Who was Queen Victoria?
Queen for an age
People all over the world know the name of Queen Victoria. She is probably the most famous queen in history. She was Queen of a vast empire, as well as of Britain. A long period of history is named after her - the Victorian Age.
What does 'Victorian' mean?
It means 'to do with Victoria'. It's an adjective used to describe people and things from her time. Victoria was Queen for over 60 years. Many things happened during her life. We talk about 'Victorian' buildings or 'Victorian' furniture. This doesn't mean that Queen Victoria made them herself! It usually means something dates from the 1800s.
When did she live?
Victoria was born in 1819. She became Queen in 1837 when she was 18. Her reign lasted for more than 60 years. Queen Victoria was born early in the 19th century. She lived to see the start of the 20th century, dying in January 1901.
The little princess
Victoria was born on 24 May 1819 at Kensington Palace in London. Her full name was Alexandrina Victoria. Her mother called her 'Drina'.
Her father was Edward, Duke of Kent. He was a son of King George III.
Victoria's mother was German. She was Princess Maria Louisa Victoria of Saxe-Coburg.
I will be good
Victoria's father died when she was a baby, on 23 January 1820. A few days later (29 January), King George III died. Victoria's uncle became King George IV.
Neither King George nor his brother King William IV (king from 1830) had any legitimate children. Victoria was next in line. She knew one day she would be Queen. 'I will be good' she promised.
Growing up in a palace
Although they lived in a palace, Princess Victoria and her mother were not very rich. Her uncles King George and King William did not often visit her. Uncle Leopold, King of Belgium, sent her presents.
Did she go to school?
Victoria did not go to school. Her German governess gave her lessons. Victoria grew up speaking German as well as English.
Victoria was never left alone. But with no friends of her own age, the little princess was lonely. She played with dolls. She was good at maths, music and drawing. She had a pony called Rosa and a spaniel dog called Dash.
On her 17th birthday, Victoria was pleased to meet visitors from Germany. They were her cousins Ernest and Albert.
She liked Albert very much.
Victoria and Albert
Long live the Queen
In June 1837, King William IV died. Victoria was told early in the morning. She was now Queen. She met the prime minister, and lots of other important people.
28 June 1838 was coronation day. Victoria was crowned in Westminster Abbey. People cheered and shouted 'Long live the Queen!' The coronation lasted 5 hours, and everyone got tired. One very old nobleman tripped and rolled on the floor. His name was Lord Rolle!
Albert comes to call
In October 1839 cousin Albert came to visit again. Victoria asked him to marry her. He could not ask her - she was the Queen! Victoria and Albert were married in February 1840.
Victoria and Albert worked together each day. They had desks next to each other. The Queen had to read lots of government letters and papers.
The royal family
In 1841 Victoria had a baby, Princess Victoria ('Vicky'). A year later, she had a son, Prince Albert Edward. The family called him 'Bertie'. The Queen had nine children.
It was years since children had run about the royal palaces. The 'royal family' became part of Victorian Britain.
Christmas became fun. Albert liked Christmas trees, with candles. Soon lots of families in Britain had Christmas trees.
The first Christmas cards were sent in 1843. The Queen began sending cards too. She gave Christmas presents to palace servants. Palace cooks cooked 50 turkeys and a side of beef for Christmas dinner.
The royal family had a seaside home at Osborne House on the Isle of Wight. Albert built a beach hut. The Queen had her first dip in the sea. The children were shown how to grow vegetables.
From 1848 the royal family had a home at Balmoral Castle in Scotland. Albert wore a kilt, went fishing, and hunted deer. Victoria tried Scottish country dancing.
The Queen also enjoyed sea trips in the royal yacht Victoria and Albert.
Queen and empire
What was the British Empire?
The British Empire included Australia, New Zealand, Canada, South Africa and India. Islands such as Jamaica and Barbados in the West Indies were in the British Empire too.
Victoria was Queen of the biggest empire in history. In 1877 she became 'Empress of India'.
The Great Exhibition
The Great Exhibition of 1851 was held in Hyde Park, in London. Queen Victoria went lots of times with Prince Albert. The Exhibition was full of inventions and machines. There were wonderful things from all over the world.
What was the Crystal Palace?
The Great Exhibition was inside the world's biggest glass building! It was called the Crystal Palace. Trees grew inside and birds flew around.
The Crystal Palace was later moved to south London. Sadly, it burned down in 1936.
The Crimean War
In 1854 Britain went to war with Russia, in the Crimean War. Florence Nightingale and Mary Seacole went to help the sick and wounded soldiers.
Queen Victoria sent warm hats and scarves for the soldiers. She gave medals to soldiers. The first Victoria Cross was given in 1856.
The Queen and government
Britain's laws were made by Parliament. Every prime minister came to see the Queen, to tell her what the government was doing.
Victoria did not like all her prime ministers. In a letter, she called Palmerston a 'dreadful old man'. She said that solemn Mr Gladstone spoke to her 'as if she were a public meeting'!
She liked Disraeli, who made her laugh. His plans for making the British Empire bigger pleased her.
The Royal Family
A growing family
Victoria had four sons and five daughters. Her 9th and last child was Princess Beatrice, born in 1857.
In 1858, the Queen's eldest daughter Princess 'Vicky' married the Crown Prince of Prussia (Germany). Everyone sat very still for the wedding photos. Taking a photo then took a long time.
In 1859, the Queen became a grandmother. Vicky's son William later became German Emperor. He was known as the Kaiser.
Prince Albert dies
Albert was never king. His title was Prince Consort. He was serious, and worked hard. Though Victoria loved him, Prince Albert was never very popular in Britain. Victoria was hardly ever ill, but Albert was often unwell. In 1861 he became very ill. He died in December 1861, aged 42.
The Queen in black
The Queen was so miserable she refused to go out or see people. People then wore black clothes as a sign of mourning, for a short time. The Queen wore black for the rest of her life. She kept Albert's room and clothes as when he was alive.
She spent more time in Windsor or Scotland. She had a favourite Scottish servant, John Brown. Her Indian servant, the Munshi, taught her words in the Hindustani language.
The Prince of Wales
The Queen was disappointed in her eldest son 'Bertie', the Prince of Wales. He liked having fun too much.
In 1862, the Prince of Wales married Princess Alexandra of Denmark. He saw more of the world than the Queen. He visited America, Canada, Russia and India. She never went outside Europe.
The Queen's children married other royal princes and princesses. In a few years, Queen Victoria had grandchildren and great-grandchildren in almost every royal family in Europe.
There were many great events in Victoria's lifetime. You can find some of them on the timeline. Britain had the world's first steam railway. People had their photos taken for the first time, had electric lights in their homes, made the first phone calls, and went for their first car rides.
In 1801 there were 16 million people in Britain. By 1901 when Victoria died there were 41 million.
When Victoria was a child, most people still lived and worked in the countryside. When she died, Britain had become an industrial nation. Most people lived in towns and cities.
In 1887 the Queen celebrated her Golden Jubilee. She had been Queen for 50 years. She rode in a carriage through London. Bands played, soldiers marched, crowds waved flags and cheered.
In 1897 Victoria celebrated 60 years as Queen. For her Diamond Jubilee, there were more parades and children's parties.
The Victorian age brought many advances in science. It left many landmarks in our towns, such as railway stations and town halls for example.
There are still lots of statues of Queen Victoria. She had streets named after her. Victoria in Canada is a city. Victoria in Australia is a state. In Africa there is a mighty waterfall, the Victoria Falls.
End of an era
In 1900 the Queen visited Ireland. By now she was old and not very well. She took a last carriage drive on 15 January 1901. On 22 January she died. For her funeral, she had asked for cheerful flowers, not too much black.
Queen Victoria was buried beside Prince Albert at Frogmore, near Windsor. Her son 'Bertie' became King Edward VII. Her great-great-granddaughter is Queen Elizabeth II.