In the world of Kings and Queens, very few of them were as illustrious as Queen Victoria. But who was this amazing personality before she became the most celebrated and significant personality in all of Great Britain? Let’s look at her journey towards becoming the most illustrious queen in the history of mankind.
Autobiography of Queen Victoria
Alexandrina Victoria was born on the 24th of May, 1819, and she was the Queen of the United Kingdom of Britain and Ireland from 20th June 1837 until her death in 1901. The period when she was on the throne is known as the Victorian era in History. She had the longest time on the British throne because her reign of 63 years and seven months was longer than any previous British monarch. But it was not just about ruling people; but this period was also a very significant period of industrial, political, scientific, and military change for the United Kingdom. On top of that, this era also marked the beginning of the great expansion of the British Empire. In 1876, she was voted by the British Parliament for the additional title of Empress of India.
Her father was Prince Edward, who was the Duke of Kent and Strathearn and also the fourth son of King George III. Her grandmother was the Princess Victoria of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld. From 1820 onwards, post the death of both her father and grandfather, she grew up under the close supervision of her mother and her comptroller, John Conroy. When she was just 198, she sat on the throne by inheritance, and all her three uncles died without surviving legitimate issues. Despite being a constitutional monarch, she always wanted to influence various government policies and ministerial appointments. As a queen, she was known and adored as a national icon for her strict standards of personal morality.
In the year of 1840, she married her first cousin Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, and later her children also married into royal and noble families across the continent. This way, she earned the sobriquet “the grandmother of Europe” and also helped spread haemophilia in European royalty. But tragedy struck in 1861 when Albert died, and she plunged herself into deep mourning and avoided all kinds of public appearances. Due to this sudden seclusion, British republicanism gained some strength temporarily, and during the latter half of her reign, she retained her popularity. When she reached Golden and Diamond Jubilees, it was a cause of public celebration. In 1901, Queen Victoria died on the Isle of Wight, and she was succeeded by her son Edward VII of the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha.
Writing the autobiography of such an illustrious queen in such a short span is very difficult. However, here I am tracing her early life and how she came to the throne.
Early Life of Queen Victoria
I was told that I was born on 24 May 1819 and my father was Prince Edward, the Duke of Kent and Strathearn. He was the fourth son of the then reigning King of the United Kingdom, George III. When my father’s niece Princess Charlotte of Wales, died in 1817, it created a kind of crisis of succession and put a lot of pressure on my father and all his unmarried brothers to marry as early as possible and have children. Thus, my father married Princess Victoria of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld in 1918. My mother was a widowed German princess with two children—Carl (1804–1856) and Feodora (1807–1872) from her first marriage to Emich Carl. Together they had me as their only child, born at 4:15 a.m. on 24 May 1819 at Kensington Palace in London.
I remember that I was christened privately by the Archbishop of Canterbury, and I was baptised as Alexandrina after one of my godparents, Tsar Alexander I of Russia. There were some additional names suggested as well by my parents like Georgina, Charlotte, and Augusta, by they were dropped on the instructions of my uncle.
I later came to know that I was the fifth in the line of succession, and they were four other sons of my grandfather George III. Among them, the Prince Regent had no surviving children, just like the Duke of York. On top of that, they were estranged from their wives. My other uncle married on the same day as my father, but unfortunately, both of his legitimate daughters died as infants. One of them was Princess Charlotte, and she died just two months before I was born. When I was less than a year old, my father died in January 1820, and just within a week, my grandfather also died, and he was succeeded by his eldest son as George IV. This made me become third in the line of the throne, but my uncle William’s second daughter, Princess Elizabeth of Clarence, only managed to live for twelve weeks. All this caused me to step up the line of inheritance.
In 1827, when the Duke of York died, he was followed by the then King George IV in 1830. This made the next surviving brother, William to sit on the throne and made me the heir presumptive. Thanks to The Regency Act of 1830, my mother received the special provision to act regent in case the current king dies, and I sit on the throne as a minor. But King William had very little trust in the capacity of my mother to be a regent. With this in mind, he declared that he wished to live until my 18th birthday, so the act of regency could be avoided.
Accession of Throne
I turned 18 on the 24th of May 1837, and as per my uncle’s wish, the regency was avoided. Within one month, he died at the age of 71, and I became Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom. It was a memorable day of my life, and I made a note on my diary that day which was something like this,
I was awoke at 6 o’clock by Mamma, who told me the Archbishop of Canterbury and Lord Conyngham were here and wished to see me. I got out of bed and went into my sitting-room (only in my dressing gown) and alone, and saw them. Lord Conyngham then acquainted me that my poor Uncle, the King, was no more, and had expired at 12 minutes past 2 this morning and consequently that I am Queen.
On the first day of my reign, official documents were prepared, and I was described as Alexandrina Victoria. I had withdrawn my first name, and I never used it again.
When I sat on the throne, the British government was then led by the Whig Prime Minister Lord Melbourne. He influenced me a lot since he found me as a politically inexperienced monarch. Lord Melbourne was a widower and childless man, and he loved me like a daughter if he had one, and I also saw him as a father figure. My coronation happened on 28 June 1838 at Westminster Abbey and saw a crowd of over 400,000. I was the first sovereign to take up residence at Buckingham Palace. The moment I received the revenues of the duchies of Lancaster and Cornwall and the civil list allowance, I thought of becoming financially prudent and paying off my father’s debts.
From the very beginning of my reign, I was pretty popular, but my image suffered a bad patch in 1839. This happened due to one of my mother’s ladies-in-waiting, Lady Flora Hastings. When she developed an abdominal growth, it was rumored to be an out-of-wedlock pregnancy that happened by Sir John Conroy. I had no reason not to believe in the rumors, and frankly, I hated both of them because Lady Flora had conspired with Conroy and the Duchess of Kent before as well. At first, she refused to submit to an intimate medical examination, but later she was compelled to agree and found out to be a virgin. Upon hearing this, Conroy and the Hastings family, with the help of followers of the Torry party, organized a press campaign to implicate me for spreading false rumors about Lady Flora. Later at the time of her death, it was revealed that a large tumor on her liver had swollen her abdomen.
After years of taunts, Melbourne finally resigned in 1939 after Radicals and Tories voted against a bill. This was why I hated these two parties. The bill revoked all political power from plantation owners resisting the measures associated with the abolition of slavery. Due to all this, I had to commission a Tory named Robert Peel to form a new ministry.
In my time, it was common for the prime minister to appoint members of the Royal Household. They were usually his political allies and their spouses. Thus, several of my ladies of the bedchamber were wives of Whigs, but Peel thought of replacing them with the wives of Tories. This gave birth to a new crisis called the bedchamber crisis. But thankfully, Lord Melbourne advised me to object about their removal. When Peel refused to govern under these restrictions imposed by me, he resigned his commission. This allowed me to welcome back Lord Melbourne to the office. Thus, continued my reign.
Queen Victoria died on 22nd January 1901, at half past six in the evening, at the age of 81.
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