loyal personal attendant and close friend, John Brown died after an accident, and Victoria began work on a biography of Brown. Anxious that the publication would produce rumours of a love affair, her private secretary, Sir Henry Ponsonby advised Victoria against the idea. The manuscript was destroyed, but in 1884 Victoria published More Leaves from a Journal of a Life in the Highlands, a sequel to her earlier work which she dedicated to her “devoted personal attendant and faithful friend John Brown”.
Tragedy was to strike Victoria once again, when a day after the first anniversary of John Brown’s death, on 28 March 1884 Victoria was informed by telegraph of her youngest son, Leopold having died in Cannes. He was “the dearest of my dear sons” she cried.
A month later, Victoria’s youngest child, Beatrice had met and fallen in love with Prince Henry of Battenberg whilst attending the wedding of Victoria’s granddaughter, Princess Victoria of Hesse, who was marrying Henry’s brother, Prince Louis of Battenberg.
Although the couple planned to marry, Victoria was opposed as she wished for her daughter to remain at home and act as her companion. A year passed and with the promise of remaining to live with the Queen and attend her, Victoria relented and permitted Beatrice and Henry to marry.
Victoria’s Golden Jubilee celebrations took place in 1887, and Victoria celebrated her fiftieth anniversary of her accession on 20 June with a banquet of invited guests of which were 50 kings and princes.
The following day, Victoria took part in a procession and attended a thanksgiving service in Westminster Abbey.
A year later in 1888, Victoria’s eldest daughter became Empress Consort of Germany, but as she was widowed within the year, Victoria’s grandchild Wilhelm became German Emperor as Wilhelm II.
Under Wilhelm, Victoria and Albert’s hopes of a liberal Germany were not fulfilled. He believed in autocracy. Victoria thought he had “little heart or tact, and his conscience and intelligence have been completely wharped “.
On 23 September 1896, Victoria surpassed her grandfather George III as the longest-reigning monarch in English, Scottish, and British history. The Queen requested that any special celebrations be delayed until 1897, to coincide with her Diamond Jubilee, which was made a festival of the British Empire at the suggestion of Colonial Secretary Joseph Chamberlain.
The prime ministers of all the self-governing dominions were invited, and the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee procession through London included troops from all over the empire. The parade paused for an open-air service of thanksgiving held outside St Paul’s Cathedral, throughout which Victoria sat in her open carriage. The celebration was marked by great outpourings of affection for the septuagenarian Queen.
In July 1900, her second son Alfred (“Affie”) died; “Oh, God! My poor darling Affie gone too”, she wrote in her journal. “It is a horrible year, nothing but sadness & horrors of one kind & another.”
As had been maintained throughout her widowhood, Victoria spent the Christmas of 1900 at Osborne House on the Isle of White. With suffering from Rheumatism and also her eyes being clouded by cataracts her mobility was limited.
Throughout early January Victoria was reported to feel “weak and unwell”, and by mid-January she was “drowsy … dazed, and confused”.
On Tuesday 22 January 1901, at 6.30pm, at the age of 81 Queen Victoria died.
Victoria’s son and successor King Edward VII, and her eldest grandson, Emperor Wilhelm II of Germany, were at her deathbed. Her favourite pet Pomeranian, Turri, lay upon her deathbed as a last request.
In 1897, Victoria had written instructions for her funeral, which was to be military as befitting a soldier’s daughter and the head of the army, and white instead of black. On 25 January, Edward VII, the Kaiser and Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught, helped lift her into the coffin. She was dressed in a white dress and her wedding veil. An array of mementos commemorating her extended family, friends and servants were laid in the coffin with her, at her request, by her doctor and dressers. One of Albert’s dressing gowns was placed by her side, with a plaster cast of his hand, while a lock of John Brown’s hair, along with a picture of him, were placed in her left hand concealed from the view of the family by a carefully positioned bunch of flowers. Items of jewellery placed on Victoria included the wedding ring of John Brown’s mother, given to her by Brown in 1883. Her funeral was held on Saturday 2 February in St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle, and after two days of lying-in-state, she was interred beside Prince Albert in Frogmore Mausoleum at Windsor Great Park. As she was laid to rest at the mausoleum, snow began to fall.


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