Victoria, Queen of Great Britain

Victoria, Queen of Great Britain
   Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland from 1837 until her death, Victoria was the central icon of the nineteenth-century British Empire. A granddaughter through one of the younger sons of George III, she inherited the throne at the age of 18 on the death of her uncle William IV. Raised in deliberate isolation from her scandal-ridden Hanoverian relatives, she was initially popular, and her tutors made a deliberate point of emphasizing her Englishness, in contradistinction to the German heritage of her ancestors. Although later in her reign Victoria acquired a reputation for being pro-Tory, she was initially influenced by her first prime minister, the Whig Lord Melbourne. Victoria married Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg, to whom she was devoted, in 1840. Victoria had nine children, many of whom married into other royal families, with the result that by the end of her reign, she had some familial connection to most of the royal houses in Europe. Victoria’s eldest son became Edward VII. Albert’s death in 1861 plunged Victoria into a deep depression, from which she emerged only slowly and grudgingly. Her reluctance to perform her royal duties led to a brief republican movement in the early 1870s, led by among others Sir Charles Dilke.
   Victoria took a particular liking to the Tory prime minister of that decade, Benjamin Disraeli, a liking accentuated by the Royal Titles Act, making her Empress of India. She also developed, and failed entirely to dissemble, a dislike for William Gladstone; she was more comfortable with his successor, the Tory peer Lord Salisbury. Victoria fostered a close relationship between the crown and military, taking a close interest in the campaigns and in the welfare of the soldiery during the Crimean War and again during the Boer War of 1899–1902, and taking a personal part in the creation of the Victoria Cross during the former. Victoria did much to create the image of the royal family as an exemplar of bourgeois domesticity, notwithstanding the racier life led by her son, Edward VII. Victoria’s silver and diamond jubilees of 1887 and 1897 were celebrations not merely of her reign but of the empire. An imperial theme, complete with colorful displays and troops from around the empire, was deliberately chosen for the diamond jubilee of 1897. For a woman who lived through years of massive change, her name remains somewhat unfairly associated with old-fashioned prudery; her name is more accurately associated with imperial Britain at its height.
   See also <>.
    Charlot, Monica. Victoria: The Young Queen. Oxford: Blackwell, 1991;
    Weintraub, Stanley. Victoria: An Intimate Biography. New York: Dutton, 1987.

Encyclopedia of the Age of Imperialism, 1800–1914. 2014.

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