19th century England was to see a new Monarch on the English Throne, one who would rule her empire for sixty-three years, and the last of the House of Hanover.
Alexandrina Victoria was born on the 24th May 1819 at Kensington Palace in London, making her first sounds as she entered this world. Her father was Prince Edward, Duke of Kent and Strasthearn, and he was the fourth son of King George III who reigned from (1760-1820), and her German mother Princess Victoria of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld.
Victoria was christened on the 24th June 1819 in the Cupola Room at Kensington Palace by the Archbishop of Canterbury; Charles Manners-Sutton in a private ceremony. She was baptised Alexandrina after Emperor Alexander I of Russia, one of her godparents and Victoria after her mother.
Her early years were met with tragedy when her father Prince Edward the Duke of Kent died on the 23rd January 1820, and six days later her grandfather, King George III died on the 29th January 1820.
At the time of her birth Victoria was fifth in succession to the English throne. Her father Prince Edward, the Duke of Kent died in 1820, having three older brothers who themselves were in line to the throne.
After the Death of Edward, Duke of Kent, the Duchess of Kent, and her daughter resided at apartments in Kensington Palace.
Victoria showed she had a flare for drawing and painting, and was educated at home by her governess Louise Lehzen, the daughter of a Lutheran pastor.
Her mother the Duchess hired the services of John Conroy to run the household, and it has been suggested he may have been her lover, but there is no official evidence to the fact, and the two of them ran Victoria’s life for her. They chose who she could meet with, making her highly dependent upon them.
In the year 1811, King George III’s mental illness made him unfit to rule in the latter years of his life, and his eldest son became Prince Regent, and in 1820 he became King George IV upon his father’s death.
He married the Princess Caroline of Brunswick in 1795, and she only gave him one child which died at birth. He tried unsuccessfully to divorce her on the grounds of adultery, but shortly after his appointment to King of England, she died in 1821, leaving no heirs to the English throne.
Technically he was a bigamist at the time, for he had secretly married Mrs Fitzherbert a Roman Catholic in 1785.
He had actually broken the Royal Marriages Act of 1772, which still stands to this day. Any member of the Royal Family under the age of 25 requires the reigning monarch’s approval, and over 25 approvals by the Privy Council.
On the 15th July 1830, King George IV died, and William IV became the new king aged 64. He made no secret of the fact, that he distrusted the Duchess of Kent. He knew she and John Conroy had designs on creating a “Regency” and the Duchess would act as a Regent, much like the situation between George III and his son George IV. This could only happen if King William IV died before Victoria reached the age of 18.
Frederick, the Duke of York and Albany died in 1827, one of King George III’s other sons, with King George dying in 1830, made William IV our next King, with Victoria being his successor.
William IV received the title; “Duke of Clarence” and from 1791-1811 set up home with his mistress Dorothy Bland an Irish actress, and they had ten children, all who bore the surname “Fitzclarence.”
With the death of his brother, ascended to the English Throne: King William IV of England, aged 64 and was crowned on 8th September 1831 at Westminster Abbey.
In 1811 William IV had married Princess Adelaide of Saxe-Meiningen, eager to produce legitimate heirs to the English Throne, but that was not to be, they had four children of which none lived past infancy.
Alexandrina Victoria was 18 on the 24th May 1837 and King William IV died on the 20th June 1837, and went to his grave, knowing Victoria would become Queen and foiled the Duchess from creating a Regency.
Even though Victoria was Queen, law stated she had to live within her mother’s household. The young Queen had her moved to remote apartments within Kensington Palace, and banned John Conroy from her presence. Yet, he still remained part of her mother’s household.
Victoria was tormented by her presence, and marriage was the only way she could be free of her mother. So on the 10th February 1840, she married Prince Albert in the Chapel Royal of St.James Palace in London.
Within days the Duchess of Kent was moved from the palace to Ingestre House in Belgrave Square, and later was given Clarence and Frogmore House.
Victoria’s important political adviser in her early years was Lord Melbourne, as well as her companion, a position which was taken over by Prince Albert her husband.
Aged just eighteen when the young Victoria came to the throne, it must have seemed a daunting thought to her, she being the new ruler of England. This was what she had been prepared for…
Alexandrina Victoria ascended to the English throne on the 20th June 1837, and was crowned Queen Victoria of England on the 28th June 1838 at Westminster Abbey.
On the 10th February 1840, Queen Victoria married Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha.
Queen Victoria and Prince Albert were to have nine children, and most were married into other Royal Families across Europe, creating descendants all the way back to Queen Victoria herself.
Victoria, Princess Royal (1840-1901) married Frederick III Emperor of Germany and King of Prussia.
Edward VII (1841-1910) married Princess Alexandra, daughter of Christian IX King of Denmark.
Alice (1843-1878) married Louis IV, Grand Duke of Hesse.
Alfred Duke of Edinburgh and of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha(1844-1900) married Grand Duchess Marie daughter of Alexander II, Emperor of Russia.
Helena (1846-1923) married Christian of Schleswig-Holstein.
Louise (1848-1939) married John Campbell the 9th Duke of Argyll.
Arthur, Duke of Connaught (1850-1942) married Princess Louise of Prussia.
Leopold, Duke of Albany (1853-1884) married Helen of Waldeck – Pyrmont.
Princess Beatrice (1857-1944) married Henry of Battenburg.
When Europe was split apart by the First World War (1914-1918), it would see descendants of Victoria and Albert take up arms against each other.
Personal tragedy was to strike Queen Victoria down in 1861, when Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, Prince consort and her devoted partner for 21 years died, ripping her heart out, and sending her into mourning for many years.
If we look at the history timeline through the ages:
Queen Victoria’s son Edward VII (1841-1910) married Princess Alexandra of Denmark (1844-1925).
One of their five children, became George V (1865-1936) married Mary of Tech (1867-1953).
One of their six children, became Edward VIII King of England in 1936, as the eldest child, a time honoured custom, and chose to abdicate to marry Wallis Simpson.
So the next in line stepped forward, George VI (1895-1952) and married Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon (1900-2002).
One of their two children, became Queen Elizabeth II our current Queen.
Queen Victoria’s daughter Alice (1843-1878) married Louis IV of Hesse (1837-1892)
One of their two children Victoria of Hesse (1863-1950) marries Louis of Battenburg, 1st Marquess of Milford Haven (1854-1921).
One of their three children, Alice of Battenburg (1885-1967) marries Andrew of Greece (1882-1944).
Their only child is Philip Duke of Edinburgh who married Elizabeth II our current Queen.
As we can see both are descendants of Queen Victoria, and the timeline ever expands with each new birth.
In the early years, she learnt to rely on two men for guidance; Lord Melbourne, who was more like a father figure to her, like the father she never had, and her husband Prince Albert whom she married in 1840. These two men taught her how to rule the country, what powers she had and what was controlled by Parliament. This would help her understand her people, and create an Empire to be proud of, one for future generations.
One of her first acts that took place a few years after her marriage was to be the first reigning monarch, to ride upon the train as used by the public. Newspapers covered the journey with pictures, spread across the papers pages.
Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, between them had nine children. In 1845 they purchased Osborne House on the Isle of Wight, which was given to the nation by Edward VII, her son, and Prince Albert purchased Balmoral upon which was built a neo-Gothic styled castle for the family.
Victoria’s life fell apart in 1861, when her husband Albert died aged 42. She lost a devoted partner and friend, one she could trust with state affairs. She was never seen wearing anything but black, during the rest of her reign, she was in a permanent state of mourning.
From the 1860’s to the mid-1870’s, Victoria carried her state duties from behind closed doors. It was with the help of Benjamin Disraeli, she gradually resumed her public duties, many of which had been undertaken on her behalf by her son; Edward VII.
During her reign Queen Victoria became the target of seven unsuccessful assassinations attempts on her life. One of those took place in 1840, when Edward Oxford fired two shots at the young Queen, whilst riding in her open carriage with Prince Albert, near Buckingham Palace. Stunned onlookers seized the gunman, who was found not guilty by reason of insanity. Victoria just brushed herself down, and continued her ride amongst her people, which increased her popularity.
The Victoria Cross was introduced in 1857 to honour acts of bravery during the Crimean War.
In 1864, Queen Victoria stepped in to avert a second Franco-German war, with a letter to the German Emperor, whose son had married her daughter. What it is to have family connections in the right place.
The Indian Mutiny of 1857 saw the Indian Government transferred to that of the Crown, with the Governor General becoming the Viceroy of India. Then in 1877, Victoria became Empress of India under the Royal Titles Act by Disraeli’s government.
With the Sovereign power slowly reclining, she proved if one could master political understanding of politics, one could exert influence, as she demonstrated in her mediation between the Lords and Commons. In the Irish Church Disestablishment Act of 1869 and Reform Act of 1884. Often she was forced to pass her opinions in private only.
She favoured ways to improve the way of life for the poor; housing, education, hospitals, a subject close to her late husband’s heart.
On the 22nd January 1901, after a reign of almost 64 years, Queen Victoria died at Osborne House on the Isle of Wight. She was buried at Windsor Castle alongside her husband Prince Albert in the Frogmore Royal Mausoleum, built for their final resting place.
“Farewell best beloved, here at last I shall rest with thee, with thee in Christ I shall rise again.” These words were inscribed above the Mausoleums door.
After her death, a memorial statue was placed in front of Buckingham Palace, depicting a great Queen; Queen Victoria (1819-1901) who reigned from (1837-1901).