death in 1817, the people began to worry about the royal succession.
Although the king had twelve living children, none of them had offspring who
were eligible to inherit the throne. After pressure from the Parliament and
the public, Edward married the German princess at the age 31. On May 24,
1819 the Duchess of Kent gave birth to a daughter. She was christened
Her father died shortly after her eighth
month in the world leaving Victoria to complete her childhood secluded from
the public eye with her mother.
In need of male guidance for the child, Sir
John Conroy of Ireland took Victoria as his own. The death of George IV in 1830
and the subsequent crowning of William IV brought concerns to the royal family.
When she took the throne, Victoria depended greatly upon her Prime Minister,
Lord Melbourne, of whom she was quite fond. Barely eighteen, she refused any
further influence from her domineering mother and ruled in her own stead.
Popular respect for the Crown was at low point at her coronation, but the modest
and straightforward young Queen won the hearts of her subjects. She wished to be
informed of political matters, although she had no direct input in policy
decisions. The Reform Act of 1832 had set the standard of legislative authority
residing in the House of Lords, with executive authority resting within a
cabinet formed of members of the House of Commons; the monarch was essentially
removed from the loop. She respected and worked well with Lord Melbourne, Prime
Minister in the early years of her reign, and England grew both socially and
There were romantic rumors floating around regarding the seemingly awkward
relationship shared by Victoria and Lord Melboune, suggesting that the two of
them were romantically involved, but they were dispelled by her involvement with
her cousin, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg, in February of 1840.
Victoria's long reign witnessed an evolution in English politics and the
expansion of the British Empire, which included Canada, Australia, India, New
Zealand, and large parts of Africa, as well as political and social reforms on
the continent. France had known two dynasties and embraced Republicanism, Spain
had seen three monarchs and both Italy and Germany had united their separate
principalities into national coalitions. Even in her dotage, she maintained a
youthful energy and optimism that infected the English population as a whole.
She was desperately in love and birthed nine children over eighteen years (four
sons and five daughters). Although the public and the House of Lords continued
to be skeptical of the German Prince, with the marriage came a change in
political focus within the palace. Albert replaced Lord Melboune as the leading
political advisor over Victoria and with him came more liberal ideals. For
example, Albert invited Lord Ashley to Buckingham Palace to share his
discoveries and ideas on child labor within Britain. (Although Victoria was not
supportive of this, she never questioned her husband.)
Victoria died at Osborne House on the Isle of Wight, on 22 January 1901 after a
reign which lasted almost 64 years, the longest in British history. She was
buried at Windsor beside Prince Albert, in the Frogmore Royal Mausoleum, which
she had built for their final resting place. The loss of her beloved husband
drove her out of England into isolation in Scotland where she would grieve. And
so she did for twenty-five long and controversial years.