While Victoria was, like everyone else, primarily a spectator to the great technological advances of her time, she did actually make a valuable contribution. Her husband, Prince Albert, a German prince with a great interest in technology, organized, with Victoria's enthusiastic encouragement, the most spectacular exhibit of inventions ever assembled.
The Great Exhibit of 1851 marked a turning point as it brought inventors, scientists, manufacturers, craftsmen, and artists from around the world together and essentially declared that the 19th century would be the century of progress.
An enormous building of glass and cast iron was constructed for the occasion, and the Crystal Palace was so huge that it even contained the tall trees of Hyde Park. Queen Victoria presided over the grand opening on May 1, 1851, and she, with her children, attended the exhibit on a number of occasions that summer.
By the time the Great Exhibition closed that fall, millions had toured the vast exhibit halls, gawking at everything from gleaming new steam engines to photography equipment to an entire automated textile mill.
The sharing of knowledge in London that summer, and the inspiration and competition it inspired, set the century on a course toward technological advancement. And much of that was due to the work of Prince Albert, and the genuine enthusiasm, of Queen Victoria.
Illustration: Prince Albert, husband of Queen Victoria/courtesy New York Public Library Digital Collections
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