Victoria (queen of Great Britain and Ireland)

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.
Save to active project

Victoria (queen of Great Britain and Ireland)

Victoria (Alexandrina Victoria) (ăl´Ĭgzăndrē´nə), 1819–1901, queen of Great Britain and Ireland (1837–1901) and empress of India (1876–1901). She was the daughter of Edward, duke of Kent (fourth son of George III), and Princess Mary Louise Victoria of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld.

Early Reign

Victoria's father died before she was a year old. Upon the death (1830) of George IV, she was recognized as heir to the British throne, and in 1837, at the age of 18, she succeeded her uncle, William IV, to the throne. With the accession of a woman, the connection between the English and Hanoverian thrones ceased in accordance with the Salic law of Hanover. One of the young queen's advisers was Baron Stockmar, sent by her uncle, King Leopold I of the Belgians.

Her first prime minister, Viscount Melbourne, became her close friend and adviser. In 1839, when Melbourne's Whig cabinet resigned, Victoria refused to dismiss her Whig ladies of the bedchamber, the accepted gesture of confidence in the incoming party. The Tory leader, Sir Robert Peel, declined to form a cabinet, and Melbourne remained in office.

Marriage to Albert

In 1840, Victoria married her first cousin, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. Albert, with whom she was very much in love, became the dominant influence in her life. Her first child, Victoria, later empress of Germany, was born in 1840, and the prince of Wales, later Edward VII, in 1841. Victoria had nine children. Their marriages and those of her grandchildren allied the British royal house with those of Russia, Germany, Greece, Denmark, Romania, and several of the German states.

Through Albert's efforts, Victoria was reconciled with the Tories, and she became very fond of Peel during his second ministry (1841–46). She was less happy with the Whig ministry that followed, taking particular exception to the adventurous foreign policy of Viscount Palmerston. The resulting friction was a factor in Palmerston's dismissal from office in 1851. The queen and Albert also influenced the formation of Lord Aberdeen's coalition government in 1852. Royal popularity was increased by the success of the Crystal Palace exposition (1851), planned and carried through by Albert.

It began to wane again, however, when it was rumored on the eve of the Crimean War that the royal couple was pro-Russian. After the outbreak (1854) of the war, Victoria took part in the organization of relief for the wounded and instituted the Victoria Cross for bravery. She also reconciled herself to Palmerston, who became prime minister in 1855 and proved a vigorous war leader.

Widowhood and Later Years

In 1861, Albert (who had been named prince consort in 1857) died. Victoria's grief was so great that she did not appear in public for three years and did not open Parliament until 1866; her prolonged seclusion damaged her popularity. Her reappearance was largely the work of Benjamin Disraeli, who, together with William Gladstone, dominated the politics of the latter part of Victoria's reign.

Disraeli, adroit in his personal relations with Victoria, became the queen's great favorite. In 1876 he secured for her the title empress of India, which pleased her greatly; she was ardently imperialistic and intensely interested in the welfare of her colonial subjects, particularly the Indians. Victoria's relations with Gladstone, on the other hand, were very stiff; she disliked him personally and disapproved of many of his policies, especially Irish Home Rule.

In her old age, Victoria was enormously popular. Jubilees were held in 1887 and 1897 to celebrate the 50th and 60th years of the longest English reign. The queen was not highly intelligent, but her conscientiousness and strict morals helped to restore the prestige of the crown and to establish it as a symbol of public service and imperial unity.

Bibliography

See her letters (9 vol., 1907–30); The Girlhood of Queen Victoria (extracts from her journal, ed. by Lord Esher, 1912); biographies by L. Strachey (1921, repr. 1960), S. Weintraub (1987), and D. Thompson (1990); C. Hibbert, Queen Victoria: A Personal History (2001); G. Gill, We Two, Victoria and Albert: Rulers, Partners, Rivals (2009).

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Victoria (queen of Great Britain and Ireland)
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?