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Queen Victoria

Victoria’s Youth

Alexandrina Victoria, always known as Victoria, was born in the last year of the reign of her grandfather who would die on January 29, 1820. Only six days earlier, on January 23, Victoria’s father had passed away from the effects of an illness brought on by exposure to the cold. Victoria’s uncle became King George IV and she and her mother made their home at Kensington Palace, though their finances were in much shorter supply. Her education and person were closely monitored by the careful eye of her mother, who realized her daughter’s importance in the royal succession. English and German tutors were provided to give her a rounded education in the heritage of both her families. Victoria would show an interest and talent in art, and music and dancing was provided in order to prepare her for social circumstances. A woman known as the Baroness Lehzen was appointed her governess in order to help in the raising and education of the princess. A close circle was formed around her to protect her from any negative influences that could corrupt her virtue. In her mother’s eyes, this included the court life that the many royals participated in. Upon the succession of William IV in 1830, Victoria was now formally recognized as the heir presumptive to her uncle and her presence was expected at court functions. Victoria’s mother, the Duchess of Kent, was adverse to this environment for her daughter. A battle of wills developed between King William and the Duchess over the importance of Victoria being seen at court as the heir to the throne. William’s greatest fear was that he would die while Victoria was still a minor and her mother would be made Regent of the country. With a steadfast determination, William IV managed to live until June 20, 1837, succumbing to pneumonia. Victoria had turned eighteen less then a month earlier. She was now of age to rule in her own right.

The New Queen

Despite a fairly good education for her day, the fact that she had been so sheltered from the world and the dynamics of political life made her clumsy in her destined position as queen. But where there was inexperience for the position she had now attained, her determination to be a good monarch made up for the naiveté that she possessed. Her youth and gender could have been detrimental to acceptance by the English people, but overwhelmingly she proved to be a popular new queen. Where her weaknesses stood out only endeared her as one who was trying to be of use to her people. Her ability to sympathize with the common citizens proved an asset to her nation, and wearing her heart on her sleeve was not looked upon as weakness in character. As the writer Elizabeth Barrett wrote in 1837:

The young Queen is very interesting to me -- & those tears, wept not only amidst the multitudes at the proclamation, but in the silence of the dead midnight –- (we heard that she cried all night before holding her first privy council, notwithstanding the stateliness & composure with which she received her councilors) are beautiful & touching to think upon…. There is something hardening, I fear, in power –even if there is not in pomp! and the coldnesses of state etiquette gather too nearly round the heart, not to chill it, often! But our young Queen wears still a very tender heart! And long may its natural emotions lie warm within it! (Munich, p. 19)

Victoria’s coronation on June 28, 1838, proved to be a solidification of her connection with her subjects that would be retained throughout her reign. Where her Hanover predecessors had struggled to attain the affection of the English people, Victoria was able to step into her role as Queen on a high note and kept that place in their hearts, with a few bumps along the way, for the length of her long reign. With the initial assistance of her first prime minister, Lord Melbourne, and later her husband Prince Albert, Victoria would be equipped with the means to identify and commiserate with her fellow subjects.


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