Victoria, Queen of Great Britain

Victoria, the daughter of Edward Augustus, Duke of Kent and Strathearn, and Victoria of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld, was born May 24 1819 at Kensington Place, London.
She married Albert, the son of Ernst I, Duke of Saxe-Coburg & Gotha, February 10 1840 in the Chapel Royal, St James' Palace.

Princess Victoria aged eleven.
(Drawn by John Hayter).

In March 1829, when Victoria was aged ten, George IV became ill and had only a few weeks to live. Only then did Victoria realise how close she was to becoming Queen. On the King's death, only Victoria's uncle William stood between her and the throne. She discovered this by chance during a history lesson, when looking at a newly inserted page of a pedigree of British monarchs.

Victoria succeeded her uncle, William IV, and was crowned in Westminster Abbey on June 28th 1838, having succeeded to the throne at the age of eighteen.

“The happiest being that ever existed” Victoria wrote when she described her feelings about her wedding day. Though Victoria was small and slim, she led a very busy family life and became popular with the people. She showed great concern about the way the nation was governed and for the welfare of her troops during the Crimean War.

Queen Victoria and Prince Albert.
(From a sketch by R Doyle)

Prince Albert proved to be the complete family man. Both he and the Queen loved family life. The first of their nine children, Princess Victoria, was born in 1840.

When Prince Albert died in 1861, Queen Victoria was devastated. The family was close, and the Queen had come to rely completely on his support. Grief-stricken, The Queen retired from public life for many years, though she always insisted on seeing state papers and holding talks with government ministers. During this time of many years of mourning, Victoria probably did not realise how unpopular she became. Only her family gave her consolation.

Queen Victoria.
(Painted by Baron Von Angeli).

By the time of her Diamond Jubilee in 1897, Queen Victoria had regained her popularity and become a symbol of Britain's greatness. When she died, Princess May lamented, “The thought of England without the Queen is dreadful even to think of. God help us all!” The Queen's body was placed next to Albert’s in the mausoleum she had built for him at Windsor.

During her reign the British Empire expanded, and the country became one of the world's richest nations. Victoria ruled from 1838 to 1901, longer than any previous British monarch. She was succeeded by her son, Edward VII.

Osborne House, Isle of Wight, where Queen Victoria died.
(© English Heritage).