The British Empress: Queen Victoria

Si considera una delle figure più imponenti del XIX secolo, simbolo dello splendore imperiale del Regno Unito e della sua egemonia economica, politica e culturale.

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Sarah Davison

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towering figure in British history, Queen Victoria was actually a diminutive figure, just one metre fifty in height. By the end of her sixty-three year reign, she ruled not only the world’s most important economic power at that time, but also an enormous empire that covered 25 per cent of the globe and numbered four hundred million subjects

A New Confident Age

Victoria, her husband Albert, Prince Consort, and their nine children came to represent a new, confident age. She created an innovative role for the royal family, reconnecting it with the public through civic duties. The idol of her people, she restored dignity and popularity to a tarnished crown through honesty and a sense of duty. She set the standard for Britain’s modern monarchy.  

Unhappy Childhood

Born in 1819, Victoria had an unhappy childhood and a strained relationship with her mother. When she became Queen in June 1837, she asked for one hour alone, and then sent her mother to distant rooms in Buckingham Palace. Her coronation in 1838 was chaotic, with one ring being put on the wrong finger and taking an hour to remove! When she finally decided on marriage in 1839, she, as the head of state, had to propose to Albert herself. She married in a white dress, starting a new tradition — brides until then just wore their best clothes.

A Cow or a Dog

The mother of nine children, Victoria hated pregnancy and found childbirth undignified, complaining 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”. She suffered post-natal depression, thought newborn babies ugly and viewed breast-feeding with disgust. Her children married into the royal families on the Continent, making her “the grandmother of Europe”. 

Since it has pleased Providence to place me in this station, I shall do my UTMOST to fulfil my duty towards my country.


Constitutional Role

During Victoria’s long reign, from 1837 to 1901, political power moved from the sovereign to Parliament. The modern idea of a constitutional monarch, a role above political parties, began to evolve. The monarchy took on a ceremonial character. Victoria became the patron of hundreds of institutions, including numerous charities.

Empire’s Empress

As Britain established itself as the most powerful nation in the world, the stout Queen Victoria became a potent symbol of its dominance. In 1877 she became Empress of the British Empire and her popularity soared. New technology had already increased royal contact with the public. Railways, newspapers and the invention of photography made the monarchy a constant element in public life. Victoria and Albert became celebrities. However, with increased accessibility came greater vulnerability, and during her reign Victoria survived no less than eight assassination attempts.  


Queen Victoria is also known for her devotion to Albert. When he died in 1861, she fell into a deep depression, remaining in seclusion for many years and rarely appearing in public. Victoria died much later, on 22 January 1901. She had become a national icon representing an era of momentous national change. Small in stature, her indomitable character came to symbolise Britain’s ascent to the heights of global dominance.  

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Questo articolo appartiene al numero Giugno 2023 della rivista Speak Up.

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