The Young Victoria
College: College of foreign languages
Key words: Young Victoria, Prince Albert , Duke ,Reign , Marriage
Victoria (Alexandrina Victoria; 24 May 1819 – 22 January 1901) was the monarch
of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland from 20 June 1837 until her
death. From 1 May 1876, she used the additional title of Empress of India.
Victoria was the daughter of Prince Edward, Duke of Kent and Strathearn, the fourth
son of King George III. Both the Duke of Kent and the King died in 1820, and Victoria was raised under close supervision by her German-born mother Princess Victoria of
Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld. She inherited the throne at the age of 18 after her father's three elder brothers died without surviving legitimate issue. The United Kingdom was already an established constitutional monarchy, in which the Sovereign held
relatively few direct political powers. Privately, she attempted to influence government policy and ministerial appointments. Publicly, she became a national icon, and was identified with strict standards of personal morality. She married her first cousin, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, in 1840. Their
nine children and 26 of their 34 grandchildren who survived childhood married into
royal and noble families across the continent, tying them together and earning her the nickname "the grandmother of Europe". After Albert's death in 1861, Victoria plunged into deep mourning and avoided public appearances. As a result of her seclusion, republicanism temporarily gained strength, but in the latter half of her reign, her popularity recovered. Her Golden and Diamond Jubilees were times
of public celebration.
Her reign of 63 years and 7 months, which is longer than that of any other British
monarch and the longest of any female monarch in history, is known as the Victorian
era. It was a period of industrial, cultural, political, scientific, and military change within the United Kingdom, and was marked by a great expansion of the British
Empire. She was the last British monarch of the House of Hanover; her son and
successor Edward VII belonged to the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha.
Birth and Family
Victoria's father was Prince Edward, Duke of Kent and Strathearn, the fourth son
of the reigning King of the United Kingdom, George III. The Duchess of Kent, Princess
Victoria of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld, was a German princess whose brother Leopold was
the widower of Princess Charlotte of Wales. Until 1819 Charlotte was the only
legitimate grandchild of George III. Her death in 1817 precipitated a succession crisis in the United Kingdom that brought pressure on the Duke of Kent to marry and have children. He married the Duchess in 1818, and their only child Victoria was born at 4.15 am on 24 May 1819 at Kensington Palace in London.
Victoria later described her childhood as "rather melancholy". Her mother was extremely protective, and Victoria was raised largely isolated from other children under the so called "Kensington System", an elaborate set of rules and protocols
devised by the Duchess and her ambitious and domineering comptroller, Sir John
Conroy, who was rumored to be the Duchess's lover.
Victoria turned 18 on 24 May 1837, and regency was avoided. On 20 June 1837, William
IV died at the age of 71, and Victoria became Queen of the United Kingdom. Official documents prepared on the first day of her reign described her as Alexandrina Victoria, but the first name was withdrawn at her own wish and not used again. At the time of her accession, the government was led by the prime minister Lord
Melbourne, who at once became a powerful influence on the politically inexperienced Queen, who relied on him for advice. At the start of her reign Victoria was popular, but her reputation suffered in an 1839 court intrigue when one of her mother's ladies-in-waiting, Lady Flora Hastings, developed an abdominal growth
that was widely rumored to be an out-of-wedlock pregnancy by Sir John Conroy. At public appearances, Victoria was hissed and jeered as "Mrs. Melbourne". In 1839, Melbourne resigned after Radicals and Tories (both of whom Victoria detested) voted against a Bill to suspend the constitution of Jamaica. At the time, it was customary
for the prime minister to appoint members of the Royal Household, who were usually
his political allies and their spouses. Victoria, advised by Melbourne, objected to their removal. Peel refused to govern under the restrictions imposed by the Queen, and consequently resigned his commission, allowing Melbourne to return to office.
Albert and Victoria felt mutual affection and the Queen proposed to him on 15 October
1839, just five days after he had arrived at Windsor. They were married on
10 February 1840, in the Chapel Royal of St. James's Palace, London.
Albert became an important political adviser as well as the Queen's companion, replacing Lord Melbourne as the dominant, influential figure in the first half of her life. Through Albert's mediation, relations between mother and daughter slowly improved.
During Victoria's first pregnancy in 1840, in the first few months of the marriage, 18-year-old Edward Oxford attempted to assassinate her while she was riding in a carriage with Prince Albert on her way to visit her mother. Oxford fired twice, but both bullets missed. He was tried for high treason and found guilty, but was
acquitted on the grounds of insanity. In the immediate aftermath of the attack,
Victoria's popularity soared, mitigating residual discontent over
the Hastings affair and the bedchamber crisis. Her daughter, also named Victoria,
was born on 21 November 1840. The Queen hated being pregnant, viewed breast-feeding with disgust, and thought newborn babies were ugly. Nevertheless, she and Albert had a further eight children.
Walter L. (2003) Queen Victoria, New York: Palgrave Macmillan
Stanley (1987) Victoria: Biography of a Queen, London: HarperCollins