May 24, 1819 – January 22, 1901
When one thinks about the nineteenth century, the individual may have, as their first thought, an image of a time when the industrial revolution and scientific pursuits would change the landscape forever in the Western World. Culture, as a whole, would be forever changed by the burgeoning advancements made in technology and the steady evolution in economics, politics and society, which would result from those advancements. Many refer to this period of time as the Victorian Age, a time when all echelons of society would experience a rapid transformation, which heretofore had not been seen. At the center of this definition of an era was a woman who seemed out a place with the rapid transformation that was occurring within her own country. England and the rest of Britain were evolving to meet the new challenges of a changing world, but in many respects Queen Victoria was a product of an earlier time. She was an admired and beloved figure to her subjects, but a somewhat bewildered symbol of these transforming times. The era would be coined after her more on the basis of the longevity of her reign and the fact that England would be the impetus of much of the advancements made in cultural transformation.
An Unlikely Throne
If one looked on paper at the genealogical tree of Queen Victoria, it would appear to be quite apparent that her chances of becoming a monarch were pretty slim. She was a granddaughter of George III, the king who would lose the American colonies after the Revolutionary War. Her father was Edward Duke of Kent, the fourth son of the king. There were three surviving brothers ahead of Edward who seemed likely to be able to produce a legitimate heir to the throne. But in reality, the other brothers were unsuccessful in this pursuit. The eldest brother, Prince George, after having been married unlawfully for several years to an unrecognized wife, finally contracted a legal marriage to a cousin of his, Caroline of Brunswick, and produced one legitimate daughter, Princess Charlotte. The marriage resulted in separation, but it appeared apparent that Princess Charlotte would be queen one day. Unexpectedly Princess Charlotte would die in childbirth after delivering a stillborn son, thereby leaving the succession to the following sons of George III. The second son, Prince Frederick, had also contracted an unrecognized marriage, which had produced several illegitimate children. He had no plans to abandon his wife. The third son, Prince William, along with the fourth brother Edward, upon the death of their niece, made official marriages in order to produce an heir. William would have two daughters with his wife Adelaide of Saxe-Meiningen but sadly both died in infancy. Edward and his wife Victoria of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld, would have a daughter named Alexandrina Victoria, born on May 24, 1819 at Kensington Palace.