Bios

Queen Victoria

Queen Victoria is Britain's longest reigning monarch, on the throne for 64 years.

Alexandrina Victoria Wettin, of the Royal House of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, was the daughter of Edward Augustus, Duke of Kent, the fourth son of King George III, and Princess Victoria of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfield.

Victoria was born on 24 May 1819 at Kensington Palace in London. She was fifth in line to the throne after her father and his three brothers at this time but they all died without legitimate children.

Her childhood was quite isolated as her mother was extremely protective until 1830, when she became the heir presumptive, and travelled the country being welcomed by the ordinary people despite Victoria not liking these journeys.

In 1837, at the age of eighteen, she ascended to the throne following the death of her uncle King William IV. In her early days, she was largely dependent for advice on the Prime Minister, William Lamb, Viscount Melbourne, with whom she forged a strong relationship.

Victoria met Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha when she was just sixteen, and found him appealing even then, and their families wanted to unite them. After their first meeting, she wrote: "[Albert] is extremely handsome; his hair is about the same colour as mine; his eyes are large and blue, and he has a beautiful nose and a very sweet mouth with fine teeth; but the charm of his countenance is his expression, which is most delightful." They were married on 10 February 1840.

During the first few months of her first pregnancy in 1840, Edward Oxford attempted to assassinate her while she was travelling in a carriage with Prince Albert. Oxford fired at the monarch twice but missed. He was tried for high treason and found guilty before being acquitted on grounds of insanity. The attempt on Victoria's life made her more popular with the English people.

Despite there being some friction between the royal couple at first, because Albert wished to take an active role in the administration of the realm, they eventually reached a compromise, and their marriage became an outstandingly happy one.

The couple had nine children. In 1853, she became the first monarch to use an anaesthetic, in the form of chloroform, while giving birth to her eighth child Leopold. She was so impressed by the pain relief that she used it again in 1857 when delivering her final child Beatrice despite the clergy being against the chemical as it went against biblical teachings.

The eldest, Bertie (Albert), was wild in his youth, and Victoria blamed the trouble he caused for her husband's death from typhoid fever, in 1861, at the age of 42. Victoria was completely devastated by Albert’s death, withdrawing from public life.

Relying increasingly on a Scottish retainer, John Brown, Victoria developed a reputation (which she did not altogether deserve) for being stern and lacking in humour.

Her favourite Prime Minister, Benjamin Disraeli, persuaded her to assume the title "Empress of India," reflecting the fact that she had presided over a massive expansion of the British Empire and the continued rise of Britain as an industrial power.

Later, in 1887, her golden jubilee brought her to new heights of popularity, and she went on to celebrate a diamond jubilee ten years later.

Victoria died in 1901, on the Isle of Wight. She was Queen of the United Kingdom for a record sixty-three years, seven months, and two days.