|I chose 'Queen Victoria' by Franz Xaver Winterhalter because it shows her as a young woman rather than the melancholy dowager she became in her later years and the portraits of which are well known. |
Alexandrina Victoria was born on the 24th of May, 1819, to Prince Edward, Duke of Kent and Strathearn and Princess Victoria of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld. Her childhood was strictly regulated and rather melancholy. After the death of the Duke of Kent, the Duchess of Kent found much solace and help in her comptroller Sir John Conroy. He was also rumored to be her lover. In an effort to raise Victoria into a woman totally dependent on them and without any opinions differing from theirs, she grew up in virtual isolation. Living under the yoke and restrictions of an elaborate set of rules and protocols devised by her mother and Conroy, the young girl was not even allowed to interact with other children. She could not move about the palace freely but was required to always have governess or her mother accompany her every step. Rather than break her spirit, this made the young girl even stronger and as soon as she was crowned queen she made her displeasure and anger known by banning Conroy from her household and banishing her mother to a far side of the palace.
Victoria was educated and raised by her governess Baroness Louise Lehzen of Hanover and tutored in a number of other subjects by various tutors. She grew up speaking German, English and eventually learned French as well.
Being the only legitimate child of Prince Edward, Duke of Kent (who died less than a year after her birth) young Victoria became heiress presumptive after the death of George IV in 1830. At that time there were no clear provisions made (legally speaking) for an underage monarch. And so it was decided by the Regency ACT of 1830, that her mother, the Duchess of Kent, would act as Regent should Victoria ascend the throne while still a minor. This of course was something greatly desired by the Duchess. However, King William , remained a burr in her side by stubbornly refusing to die. He disliked the Duchess to such an extent that he stated his desire to live until Victoria’s birthday to prevent a regency by the Duchess of Kent.
Upon King Williams’ death Victoria became the monarch on 20 June, 1837, the coronation itself took place a little more than a year later on 28 June 1838. Since the Queen was an unmarried woman she was still required to live with her mother even though the queen mother had been banished to the far corner of the palace.
Queen Victoria and Prince Albert
Victoria first met Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha (her cousin) when she was only seventeen. In her diary she wrote: "[Albert] is extremely handsome; his hair is about the same colour as mine; his eyes are large and blue, and he has a beautiful nose and a very sweet mouth with fine teeth; but the charm of his countenance is his expression, which is most delightful." They continued to keep contact via letters and very infrequent visits by Prince Albert.
The Queen and Prince Albert were married on 10 February 1840. They had 9 children and 42 grandchildren. It was Prince Albert and Lord Melbourne that taught Victoria much about being a 'constitutional monarch'. In simpler words, a 'constitutional monarchy' gives little power but offers much influence. A number of attempts on her life was made during her reign, but her strength in dealing with these situations only helped her popularity. It was typhoid fever that took Prince Albert from the side of his beloved Victoria on December 14, 1861. His death devastated the queen. Her mother had passed away in March of the same year, and despite their poor relationship over much of Victoria’s life, the loss was hard on her. Victoria entered a state of mourning and wore black for the remainder of her life. She also began to live in seclusion and avoided public appearances which earned her the nickname ‘Widow of Windsor’. The political climate along with her seclusion reduced her popularity but she continued to reside mainly in Balmoral, Osborne house and Windsor Castle.
As time went by, Victoria became increasingly reliant on her Scottish manservant, John Brown. Although rumors of a romantic connection were refuted, when she was laid to rest in her coffin, she had a memento of John Brown with her, along with one of her beloved Albert. Rumors surfaced in 2008 that Victoria's body wore the wedding ring of John Brown's mother, placed on her hand after her death, however this has not been verified by credible sources.
Queen Victoria died January 22, 1901 of a cerebral hemorrhage at Osborne House on the Isle of Wight, where she had spent every Christmas after being widowed. She was buried beside Prince Albert in the Frogmore Mausoleum at Windsor Great Park. Queen Victoria had reigned for a total of 63 years, seven months and two days and died at the age of 81.