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On May 24th 1819, Alexandrina Victoria was born. Later she was known more famously as Queen Victoria. Between the many rifts she had with the different Prime Ministers, to getting married and having 9 children, Victoria was certainly an interesting person and an efficient Queen.
Victoria’s childhood was not what you would have called “normal”. Victoria did not know her father, Edward, Duke of Kent, very well because he died when she was only 8 months old. Her father was the 4th son of King George the 3rd. Her mother, Victoria Maria Louisa, was the sister of King Leopold of Belgium.
The reason Victoria was named Victoria Alexandrina is because her parents wanted to name her Victoria while her uncle, George the 5th wanted to name her Alexandrina after her godfather, Tsar Alexander the 2nd of Russia.
After Victoria’s father had died, her mother became very close friends with Sir John Conroy, an Irish officer. Later, he and Victoria developed a tight relationship. Conroy felt and acted as if Victoria was his own daughter and had a major influence on her life.
In 1830, George the 5th had died, so, his brother, William the 5th became king. The new King William had no surviving legitimate children, so Victoria became his heir. In the time that he was king, William was not in a good health. He feared that if he died before Victoria’s 18th birthday, Conroy would have complete power behind the throne while Victoria was in reign.
Luckily, King William died 27 days after Victoria’s 18th birthday. Although William had no knowledge of it, Victoria had grown apart from Conroy and she had thwarted his attempt to gain power of the throne. So, on June 20th 1837, Victoria was crowned Queen of Great Britain and Ireland. As soon as she was crowned Queen, she had Conroy banished from the Royal Court.
When Victoria became Queen, Lord Melbourne was Prime Minister at the time. Melbourne’s only child had died, so he treated Victoria as if she was his daughter. The Queen became very caring toward Melbourne and she relied on him for all of her political advice. Melbourne protected Victoria, especially when it came to the harsh realities of the British life. He even cautioned her not to read Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens because it mentions “paupers, criminals and other unpleasant subjects”.
As time passed, Melbourne and the Queen became extremely close. It was estimated he spent 6 hours a day with Victoria. In the Queen’s journal, she expressed her feelings for Melbourne. In it she wrote, “he is such an honest, good kind-hearted man and is my friend, I know it.”
A lot of people questioned the close relationship. On Royal visits, some people from the crowd shouted “Mrs. Melbourne”. In the autumn of 1837, a rumor had spread that Victoria was considering marrying Melbourne. In her diary, Victoria wrote about how she loved to hear Melbourne talk. "Such stories of knowledge; such a wonderful memory; he knows about everybody and everything; who they were and what they did. He has such a kind and agreeable manner; he does me the world of good."
In 1839, Lord Melbourne resigned as Prime Minister. Sir Robert Peel, the Tory leader, replaced Melbourne as the new Prime Minister. It was a tradition that the Queen’s ladies of the bedchamber must be of the same political party as the government. Peel wanted Victoria to change the Whig ladies to the Tory ladies. Victoria refused, Peel resigned and Melbourne and the Whigs took office again.
After Melbourne was Prime Minister again, Victoria saw Lady Flora Hastings, one of her ladies in waiting, getting into a carriage with Sir John Conroy. After a few months, Victoria noticed that she seemed to be pregnant. When Victoria confronted her on it, she denied being pregnant. Victoria checked her medical records showing that she wasn’t pregnant. In fact, the swelling came from a cancerous growth on the liver. The story got leaked to the news papers and after Lady Flora Hastings died of cancer a few months later, Victoria became very unpopular with the British public because of the wrong accusation.
Soon after Victoria’s false assumption regarding Lady Flora Hastings, an assassination attempt was made on Victoria during a carriage ride in London in 1840. Throughout her lifetime, there were many unsuccessful plots to kill the Queen. These assassination attempts occurred in 1842, 1849, 1850, 1872 and 1882.
Queen Victoria’s cousin, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg, came to London to visit in 1839. Victoria fell in love with him almost immediately. Although Albert had many doubts about the relationship, they got married in February of 1840. Over the next 18 years, Albert and Victoria had 9 children together.
In 1841, Lord Melbourne resigned as the Prime Minister. Victoria had a very good relationship with both of the succeeding Prime Ministers, Sir Robert Pell and Lord John Russell. However, she disagreed with Lord Palmerston, the foreign secretary. Palmerston believed the main objective of the government's foreign policy should be to increase Britain’s power in the world. Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, on the other hand, believed that the British government should do whatever it could to help preserve European royal families against revolutionary groups advocating republicanism. This issue was very important to Albert and the Queen because they were closely related to many other royal families who were at risk of being overthrown.
Queen Victoria asked Lord Russell to dismiss Palmerston in the summer of 1850. Russell was unable to meet her request due to the fact that Palmerston was extremely popular in the House of Commons. In December of 1851, Palmerston congratulated Napoleon Bonaparte on his coup in France. Lord Russell was so upset by this action that he took Victoria’s advice and dismissed Palmerston immediately. A few weeks after Palmerston’s dismissal, in an act of revenge, Palmerston successfully overthrew Russell and his government. Lord Palmerston became the Prime Minister in 1855. The Queen found it very difficult to work with Palmerston. However, due to the political climate, she made an effort to work with him. In the end, their relationship did improve. After Lord Palmerston died, she wrote in her journal, "We had, god knows, terrible trouble with him about foreign affairs. Still, as Prime Minister, he managed affairs at home well and, behaved well to me. But I never liked him.”
In December of 1861, Prince Albert became severely ill and died of typhoid fever. Even in her overwhelming grief, the Queen continued to carry out her assigned constitutional duties. The only request she did not fulfill was to open parliament in person. She could not honor this request due to the grief from the loss of her beloved Albert. Queen Victoria would remain at Balmoral Castle for the next several years while she mourned the loss of Albert. She was content to remain out of the public eye for the next several years.
While the Queen maintained residence Balmoral Castle, William Gladstone, leader of the Liberals in the House of Commons became Prime minister in 1868. Gladstone had plans for a series of reforms including the extension of the franchise, elections by secret ballot, and a reduction in the power of the House of Lords. The Queen strongly disagreed with Gladstone but did not have the power to veto the passing of the 1872 Secret Ballot Act.
As time passed, the Tory came into power and, in 1874, the Tory, led by Benjamin Disraeli became Prime Minister of England. The term Tory refers to a variety of political parties and creeds. The term Tory was used in the late 17th century to describe opponents to the Whigs. In this particular time period, the Tory were considered to be a conservative political party. It should be noted the Tory held political power intermittently throughout the 1800’s in Europe. While Queen Victoria got along with Lord Gladstone, she was very upset when Gladstone replaced Prime Minister Disraeli in 1880. The Queen preferred Disraeli’s conservatism to Gladstone’s liberalism.
Queen Victoria strongly objected to Gladstone’s handling of foreign policy and, therefore, their professional relationship was not good. It was Gladstone’s position that Britain should never support a cause that was morally wrong. In 1885, Victoria criticized Gladstone for failing to take action to save General Gordon at Khartoum, Sudan. Their relationship further deteriorated when William Gladstone found out that Victoria had been passing along confidential documents to Marquess of Salisbury, the leader of the Conservatives. Finally, after many years of political fighting, Lord Gladstone resigned and was promptly replaced as Prime Minister by the Marquess of Salisbury in 1885.
The Marquess of Salisbury remained the Prime Minister for the last 12 out 15 years Victoria held the throne. Their working relationship was very good and, Victoria shared Salisbury's imperialist views. She was thrilled when General Kitchener was successful in avenging General Gordon in the Sudan in 1898. Victoria enthusiastically supported British action against the Boers in South Africa.
On January 22, 1901, Queen Victoria died at her house on the Isle of Wight. She was succeeded by her son Prince Albert, who became King Edward VII. She was the longest reigning monarch in British history until Queen Elizabeth II surpassed her in 2007.
“The important thing is not what they think of me, but what I think of them.” Those are the words of the great Queen Victoria. Though she did not like some of her Prime Ministers, she worked through her conflicts with them and turned out to be one of the most memorable queens of Great Britain. She will always be remembered as the person whose hard work and devotion helped her country in many ways.