The Long Reign of Victoria:
Born into the British Royal Family in 1819, the girl christened Alexandrina Victoria was an unlikely successor to the throne. And at the time there was serious doubt about the future of the monarchy itself.
As her uncles had no legitimate heir, it became clear that the granddaughter of George III would one day become Queen.
With the death of her uncle, William IV, Victoria became queen at the age of 18.
She would go on to rule Great Britain for more than 63 years. She died in 1901, with her lengthy and influential reign having spanned much of the 19th century.
Significance in History:
It is probably impossible to overestimate Victoria’s importance to the history of the 1800s. Indeed, the age itself has become known as the Victorian era, both for the supremacy of the British Empire during her reign, and because of her personal reputation.
“The sun never sets on the British Empire” became a popular saying during the reign of Victoria.
Personal Life and Family:
Victoria, who was herself primarily of German descent, married her first cousin, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha (now part of Germany) in 1840. Victoria and Albert had nine children, but the marriage came to a tragic end when Albert died in 1861, at the age of 42.
For many years after Albert’s death Victoria lived in relative seclusion, which alienated her from her subjects. In later years she did appear more in public, and eventually she became popular. However, she continued to wear the black of mourning for the rest of her life, which no doubt contributed to her reputation of being stern and humorless.
Victoria took an active involvement in the affairs of state, and was far from being a figurehead as queen. She strongly believed that Britain should rule much of the world as an empire. And she worked with two prime ministers of great prominence: Benjamin Disraeli and William Gladstone.
Indicating her role as an imperial leader, her official title as Queen of Great Britain and Ireland was amended in the late 1870s to also include the title Empress of India.
When Victoria was born the British Royal Family was at a low point, but her successful reign, which corresponded to a time of great power and prestige of the British Empire, restored the monarchy to widespread acceptance in the eyes of the public.
The term “Victorian” often refers to a priggish attitude toward sexuality or morality, though it is also applied widely to refer to a period of literature, art, clothing, and even architecture. Victoria is one of the rare people whose very name defines their time.
A Monarch Who Could be Seen:
Victoria’s reign corresponded with the dawn of photography, and images of the queen could be seen widely by her subjects for the first time in history. That may have contributed to her popularity.
About That Famous Quote:
Perhaps the most famous quote attributed to Victoria is, “We are not amused.”
Numerous accounts have her saying that, usually in response to something indecent being said or done, but there is no proof that she actually ever said it. However, she was known to speak at times in a formal manner, referring to herself and members of her court in the third person, so it is something she may have said.