Victoria—Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Empress of India was born in 1819. Her grandfather was George the III, who became famously insane, and her father was Edward, the Duke of Kent, who was the fourth of George’s sons. She was never meant to be Queen; however, due to her father, Uncle George, and Uncle William (William IV) dying in reasonably quick succession she ascended to the throne on June 28th 1838. She was going to plonk her small frame and big backside on it for the next 63 years. She lived to 81 and never spoke English perfectly. Her natural language was German, like her Hanover ancestors.
In the first few years of her reign she was infatuated with the then Prime Minister Lord Melbourne. It was he who advised her on various social issues—of which he had either no interest or a distorted view: he was a Whig, a member of the political party that represented the interests of the aristocrats, landowners and wealthy middle class. It was under his influence (and there was speculation that she might have been under him) that Victoria became removed from, and disinterested, in social issues. Despite being a politician Lord Melbourne believed that the world couldn’t be bettered through politics; he was, after all, an aristocrat and had a God given knowledge on how the world should run.
Being on top of the aristocratic tree it’s not surprising that Victoria saw eye to eye with Melbourne (figuratively, as she was short and he was tall). It was well known, back then, that when the Lord Chamberlain brought Victoria the news of her uncle’s (William IV) death and told her she was now the Queen that she shot her hand out for him to kiss.
It was Melbourne that convinced her that it was all right to send young children to work down in the coalmines. Victoria also thought that education for the poor was a waste of time. According to her it gave, ‘…ideas above their station’, which made them unfit for becoming servants. It’s interesting to note that in 2005 Prince Charles was brought to an equal opportunity court for writing something similar about one of his female staff.
It was Melbourne who advised her regarding her lady-in-waiting, Lady Flora. It was May 1839—Flora had a swollen stomach; Victoria believed she was pregnant. Flora denied it; however, Victoria had her examined by a physician who found nothing wrong. Flora was still dismissed. The poor woman had cancer of the liver and died two months later. Lord Melbourne told Victoria to ignore the public sentiment towards Flora. She took his advice and was surprised when the public attacked and stoned her carriage on the way to Flora’s funeral. It was quite a feat to turn a population that rejoiced at her coronation into an angry mob in less than a year.
Melbourne’s influence was so strong that Victoria insisted that her chambermaids be ‘Whig ladies’. This raised some serous questions about his influence over her (or she under him) that led to the ‘bedchamber question’ in Parliament that forced Melbourne’s resignation.
By 1840 she married her cousin, Albert, of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. Yes, even with the passage of time one can still hear those banjos playing in Buckingham Palace. Despite being in love with Albert she wasn’t going to forget the trouble that the Tories had given her over Lord Melbourne and her Whig chambermaids. She sent very few wedding invitations to the Tories while simultaneously requesting that Albert be given rank and precedence second only to her. The royal request was rejected which brought forth the following written rebuke from her Majesty, ‘Monsters. You Tories shall be punished. Revenge!’ (Feel free to use this as an example of monarchical noblesse oblige.)
Victoria and Albert had nine children (most of them she didn’t want) between 1840 and 1857. She called child bearing, ‘the shadow side of marriage,’ and told her eldest daughter, another Victoria, what she thought of it, ’What you say of the pride of giving life to another immortal soul is very fine, dear, but I own that I cannot enter into that; I think much more of our being like a cow or a dog at such moments; when our poor nature becomes so very animal and unecstatic (sic).’
When she was first married Victoria insisted that Albert should have no share in the government of the country; yet within six months, and at Lord Melbourne’s insistence, he was allowed to see ‘dispatches’. During her first pregnancy Albert was given ‘a key to the secret boxes’ (what ever they were). By 1845 Lord Greville, the observer of royal affairs wrote, ‘It is obvious that while she has the title he is really discharging the functions of sovereign. He is the King to all intents and purposes.’ Victoria, in the meantime, made a complete about face and wrote, ‘We women are not made for governing.’ (Feel free to use that quote.)
The English didn’t like Albert as he was half German—so was Victoria but she was the Queen. Albert became a patron of the arts, sciences, and instigated the Great Exhibition with which the profits there-from he built the Royal Albert Hall, plus the museums in Kensington. He encouraged Parliament to stop children having to go to work; diverted two wars (one with Prussia and one with the United States) through careful rewording of Foreign Office dispatches, and still it wasn’t until after he died that the British realised what they’d lost. I suspect that this is because Victoria then took over again and would vacillate over everything trying to decide what ‘Albert would have done’.
As much as the general public didn’t like Albert there were a number of individuals who hated Victoria: there were seven attempts to assassinate her. There was speculation that some of these attempts were staged so as to boost public sympathy for her. I suspect that it was probably so as after one attempt nobody tried to stop the would-be assassin and Victoria went on exactly the same route the following day where, lo and behold, the gunman reappeared and fired again. This time members of the crowd did stop the man and found his pistol contained a blank.
Another assassin ended up in court and received a lengthy gaol term despite Victoria calling for the death penalty. (How she must have yearned for the good old days when a monarch could lop off a head or two.)
To understand where this hatred came from would take up a lot of space; instead I’ll just mention the Corn Laws, the Crimean War, the Chartist Movement, and Irish home rule. There are numerous other issues, such as the labour laws and the general condition of the poor that would be worth investigating as well; however, space and, most probably, your patience doesn’t permit me to go further.
Albert died in 1861 of typhoid; Victoria went into deep depression and prolonged mourning: she wore black for the rest of her life and she had his clothes laid out every morning for forty years. It seems that someone in Cambridge slipped him a fecal de-fois-gras sandwich when he went to clear up an indiscretion, which their second son, The Prince of Wales (also named Albert but later known as Edward VII), had committed whilst with his army unit in Ireland. (This indiscretion was, in fact, a ‘dalliance’ with an actress.)
Victoria blamed this Albert for that Albert’s death—as you’ve probably surmised she wasn’t very original with names. She blamed this Albert for the ‘turd sandwich’ that killed that Albert, and she further blamed this Albert for all the stress and worry his dalliance had caused them which hurried that Albert’s demise. (The Prince’s royal pursuits were drinking, women, and hunting—in that order. It also really annoyed her that Albert, the Prince of Wales, was popular while Albert, the Queen’s Consort, was not.)
At least the feeling between mother and son was mutual, as Albert said, ‘I don’t mind praying to the eternal father, but I must be the only man in the country plagued with an eternal mother.’ Victoria made it plain what she thought of her son: ‘I never can or shall look at him without a shudder.’
On the evidence of Victoria’s family and that of the current Queen of England it can be inferred that familial disfunctionality is a genetic disorder, similar to haemophilia with which Victoria and her offspring infected most of the European royal houses.
As inconsolable as she was there was one man who seemed able to alleviate her misery: a servant named John Brown. Being a proud Scotsman Brown must have served her the occasional piece of very special haggis, as he was able to get away with things no one else would have dreamed of. He would refer to her as ‘woman’, instead of ‘Your Majesty’ in her, and others, presence and she didn’t mind him turning up to work drunk from time to time.
Her loyal Scotsman died in 1883. When Victoria was buried eighteen years later her doctor burned her diaries because he was shocked at what she wrote about her relationship with Brown. She went into the ground holding a picture of him and a lock of his hair, so we can only speculate about his haggis.
The other man she liked was Benjamin Disraeli, who, besides being Prime Minister, was Jewish.
Disraeli said Victoria didn’t rule over one nation—she ruled over two: ‘Two groups of people who didn’t understand how the other one lived, thought, or felt. Two groups of people who ate different food, had different ways, and even lived under different laws. Two groups of people who might have been from different planets.’ Benjamin knew exactly the personality he was dealing with: ‘Everyone likes flattery, and when you come to royalty, you should lay it on with a trowel.’
In 1867 Disraeli brought a Bill to parliament to make Victoria Empress of India. There was a great deal of opposition to it and Disraeli would have liked to have it postponed; however, Victoria insisted it go through. She never bothered to use her royal influence on Parliament to alleviate the suffering of the poor, or laws that would effect her subjects, or divert a war that would kill hundreds of thousands of them, or unjust laws that put people in the poor house, yet this Bill was important to her. She was happy to use her royal influence for her own aggrandisement.
For pushing the Bill through she made Disraeli an Earl and he became Lord Beaconsfield. She even had a pet name for him, ‘Dizzie’. (How cute, and in keeping with her originality when it came to names.) She wanted to make him a Duke but ‘Dizzie’ refused, so she made him a Knight Of The Garter instead. When he died she made one of her few public appearances to lay a wreath upon his tomb.
On the 22nd of January 1901 the Prince of Wales finally got his wish: his mother died. Monarchs had been buried discreetly at night until Victoria, in her will, demanded a big public funeral. They’ve been that way ever since.
The truth is that all those monuments, statues, edifices, pillars, and memorials to Queen Victoria did not come from the overwhelming majority of her subjects. They came from aristocratic lickspittles, mercantile bootlickers, and other forms of toady that were seeking further royal favour. When Britain was the richest and most powerful country in the world the vast majority of its people lived in grinding poverty under the reign of Victoria—Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Empress of India.