Victorian England: Aspects of English and Imperial History, 1837-1901

By L. C. B. Seaman | Go to book overview
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21


Queen and Mother


May children of our children say,
‘She wrought her people lasting good;


Her court was pure; her life serene;
God gave her peace; her land reposed;
A thousand claims to reverence closed
In her as Mother, Wife and Queen.

TENNYSON, 1851

It is a sufficient measure of the length of Queen Victoria’s reign to recall that it began in the year that John Constable died and ended in the year that Walt Disney was born. Nothing but the fact that one reigning sovereign presided over the intervening years could give even the appearance of unity to a period that spanned the gap between two such different lives: one, creative of the still canvases that portrayed the vanishing rural landscape of pre-industrial England, and the other productive of the fast-moving celluloid antics and canned American squawks of Donald Duck. Yet the length of the Queen’s reign was not without its consequences. It provided the public mind with a sense of continuity with its past, which was none the less real for being wholly symbolic, and all the more valuable for contrasting so sharply with the dramatic social and economic changes by which that long reign had been marked. Much of the effusive verbiage occasioned by her two Jubilees in 1887 and 1897, and by her death in 1901, was in fact taken up with the astonished recital of all the changes that had occurred since 1837; but, informing most of what was written and said, was a hardly less astonished realization that, all through what had happened, one small, not very clever and certainly not very beautiful, woman had sat securely on the throne, her common

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