and Her Sisters
4 June, BBC TWO
was aged just l8 when she ascended the throne in 1837. She ruled
through not only a Golden but a Diamond Jubilee during an epoch
of almost unimaginable changes. In this, Queen Elizabeth II's Golden
Jubilee year, monarchy is more than ever under scrutiny and Victoria
and her Sisters sets Victoria in context as monarch, mother, champion
of family values, but a Queen not always in step with her times.
age which would bear her name," writes Schama, "would
see transformations in the lives of women which Victoria could never
have imagined in the dazzling springtime of her reign. Whether she
would welcome them, whether she would understand them; or whether
they would sweep right past her and her glass palace - well, that
remains to be seen."
and industrialisation rapidly reshaped the landscape and the social
structure of the age, to the horror of some - like Thomas Carlyle
and Augustus Pugin, who feared the age of the machine would destroy
the bonds holding community together - and the hope and excitement
of others, including Prince Albert.
and Pugin believed a return to faith was essential to rally against
the cruel face of the machine and the money-men. Pugin devoted his
short life to beautifying churches, but spiritual nourishment did
nothing to put bread on the tables of the needy millions. Their
plight was dramatised in the fiction of Elizabeth Gaskell, who saw
the contrast between the burgeoning metropolis and the factory floor.
"It would be a woman, Elizabeth Gaskell," says Schama,
"who would be the whistle-blower, the first of Victoria's sisters
to stick her neck out."
while The Queen and Prince Albert believed they had created a model
of unity in the machine age - the home and family - women were stepping
outside their role to find a new one in shaping society. Political
campaigners like Harriet Stuart Mill and Annie Besant, photographer
Julia Margaret Cameron, social health campaigners Mary Seacole and
doctor Elizabeth Garrett - all these sisters of change helped forge
a place for Victorian women outside the home.
too played out her role as an independent woman, but not out of
choice. Widowed at an early age, she ruled alone without her adored
Albert and made the era redolent with the ritual of death and mourning.
Victoria's death, riding with her body on the journey from London
to Windsor was the widow of one of her Viceroys of India, Lady Lytton.
Just eight years later, her daughter Constance, in prison as a suffragette,
would make her statement about the future of women in Britain by
carving, with a piece of broken enamel from a hairpin, the letter
V in to the flesh of her breast. But it wasn't V for Victoria -
it was V for Votes.
and directed by Martina Hall.
www.bbc.co.uk/history, explore the era on a virtual train journey
through the achievements of the Victorian age, or step inside the
interior of a Victorian room with the 360-degree panorama. Altruists
can play Muck and Brass to decide on the best ways to improve life
for citizens in an industrial town. Another game reveals the options
and rights available to Victorian women.
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