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QUEEN VICTORIA’S REIGN
Victoria (Alexandrina Victoria; 24 May 1819 – 22 January 1901) was the Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland from 20 June 1837, and the first Empress of India from 1 May 1876, until her death on 22 January 1901. Her reign lasted 63 years and seven months, longer than that of any other British monarch. The period centered on her reign is known as the Victorian era.
Victoria was the granddaughter of George III, and was a descendant of most major European royal houses. She arranged marriages for her children and grandchildren across the continent, tying Europe together. She was the last British monarch of the House of Hanover. Her son King Edward VII belonged to the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha.
Though Victoria ascended the throne at a time when the United Kingdom was already an established constitutional monarchy in which the king or queen held few political powers, she still served as a very important symbolic figure of her time. The Victorian era represented the height of the Industrial Revolution, a period of significant social, economic, and technological progress in the United Kingdom. Victoria's reign was marked by a great expansion of the British Empire; during this period it reached its zenith, becoming the foremost global power of the time.
At the age of 50, Edward, the Duke of Kent and Strathearn, the fourth son of George III, married a widow, Princess Victoria of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld. Victoria, the couple's only child, was born in Kensington Palace, London on 24 May 1819. At birth she was fifth in line for the British crown, but her grandfather was elderly, and his children had failed to produce legitimate issue.
Victoria was christened in the Cupola Room of Kensington Palace on 24 June 1819 by the Archbishop of Canterbury (Charles Manners-Sutton). Her godparents were the Prince Regent, the Emperor Alexander I of Russia (in whose honour she received her first name), Princess Charlotte, Princess Royal and the Dowager Duchess of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld. Although christened Alexandrina Victoria - and from birth formally styled Her Royal Highness Princess Victoria of Kent - Victoria was called Drina within the family. She was taught German, English, Italian, Greek, Chinese, and French, arithmetic, music and her favourite subject, history. Her teachers were the Reverend George Davys and Baroness Louise Lehzen, her governess. When she learned from Baroness Lehzen that one day she could be queen, Victoria replied, 'I will be good.'
Victoria's father died after a brief illness, just eight months after she was born. Her grandfather, King George III, died six days later. Her uncle, the Prince of Wales, inherited the Crown, becoming King George IV, but he died too when Victoria was only 11. The crown now passed to his brother, the Duke of Clarence and St Andrews, who became King William IV.
King George III's eldest son, the Prince of Wales and future King George IV, had only one child, Princess Charlotte Augusta of Wales. When she died in 1817 the remaining unmarried sons of King George III scrambled to marry and father children to guarantee the line of succession.
Although William was the father of ten illegitimate children by his mistress, the actress Dorothy Jordan, he had no surviving legitimate children. As a result, the young Princess Victoria, his niece, became heiress presumptive.
The law at the time made no special provision for a child monarch. Therefore, a Regent needed to be appointed if Victoria were to succeed to the throne before coming at the age of eighteen. Parliament passed the Regency Act 1830, which provided that Victoria's mother, the Duchess of Kent and Strathearn, would act as Regent during the queen's minority. Parliament did not create a council to limit the powers of the Regent. King William disliked the Duchess and, on at least one occasion, stated that he wanted to live until Victoria's 18th birthday, so a regency could be avoided.
On 24 May 1837 Victoria turned 18, meaning that a regency was no longer necessary. On 20 June 1837, Victoria was awakened by her mother to find that William IV had died from heart failure at the age of 71. In her diary Victoria wrote, 'I was awoke at 6 o'clock by Mamma …who told me the Archbishop of Canterbury and Lord Conyngham were here and wished to see me. I got out of bed and went into my sitting-room (only in my dressing gown) alone, and saw them. Lord Conyngham then acquainted me that my poor Uncle, the King, was no more, and had expired at 12 minutes past 2 this morning, and consequently that I am Queen…' Victoria was now Queen of the United Kingdom. Her coronation took place on 28 June 1838.
Queen Victoria, the first monarch to reside at Buckingham Palace, moved into the newly completed palace upon her accession in 1837
Victoria's principal adviser was her uncle King Leopold I of Belgium (her mother's brother, and the widower of Princess Charlotte). Queen Victoria's cousins, through Leopold, were King Leopold II of Belgium and Empress Carlota of Mexico.
MARRIAGE AND ASSASINATION ATTEMPTS
Princess Victoria met her future husband, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. As a monarch, Victoria had to propose to him. So, the Queen married her first cousin, Prince Albert, on 10 February 1840, in the Chapel Royal of St. James's Palace, London. Albert became not only the Queen's companion, but also an important political advisor, replacing Lord Melbourne as the dominant figure in the first half of her life. Their marriage proved to be very happy.
During Victoria's first pregnancy, eighteen-year old Edward Oxford attempted to assassinate the Queen while she was riding in a carriage with Prince Albert in London. Oxford fired twice, but both bullets missed. He was tried for high treason, but was acquitted on the grounds of insanity.
On 29 May at St. James's Park, John Francis fired a pistol at the Queen while she was in a carriage, but was immediately seized by Police Constable William Trounce. Francis was convicted of high treason. The death sentence was commuted to transportation for life.
On 13 June 1842, Victoria made her first journey by train, travelling from Slough railway station (near Windsor Castle) to Bishop's Bridge, near Paddington (in London), in a special royal carriage provided by the Great Western Railway. Accompanying her were her husband and the engineer of the Great Western line, Isambard Kingdom Brunel. The Queen and Albert, Prince Consort, both complained the train was going far too fast at 20 mph (30 km/h), fearing the train would fall off the railway line.
On 3 July, just a few days after Francis' sentence was commuted, another boy, John William Bean, attempted to shoot the Queen. Prince Albert felt that the attempts were encouraged by Oxford's acquittal in 1840. He encouraged Parliament to pass the Treason Act of 1842. Under the new law, an assault with a dangerous weapon in the monarch's presence with the intent of alarming her was made punishable by seven years imprisonment and flogging
Victoria was a strong supporter of the Irish. She supported the Maynooth Grant – which was a major British political controversy of the 1840s - and made a point going to Ireland by visiting the seminary.
Victoria's first official visit to Ireland, in 1849, was specifically arranged by Lord Clarendon, the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, the head of the British administration, to try both to draw attention off the famine and also to alert British politicians through the Queen's presence to the seriousness of the crisis in Ireland. Despite the negative impact of the famine on the Queen's popularity she remained popular enough for nationalists.
Albert, the Prince Consort, died of typhoid fever on 14 December 1861 due to the primitive sanitary conditions of Windsor Castle. His death devastated Victoria, who entered a state of mourning and wore black for the remainder of her life. She avoided public appearances and rarely set foot in London in the following years. Her seclusion earned her the name 'Widow of Windsor'.
Victoria's self-imposed isolation from the public greatly diminished the popularity of the monarchy, and even encouraged the growth of the republican movement. Although she did undertake her official government duties, she chose to remain secluded in her royal residences, Balmoral Castle in Scotland, Osborne House on the Isle of Wight and Windsor Castle. During this time, one of the most important pieces of legislation of the nineteenth century — the Reform Act 1867 — was passed by Parliament. Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli was a staunch supporter of the expansion and preservation of the British Empire. He introduced the Royal Titles Act 1876 which created Queen Victoria Empress of India, raising her from queen to empress, the same level as the German Emperor and the Russian Tsar for the purposes of protocol.
As time went by, Victoria began to rely increasingly on a manservant from Scotland, John Brown. A romantic connection and even a secret marriage have been alleged, but both charges are generally discredited. However, when Victoria's remains were laid in the coffin, two sets of mementoes were placed with her, at her request. By her side was placed one of Albert's dressing gowns while in her left hand was placed a piece of Brown's hair, along with a picture of him. Rumours of an affair and marriage earned Victoria the nickname 'Mrs. Brown'. The story of their relationship was the subject of the 1997 movie Mrs. Brown.
In 1887, the British Empire celebrated Victoria's Golden Jubilee. Victoria marked the fiftieth anniversary of her accession, 20 June 1887, with a banquet to which 50 European kings and princes were invited. Although she could not have been aware of it, there was a plan - ostensibly by Irish anarchists - to blow up Westminster Abbey while the Queen attended a service of thanksgiving. This assassination attempt, when it was discovered, became known as The Jubilee Plot. On the next day, she participated in a procession that, in the words of Mark Twain, 'stretched to the limit of sight in both directions'. By this time, Victoria was once again an extremely popular monarch.
On 22 September 1896, Victoria surpassed George III as the longest reigning monarch in English, Scottish, and British history. The Queen requested all special public celebrations of the event to be delayed until 1897, to coincide with her Diamond Jubilee. The Colonial Secretary, Joseph Chamberlain, proposed that the Diamond Jubilee be made a festival of the British Empire.
The Prime Ministers of all the self-governing dominions and colonies were invited. The Queen's Diamond Jubilee procession included troops from every British colony and dominion, together with soldiers sent by Indian Princes and Chiefs as a mark of respect to Victoria, the Empress of India. The Diamond Jubilee celebration was an occasion marked by great outpourings of affection for the septuagenarian Queen. A service of thanksgiving was held outside St. Paul's Cathedral. Queen Victoria sat in her carriage throughout the service. Queen Victoria wore her usual black mourning dress trimmed with white lace.
Jubilee silver double florin of Queen Victoria, struck 1887
Obverse: (Latin) VICTORIA DEI GRATIA, or in English, 'Victoria, by the Grace of God.' This coin depicts the queen and was struck in the year of her Golden Jubilee.
Reverse: (Latin) BRITT[ANIA] REG[INA] 1887 FID[EI] DEF[ENSOR], or in English, Queen of Britain, 1887, Defender of the Faith. Clockwise from the top, the arms of England, Ireland, England (again), and Scotland.
Queen Victoria in her Diamond
Jubilee photograph. London, 1897
DEATH AND SUCCESION
Following a custom, she maintained throughout her widowhood Victoria spent Christmas. Queen Victoria died at Osborne House on the Isle of Wight from a cerebral hemorrhage on 22 January 1901, at the age of 81. Her funeral was held on 2 February, and after two days of lying-in-state, she was interred beside Prince Albert in the Frogmore Mausoleum at Windsor Great Park. Since Victoria disliked black funerals, London was instead festooned in purple and white. Victoria had reigned for a total of 63 years, seven months and two days - the longest of any British monarch; also, her reign created for Britain the concept of the 'family monarchy' with which the burgeoning middle classes could identify.
Innovations of the Victorian era include postage stamps, the first of which - the Penny Black (issued 1840) - featured an image of the Queen, and the railway, which Victoria was the first British Sovereign to ride.
Several places in the world have been named after Victoria, including two Australian States (Victoria and Queensland), the capitals of British Columbia (Victoria, British Columbia), and Saskatchewan (Regina), the capital of the Seychelles, Africa's largest lake, and Victoria Falls.
Queen Victoria remains the most commemorated British monarch in history, with statues to her erected throughout the former territories of the British Empire, such as the Victoria Memorial outside Buckingham Palace. Also, there is a bust of the Queen in the town of Cape Coast, Ghana. Many institutions, thoroughfares, parks, and structures bear her name.
The Victoria Memorial - in front of Buckingham Palace - London
The Statue of Queen Victoria in Cubban Park in Bangalore, India
Victoria's death brought an end to the rule of the House of Hanover in the United Kingdom. As her husband belonged to the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, her son and heir Edward VII was the first British monarch of this new house.
A statue of Victoria now stands in George Square, Glasgow
The middle of the century saw The Great Exhibition of 1851, the first World's Fair and showcased the greatest innovations of the century. At its centre was The Crystal Palace, an enormous, modular glass and iron structure - the first of its kind. This came later to be presented as the prototype of Modern architecture. The emergence of photography, which was showcased at the Great Exhibition, resulted in significant changes in Victorian art. It later became associated with the Impressionistic and Social Realist techniques that would dominate the later years of the period in the work of artists such as Walter Sickert and Frank Holl.
Prior to the Industrial Revolution, Britain had a very rigid social structure consisting of four distinct classes: the Church and aristocracy, the middle class, and the working class.
The government consisted of a constitutional monarchy headed by Queen Victoria. Only the royalty could rule. Other politicians came from the aristocracy. The system was criticised by many as being in favour of the upper classes, and during the late 18th century, philosophers and writers began to question the social status of the nobility.
The mid-Victorian period also witnessed significant social changes: an evangelical revival occurred alongside a series of legal changes in women's rights. While women were not enfranchised during the Victorian period, they did gain the legal right to their property upon marriage through the Married Women's Property Act, the right to divorce, and the right to fight for custody of their children upon separation.
The Victorian era of the United Kingdom marked the height of the British Industrial Revolution and the apex of the British Empire. Queen Victoria had the longest reign in British history, and the cultural, political, economic, industrial and scientific changes that occurred during her reign were remarkable. When Victoria ascended to the throne, Britain was primarily agrarian and rural (though it was even then the most industrialised country in the world); upon her death, the country was highly industrialised and connected by an expansive railway network. Discoveries by Charles Lyell and Charles Darwin began to examine centuries of the assumptions about man and the world, about science and history, and, finally, about religion and philosophy.
Another great engineering feat in the Victorian Era was the sewage system in London. It was designed by Joseph Bazalgette in 1858. During the Victorian era, science grew into the discipline it is today. In addition to the increasing professionalism of university science, many Victorian gentlemen devoted their time to the study of natural history. Photography was realized in 1839 by Louis Daguerre in France and William Fox Talbot in England. By 1900, hand-held cameras were available. Although initially developed in the early years of the 19th century, gas lighting became widespread during the Victorian era in industry, homes, public buildings and the streets. The invention of the incandescent gas mantle in the 1890s greatly improved light output and ensured its survival as late as the 1960s. Hundreds of gas works were constructed in cities and towns across the country. In 1882, incandescent electric lights were introduced to London streets, although it took many years before they were installed everywhere.
The period is often characterised as a long period of peace and economic, colonial, and industrial consolidation.
Brunel's Clifton Suspension Bridge in Bristol
Popular forms of entertainment vary by socio-economic class. Victorian England, like the periods before it, was interested in theatre and the arts. Music, drama, and opera were widely attended. There were, however, other forms of entertainment. Gambling at cards in establishments popularly called casinos was wildly popular during the period—so much so that evangelical and reform movements specifically targeted such establishments in their efforts to stop gambling, drinking, and prostitution. Brass bands and 'The bandstand' became popular in the Victorian era typically associated with the British brass band. The band stand is a simple construction which not only creates an ornamental focal point, it also serves acoustic requirements whilst providing shelter from the changeable British weather. It was common to hear the sound of a brass band whilst strolling through parklands. At this time musical recording was still very much a novelty.
Another form of entertainment involved 'spectacles' where paranormal events, such as hypnotism, communication with the dead (by way of mediumship or channelling), ghost conjuring and the like, were carried out to the delight of crowds and participants. Such activities were very popular during this time compared to others in recent Western history.
- A law is passed to ban women and children working in mines.
- Around 2 000 people a week die in a cholera epidemic.
- The Great Exhibition (the first World's Fair) is held in The Crystal Palace, with great success and international attention.
- Charles Darwin publishes 'The Origin of Species', which leads to great religious doubt and insecurity.
- Prince Albert dies; Queen Victoria refuses to go out in public for many years, and when she does she wears a widow's bonnet instead of the crown.
- Education becomes free for every child under 13.
Victoria was the Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland from 20 June 1837 until 22 January 1901.
The period centered on her reign is known as the Victorian era.
In the first chapter I talked about the early life of Queen Victoria. Then, about heiress to the throne. The third chapter – a very important one – is about Victoria’s early reign. When she turned 18, on 24 May 1837 the regency was no longer necessary and on 20 June 1837 she was told that her father had died. So, Victoria was now Queen of the United Kingdom. Her coronation took place on 28 June 1838.
Chapter four speaks about Victoria’s marriage and assasination attempts that took place a few years after she became the Queen. Despite all this unpleasant events, she remained unchanged on her position.
In the next chapters I talked about Victoria’s relations whith Ireland, Prince Albert’s death, about later years of her reign, the Diamond Jubilee and Queen’s death and succesion. Chapters ten, eleven and twelve are about culture, science, technology, engineering and entertainment. I finished whith some significand events during Queen Victoria’s reign.
The conclusion is that there was not such period in human’s history, when science discoveries had changed so rapidly habits, ideas and even the sceneries as in this nineteen century beginning. The Victorian era of the United Kingdom marked the height of the British Industrial Revolution and the apex of the British Empire. Queen Victoria had the longest reign in British history, and the cultural, political, economic, industrial and scientific changes that occurred during her reign were remarkable.
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