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Victoria, Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland

the second longest reigning monarch in British history, to date

Victoria ruled for 63 years, from 1837 to 1901, a reign so long that an entire period of British (and, to some extent, world) history is named for her -- The Victorian Era. In this era, Great Britain reached the height of its power. The Victorian Age featured great industrial expansion at home and imperial expansion abroad. Popular respect for the Crown was at a low point at her coronation, but Victoria's modesty and straightforwardness won the hearts of her subjects, and today she is still one of the most popular of all British monarchs.

Victoria Regina, by Thomas Sully, 1838
Victoria Regina, by Thomas Sully, 1838

Her Life

Alexandria Victoria was born at Kensington Palace on May 24, 1819, the only child of Edward, Duke of Kent, fourth son of George III, and of Victoria Maria Louisa, daughter of Francis, Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld. Her father died before she was a year old, and she was reared by her mother. Kept in almost complete isolation from the rest of the royal family while growing up, Victoria did not even know she was in line for the throne until she was 12 years old.

Victoria succeeded to the throne upon the death of her uncle, King William IV, on June 20, 1837, and was crowned at Westminster Abbey on June 28, 1838. When she came to the throne, the union between Britain and the Kingdom of Hanover (in Germany) ended, because a woman could not occupy the Hanoverian throne.

Coronation of Queen Victoria
Coronation of Queen Victoria

In February, 1840, Victoria married her cousin, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. The couple had four sons and five daughters -- Princess Royal Victoria (1840) married the Crown Prince of Prussia and gave birth to the Emperor William II; Edward, the Prince of Wales (1841), succeeded his mother as Edward VII; Princess Alice (1843) became Grand Duchess of Hesse; Prince Alfred (1844) became the Duke of Edinburgh and Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha; Princess Helena (1846); Princess Louise (1848) became the Duchess of Argyll; Prince Arthur (1850) became the Duke of Connaught; Prince Leopold (1853) became the Duke of Albany; and, Princess Beatrice (1837).

Prince Consort, Albert of Saxe-Coburg
Prince Consort, Albert of Saxe-Coburg

The Queen and Prince Albert with their three oldest children
The Queen and Prince Albert at Home

Prince Albert died in 1861, and Victoria spent much of the rest of her life in mourning and away from social affairs. Avoiding London, she lived for the most part at Osborne on the Isle of Wight, and at Balmoral in Scotland. She did not come out of seclusion until 1887, when Britain celebrated her Golden Jubilee (50th year of reign).

Queen Victoria died at her home on the Isle of Wight on January 22, 1901.

Major Events of Her Reign

Although she could not actively participate in the governing of her kingdom, Queen Victoria insisted on being kept informed about ongoing affairs and was always prepared to offer her opinions when she felt them necessary.

The railroad, telegraph, and telephone came to England during Victoria's reign. Of the three, Victoria made the most use of the railroad, which she used to travel to her country houses at Osborne in the Isle of Wight and at Balmoral in the Highlands of Scotland.

The Great Exhibition of 1851 was one of Prince Albert's projects. The old Houses of Parliament had burnt down and the problems connected with the building of the new Houses suggested to Sir Robert Peel the desirability of a royal commission to consider the best means of promoting the arts and sciences. He invited Albert to preside over the commission and its work suggested to the prince the idea of the Exhibition. Held in the Crystal Palace, the Exhibition led to the creation of the Museum and the Science and Art Department at South Kensington, and to the founding of art schools and picture galleries all over the country.

With considerable prodding from Victoria, Parliament passed acts improving labor conditions, making education compulsory, and reforming the civil service.

In Ireland, the Anglican Church was disestablished and the land system reformed.

The British seized control of Egypt and many other areas. The colonies in British North America and Australia were federated and became powerful, self-governing states.

Other Major Events

1837 Small rebellions broke out in Canada.
1839-1842 Britain fought the Opium War in China.
1840 Upper and Lower Canada were united and given self-government.
1854-1856 Britain fought in the Crimean War.
1857 A mutiny broke out in India. The following year, India was transferred from the East India Company to government control.
1877 Victoria was proclaimed Empress of India.
1899-1902 South African War.

Queen Victoria at age 66
Queen Victoria at age 66


Victorian Station

See Also

George III
William IV
Edward VII
Sepoy Mutiny

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The Robinson Library >> England >> Victorian Era

This page was last updated on February 10, 2019.