Britain’s second-longest reigning monarch and Empress of India was born in London in 1819 and ruled for nearly 64 years.

Queen Victoria Coronation portrait, 1838, by George Hayter.

George III’s only legitimate heir, Princess Charlotte of Wales died in childbirth in 1817, so her death sparked a constitutional crisis so all his unmarried sons were forced to give up their mistresses, find wives and have children, including Victoria’s father, Prince Edward, Duke of Kent, who married the widowed Princess Victoria of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld.

Their daughter was born at 4.15 am on on 24 May 2019 at Kensington Palace, ‘a pretty little Princess, plump as a partridge, according to her mother.

The Duke and Duchess of Kent proposed calling their daughter Georgiana, combining the regal names of George and Anne, but the Prince Regent (later George IV) objected and insisted the little princess was named after her godfather, Tsar Alexander I of Russia.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Charles Manners-Sutton, christened the little princess Alexandrina and Victoria after mother.

The little princess was fifth in the line of succession, after her three uncles, the Prince Regent, Frederick Duke of York, the Duke of Clarence (later William IV) and her father.

However, both George IV and the Duke of York had no children, but the Duke of Clarence had two daughters, Princess Charlotte of Clarence who was born and died on 27March 1819.

Victoria’s father died in January 1820, followed by George III about a week later, so she was third in the line of succession.

She was temporarily bumped down to fourth place when her cousin Princess Elizabeth of Clarence was born on 10 December 1820 and died about twelve weeks later on 4 Mach 1821.

Victoria was educated at home with private tutors, with lessons including languages French, German, Italian and Latin, played with her dolls and her spaniel, Dash.

However, she had a rather lonely childhood, as her rather pushy mother and her ambitious comptroller Sir John Conroy imposed the ‘Kensington System’, designed to isolate the princess so she was wholly dependent on them.

Despite this, Victoria enjoyed a close relationship with her older half-sister Feodora until the latter married Ernst I, Prince of Hohenlohe-Langenburg, in 1828, and moved to Germany.

They still kept in touch despite the distance until Feodora’s death in 1871.

William IV died on 20 June 1837, aged 71, just after midnight, so she became Queen of the United Kingdom, aged 18.

Lord Conynghim and the Archbishop of Canterbury arrived during the early hours to inform Victoria, without her mother or Sir John Conroy present.

She was the first British monarch to live in the newly refurbished Buckingham Palace, with Marble Arch, in the open courtyard, as she moved in soon after her accession.

Marriage

Victoria married her cousin, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha in the Chapel Royal at St James’s Palace on 10 February 1840.

They produced nine children who married into royal and noble families in Europe, earning the nickname, ‘the Grandmother of Europe’.

Marriage of Victoria and Albert, painted by George Hayter.

Yet Queen Victoria hated being pregnant, thought breast-feeding was disgusting and newborn babies were ugly, describing them like frogs.

However, Buckingham Palace was now becoming too small for Queen Victoria and Prince Albert’s growing family, so they sold Brighton Pavillon, to pay for the building of a new wing with the now-famous balcony, overlooking the Mall. (Marble Arch was later moved to Hyde Park.)

Albert’s Death

Prince Albert became ill with typhoid fever at Windsor Castle at the beginning of December and died on 14 December 1861, aged 42.

Queen Victoria was devastated as she had lost a devoted husband and her principal trusted adviser when it came to matters of state.

He was buried in the Royal Mausoleum at Frogmore.

She withdrew from public, entering in a long period of mourning, although she did not neglect her official correspondence and grant audiences to her ministers and official guests during this time.

Victoria was widely criticised for living in succession, giving rise to a strong republican movement during this time with several assassins making attacks on her life.

Empress of India

Family and several prime ministers encouraged Queen Victoria to return to a full public life, which she did in 1868 – the year of her Golden Jubilee which was marked with great displays and public ceremonies across the land.

She was proclaimed Empress on 1 January 1877 at a grand Durbar held in her honour, even though she was unable to attend in person.

Queen Victoria participated in a six-mile procession during her Diamond Jubilee in 1897, with troops from across the Empire lining the route, amidst celebrations focusing on her popularity.

Death

Victoria died at Osborn House on 22 January 1901, aged 81, with her son and heir, Edward, and her grandson Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany by her side.

She had reigned for nearly 64 years, the longest-reigning monarch until Elizabeth II beat her record on 9 September 2015.

She was buried beside her beloved Prince Albert in the Royal Mausoleum at Frogmore.

Frogmore Mausoleum. Photo: Gill Hicks [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Britain’s great age of industrial expansion, economic progress and empire occurred during Queen Victoria’s reign.

At the time of her death it was said that Britain had an empire where the sun never set.

The Australian states of Victoria and Queensland were named in her honour.

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