Previously the longest reigning British monarch, Queen Victoria’s time on the throne spanned six decades, 20 prime ministers and an age of innovation and change that has shaped our society.
Queen Victoria’s influence resonates with us to this day, but here are some interesting facts you may not have known about one of Britain’s best known rulers.
1. Victoria wasn’t her first name
The name Victoria was symbiotic not just of the queen herself, but of an entire age. Although, it wasn’t the name she was born with.
At birth, she was christened Alexandrina, with Victoria being her middle name. Upon her ascension to the throne at the age of 18, she chose Victoria as her Regnal name.
2. Her childhood was incredibly isolated
The young Victoria was raised in what is known as ‘the Kensington system,’ named after Kensington Palace (now the home of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge).
Designed by her mother, also called Victoria, a German princess from the houses of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld, and Sir John Conroy, the Kensington System comprised of rules and regulations to keep the young Victoria in line and poised to rule.
This system was incredibly isolating by nature. Victoria had to be accompanied everywhere she went by either her mother, her governess or her tutor, She wasn’t even allowed to sleep in her own room, she had to share with her mother.
3. She became Queen thanks to a succession crisis
Victoria was originally fifth in line to the throne, yet became Queen at the age of 18 due to a series of bizarre, tragic events that triggered a succession crisis after the death of King George IV, who was previously Prince Regent.
George had five brothers, each of whom attempted to sire an heir following the King’s death. A succession crisis was triggered when Princess Charlotte, the daughter of the Prince Regent, died in childbirth in 1817. Charlotte was first in line to the throne barring the birth of a male heir, and after her unexpected death, the race was on for one of the brothers to produce England’s next monarch.
Four of the Duke’s died childless (or at least, with no legitimate heirs), which then enabled Victoria to ascend to the throne, an irony given that when she was born, little attention was given to the new princess.
4. It wasn’t love at first sight with Albert
One of the most enduring images in the public consciousness of Victoria is her relationship with Prince Albert. But it was far from love at first sight when the young then-Princess Victoria met Albert when she was 17 in 1836.
Upon their meeting, Victoria commented in a letter to her uncle, King Leopold I of Belgium, that Albert had “the most pleasing and delightful exterior,” but was determined not to rush into marriage. In fact, it was 4 years later that the couple got engaged. As tradition dictated, it was not Albert that proposed to Victoria, but Victoria who proposed to Albert.
5. She survived at least 8 assassination attempts
Despite it being generally accepted that the reign of Queen Victoria represented somewhat of a rehabilitation for the Royal Family in the British public’s eyes, you may be surprised to know that it wasn’t all smooth sailing for the monarch.
In fact, there were at least 8 assassination attempts on Victoria’s life throughout her reign; the first of which occurred in 1840, four months after Victoria’s wedding to Albert and whilst Victoria was also four months pregnant with the couple’s first child. The would-be assassin, 18 year old Edward Oxford, would spend 24 years in prison before being deported to Australia.
Further assassination attempts would be made on Victoria throughout her life, ranging from the 1840s, to the last attempt on her life in 1882, which was thwarted when a horde of Etonian students beat the gunman with their umbrellas.
6. She spent most of her reign in mourning
Prince Albert’s death from typhoid fever at the age of 42 was a national tragedy, on par today with that of the national hysteria that took hold after the death of Princess Diana.
It is well documented that Albert’s death had a massive effect on Victoria; she entered into a deep depression and would mourn Albert for the rest of her life. Victoria’s period of mourning would encapsulate most of her life, and her reign as Queen. Victoria and Albert had been married, at the time of his death, for 21 years. Victoria would spent around 40 years mourning her husband.
Of course, this period of mourning has entered the public consciousness and helped shape our image of the Queen; when you picture Victoria, you most likely envisage her dressed all in black, a staple of her mourning period.