Ward's Book of Days.

Pages of interesting anniversaries.

What happened on this day in history.

MAY 24th  

On this day in history in 1819, was born Queen Victoria.

Victoria was queen for sixty-three years, the longest reign of any British monarch. She presided over the Victorian era but her outlook and habits were decidedly not Victorian.

Victoria was the daughter of Edward, fourth son of George III, who married hastily in order to provide an heir to the throne. When Princess Charlotte, daughter of George IV,  died in 1817, there was no obvious legitimate heir. Those princes, senior to Prince Edward, had either produced no heirs or had large families of illegitimate children. When Victoria was told, at the age of ten, that it was inevitable that she would succeed her uncle, William IV, she winsomely replied “I will be good.” 

In the early hours of the morning of June 20th 1837, a date (or one near to it) now celebrated as the Queen’s Birthday, Victoria received a call from the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Lord Chamberlain to inform her that King William was dead and that she was now queen. The Privy Council were most impressed by the young queen’s grace and demeanour, and gratified by her unwillingness to involve herself in politics and to leave the government to them.  

Victoria moved into Buckingham Palace, refusing her mother permission to join her, and for the first time in her life, was able to run an independent life. She was advised to look for a husband and was courted by several suitors before she eventually proposed to and was accepted by Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg. With Albert, Victoria had nine children although she is known to have detested childbirth and disliked children. She had a distant relationship with all her children, but she favoured her eldest daughter Vicky the most, until Vicky left to marry the heir to the German throne and Victoria never saw her daughter again.  However, Victoria always maintained the pretence of maintaining family values, by having family portraits painted and having the children paraded in public on state occasions. This was standard in the Victorian Age, where motherhood and the family were idealised and Victoria herself was seen as the mother of the nation and Empire.  

When Albert died, Victoria went into deep mourning and was rarely seen by the public. She attracted much criticism for her behaviour but survived calls for her deposition and outbreaks of republican vehemence. Her dalliance with her manservant, John Brown, although not as serious as some critics have conjectured, was kept a close secret in order not to offend Victorian sensibilities.  

Victoria was at odds with many other Victorian values.  She deplored industrialisation and the railways, but she was prepared to use the Royal Train for her excursions to Balmoral and other country retreats. Victoria kept the carriage blinds drawn on her journeys to avoid viewing the most industrialised and less savoury parts of her kingdom. She hated the rise of democracy and felt that she should be able to appoint a Prime Minister of her own choosing. She was aghast at the passing of the Married Women’s Property Acts, saying that they would undermine the basis of the family, of which the man was the head.  She relished the trappings of monarchy, particularly the title Empress of India, but, during her reign, the Crown lost all but the semblance of power.  

Victoria was known for her detached manner. In her letters, she refers to herself as ‘the queen’ and used the personal pronoun substitute ‘We’ instead of ‘I’. One of her famous sayings is “We are not amused”. 

Victoria died in 1901 in the presence of her son-in-law, the German Kaiser Wilhelm.  Thirteen years later, Britain would be at war with Wilhelm’s Germany. Victoria would not have been amused!

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