xxxxxQueen Victoria (1819-1901) came to the throne of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in 1837, following the death of her uncle William IV. The only child of Edward, Duke of Kent, fourth son of George III, she was born at Kensington Palace, London in 1819. As a child she was lively and intelligent, but she was brought up in an adult world and seldom met children of her own age. She learned to speak French and German, and showed a marked ability at drawing - a subject in which her tutors included Edwin Landseer and Edward Lear - but she was stubborn by nature and prone to fits of temper. However, when she first came to the throne at the age of 18, she impressed all by her calm and dignified manner, and was crowned amid universal rejoicing.

xxxxxIn the opening years of her reign she became very much under the influence of the cynical but able Whig prime minister Lord Melbourne. He became her mentor and father-figure, and such was the closeness of their association that she came to dislike and distrust members of the Tory party. As a result, when Robert Peel became prime minister in 1839 and, in accordance with tradition, asked her to replace a number of the ladies of the bedchamber with Tory wives, she bluntly refused. This “bedchamber incident” was eventually resolved, but in the meantime a further indiscretion lost her favour with the public when she falsely accused one of her ladies in waiting of being pregnant. In fact, the lady in question, Lady Flora Hastings, was suffering from cancer, and died from the disease shortly afterwards.

xxxxxIn 1840 Victoria married Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. Despite some stormy scenes, it was a very happy marriage. She adored her “angel”, and his calming influence instilled in her a more balanced judgement in political affairs. Indeed, she came to admire Peel’s qualities, and even came to respect some of the views of the high-handed Lord Palmerston, though she strongly disapproved of his support for Italian independence. In the first years of marriage, Albert was only allowed to “help with the blotting paper”, as she put it, but as pregnancy followed pregnancy - they had a total of nine children - he became more and more involved in the daily affairs of state. She sought his advice on many occasions, and was full of praise for his achievements, particularly his outstanding contribution to the success of the Great Exhibition of 1851, that “complete and beautiful triumph”.

xxxxxUnder Albert’s influence, Victoria came to value her private life and, as a result, spent some time at her holiday homes on the Isle of Wight and in Scotland. This led to some criticism, but, in general, her stays were not at the expense of her royal duties, and she had her people’s welfare at heart. She viewed the suffering in Ireland as “too terrible to contemplate”, showed some sympathy towards the basic aims of Chartism (though not its resort to violence), and was deeply involved in the welfare of her troops and the care of the wounded during the Crimean War. And, to her credit, she showed a great deal of understanding during the Indian Mutiny of 1857. At the end of this crisis she called for a feeling of benevolence and religious toleration towards the native population. She also served well in her diplomatic role. At the invitation of Louis Philippe, for example, she visited Paris in 1843 and became the first English sovereign to visit a French monarch since Henry VIII met Francois I at the Field of the Cloth of Gold in 1520. Later she entertained Napoleon III in London, soon after the outbreak of the Crimean War.

xxxxxDespite the occasional row, due in the main to her volatile nature and her intense dislike of being pregnant, Victoria idolized her husband, and loved her family dearly. These, indeed, were her happy years, but they came to an abrupt end in 1861. In March of that year she was stricken with grief by the death of her mother, the Duchess of Kent, and then in December came the sudden death of Albert, worn out by hard work and struck down by typhoid fever. Victoria was inconsolable. She remained in mourning for the rest of her life and retired from public life for close on twenty years. Albert had been everything to her and she never recovered from her loss. However, behind the scenes she continued to play a prominent part in the affairs of state throughout her reign.

xxxxxIncidentally, Victoria instituted the Victoria Cross for gallantry during the Crimean War, and six soldiers gained the award during the fighting. ……

xxxxx…… Victoria was very much in favour of new ideas. In 1842 she made her first train journey, travelling from Windsor to Paddington; she consented to her seventh child having an injection for smallpox, and she herself took advantage of chloroform during the birth of her seventh child, Prince Leopold, in 1853.

QUEEN VICTORIA 1837 - 1861  (Va) Reigned 1837 - 1901


The English engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel builds The Great Western, the first of his ocean going vessels. He also builds numerous bridges and over l,000 miles of railway.

The English writer Charles Dickens publishes Oliver Twist, the first in a series of novels exposing the social evils of Victorian London, and including David Copperfield in 1850.


In South Africa the Boer Voortrekkers crush the Zulus at the Battle of Blood River. Over the next five years they set up republics in Natal, Transvaal, and the Orange Free State.

In Britain, Chartism calls for universal suffrage, secret ballots and annual parliaments.

Supporters include the historian Thomas Carlyle and the novelist Charles Kingsley.

To provide land for white settlers, Native Americans are moved to “Indian Territory” in the west. The Cherokee resist, but are forced on a journey known as the Trail of Tears.

The Anti-Corn Law League is formed. Led by British liberals Richard Cobden and John Bright, its vigorous campaign played a part in getting the Law repealed eight years later.

The English artist Joseph Turner paints The Fighting Temeraire, the first in a series of

vibrant works famed for their daring use of colour, free brushwork and intensity of light.


The First Opium War breaks out between Britain and China, as does the First Anglo- Afghan War. The British make gains in China, but suffer a major setback in Afghanistan.

The Polish composer and pianist Frédéric Chopin writes his famous Piano Sonata No.2, and the Hungarian piano virtuoso Franz Liszt begins his highly successful tour of Europe.

The French painter Louis Daguerre and the English chemist Fox Talbot make public their photographic processes, both of which greatly reduce the required exposure time.

Two German scientists, Matthias Schleiden and Theodor Schwann formulate the cell theory, a concept developed further by the German pathologist Rudolf Virchow in 1858.


By the Treaty of Waitangi the islands of New Zealand come under British control. Though made to protect the native population, it leads to the Maori Wars of the 1840s and 1860s.

Following Egypt’s conquest of Syria, completed in 1839, the Great Powers, anxious to save the Ottoman Empire, force Egypt’s leader, Muhammad Ali, to withdraw his troops.


Following revolts in both Lower and Upper Canada in favour of democratic reform, the two

provinces are united by the Union of Canada Act, with each given equal representation.

Murders in the Rue Morgue is published, one the many horror stories produced by the

American writer Edgar Allan Poe. He was also an accomplished poet and literary critic.


The poem The Pied Piper of Hamelin is published by the English poet Robert Browning. Later works include Home Thoughts from Abroad and The Ring and the Book.

By the Treaty of Nanking, ending the First Opium War, Britain gains the Island of Hong Kong. The territory is later extended onto the mainland in 1860 and 1898 (Vc).


The Danish philosopher and theologian Soren Kierkegaard publishes his first major work Either/Or. He came to be seen as a precursor of the 20th century Existentialist Movement.


The adventure novel The Three Musketeers is published by the French writer Alexandre Dumas. Other works include The Count of Monte Cristo and The Man in the Iron Mask.

By the Treaty of Tangier, Morocco recognises France’s claim to Algeria. It manages to retain its own independence until the international Algeciras Conference of 1906.


In Ireland, an outbreak of potato blight begins the Great Famine, six years of extreme suffering. Nearly a million die, and a similar number emigrate, mostly to the United States.

The position of the planet Neptune is calculated by the English astronomer John Couch Adams and the French astronomer Urbain Le Verrier. It is visually discovered in the following year.

The English explorer Sir John Franklin leads an expedition to discover the Northwest Passage. The two ships are sighted two months later, but then are never seen again.

The German composer Richard Wagner produces his romantic opera Tannhauser. His masterpiece, the musical drama The Ring of the Nibelung is staged in 1876 (Vb).


By the Treaty of Oregon the United States settles its western border with Canada, but in the south war breaks out with Mexico. By it the U.S. gains California and New Mexico.

The English talented artist Edward Lear publishes his Book of Nonsense and becomes famous for his zany, highly amusing limericks and his delightful pen-and-ink sketches.

The French composer Hector Berlioz produces his Damnation of Faust. Like his contemporary the German Robert Schumann, much of his work has a literary content.

The British army officer Charles Sturt, having earlier discovered the river system of south-east Australia, becomes the first explorer to journey deep into the interior of the continent.


In the north of England Charlotte Bronte publishes Jane Eyre, her sister Emily publishes Wuthering Heights, and her sister Anne publishes Agnes Grey, all under pen names.

Chloroform is discovered by the Scottish obstetrician James Simpson, physician to Queen Victoria. Like ether, which it replaces, it makes possible more extensive operations.

After a long conflict, starting in 1830 (W4), France finally gains control of northern Algeria, but the eastern region is not subdued until 1857, and the Sahara areas not until 1900.


The Communist Manifesto, calling for the overthrow of the ruling classes, is published in London, the work of the German social philosophers Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels.

The Year of Revolutions sees rebellions against autocratic rule in many European states, including France, Italy, Hungary, Austria and Germany. The majority are quickly crushed.

Gold is discovered at Coloma in California and starts off a massive Gold Rush. Within a few years gold is also struck in parts of Australia, South Africa, Canada and New Zealand.

Three English artists, Rossetti, Millais and Hunt, found the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, a society aimed at reviving the realism and spiritual values of art in the Middle Ages.

Vanity Fair is published, the realistic novel of the English writer William Makepeace. Thackeray. By this and his later works he is seen by some as a rival to Charles Dickens.


The Italian national hero Giuseppe Garibaldi takes on the Austrians in Milan and the French in Rome. Eventually defeated, he escapes abroad but returns to the fight in 1854.

The Punjab is annexed by the British following the Second Sikh War. In India as a whole, mounting opposition to British rule eventually leads to the Indian Mutiny of 1857.

Excavation begins on the site of the ancient city of Nineveh, carried out by the English

archaeologist Austen Layard. Four years earlier he unearthed the Assyrian city of Calah.


The second law of thermodynamics is formulated by the physicist Rudolf Clausius. He later contributes to the theory of electrolysis and the kinetic theory of gases.

The English writer Charles Dickens writes David Copperfield, one of his most popular stories. His powerful social novels were well written, and full of memorable characters.


The Great Exhibition, held in Hyde Park, London, to display “the industries of all nations”, proves a great success, and highlights Britain’s head start in the Industrial Revolution.


The American novelist Herman Melville completes his major work Moby Dick. In its use of symbolism this sea drama is influenced by the American writer Nathaniel Hawthorne.


In South Africa, the British recognise the independence of the Transvaal (and the Orange Free State in 1854), but retain Natal, and gain victory in the Cape Frontier (Kaffir) Wars.


Louis Napoleon, nephew of Napoleon Bonaparte, having been elected President in 1849, establishes the Second Empire in France and makes himself Emperor as Napoleon III.

A trade dispute sparks off the Second Anglo-Burmese War. The British seize the ports of Lower Burma, including Rangoon. The remainder of the country is conquered in 1885 (Vc).


The Crimean War breaks out, the first major European conflict since the Napoleonic Wars.

Russia occupies Moldavia and Wallachia, and destroys the Turkish fleet at Sinope.

The Italian composer Giuseppe Verdi produces two of his finest operas, Il Travatore and La Traviata. His later works include Aida and his masterpieces Otello and Falstaff.

The Scottish medical missionary and explorer David Livingstone begins his arduous crossing of Africa from west to east, discovering the mighty Victoria Falls en route.


Britain and France enter the Crimean War. Allied with Turkey, they lay siege to Sevastopol and defeat Russian forces at the Battles of Alma River, Balaclava and Inkerman.

By the Treaty of Kanagawa the American naval officer Commodore Matthew Perry forces Japan to open some of its ports to international trade. Other countries quickly follow suit.


In the Crimea, a French force eventually succeeds in capturing Sevastopol. At the same time the British government starts an enquiry into the bad management of the war.

Appalled by the lack of medical care available in the Crimea, the English nurse Florence Nightingale embarks upon a reform of British military hospitals and nursing generally.

The popular American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow publishes his best known work The Song of Hiawatha. His output also includes the famous poem Paul Revere’s Ride and The Wreck of the Hesperus.


The English writer Anthony Trollope begins his series of novels about life in the fictitious cathedral city of Barchester. He later writes a series on the aristocratic Palliser family.

At the Paris World Fair the controversial French artist Gustave Courbet stages his own

 “Pavilion of Realism”, a display of realistic work which includes his The Painter’s Studio.


The Treaty of Paris ends the Crimean War. By its terms the integrity and independence of Turkey is confirmed, and Russian influence is curbed in the Balkans and Black Sea areas.

The cost of steel production is much reduced with the invention of the Bessemer process, a modification in manufacture introduced by the English engineer Henry Bessemer.


The Second Opium War breaks out. This time Britain is joined by France in an attack on China. They and other countries gain further trade concessions via the Tientsin Treaties.


The Indian Mutiny breaks out, aimed at overthrowing British rule. The rebels take Delhi and Cawnpore and lay siege to Lucknow, but the mutiny is crushed within twelve months.

Jean François Millet, a leading member of the French Barbizon School of landscape painters, produces his famous The Gleaners, a realistic portrayal of peasant life.

The popular story Tom Brown’s School Days is written by the English barrister Thomas Hughes. It tells of life at Rugby at the time when Thomas Arnold was the headmaster.

The English explorers Richard Burton and John Speke set out to discover the source of the White Nile. Burton is forced to turn back, but Speke discovers Lake “Victoria” in 1858.


The French chemist Louis Pasteur discovers that fermentation is caused by bacteria, and the German pathologist Rudolf Virchow applies the cell theory to explain disease.

The German-born French composer Jacques Offenbach produces his satirical operetta Orpheus in the Underworld. His other major work, Tales of Hoffmann, is staged in 1881.


Work begins on the building of the Suez Canal to link the Mediterranean with the Red Sea.

Supervised by the French diplomat Ferdinand de Lesseps, it is completed in 1869 (Vb).

In the War of 1859 Sardinia-Piedmont, assisted by the French, defeat the Austrians at the Battles of Magenta and Solferino, and, except for Venetia, drive them out of northern Italy.

The English naturalist Charles Darwin puts forward his theory of evolution in The Origin of Species, a work which was to revolutionize the science of biology. His Descent of Man is published twelve years later in 1871 (Vb).

The opera Faust, based on a play by Goethe, achieves lasting fame for its French composer Charles Gounod. He was also admired for the quality of his Church music and choral work.

Alfred Tennyson, one of England’s most gifted poets, begins work on The Idylls of the King, a series of poems based on the Arthurian legends. It is not completed until 1885.

On Liberty, a defence of individual freedom, is published by the English philosopher and economist John Stuart Mill. He was also a strong supporter of women’s suffrage.

Moldavia and Wallachia agree to form the Kingdom of Romania, but independence from the Turks is not gained in full until the end of the Russo-Turkish War in 1878.


The occupation of Beijing and the burning of the summer palace by the British and French bring an end to the Opium Wars. By then, Western nations had gained a foothold in China.

The English realist novelist George Eliot (pen name of Mary Ann Evans) writes The Mill on the Floss. Her other major works include Adam Bede, Silas Marner and Middlemarch.

In the struggle for Italian unification, the Italian patriot Giuseppe Garibaldi conquers Sicily and Naples in the south, and then joins up with Piedmontese forces from the north.  

The explorer John Stuart reaches the centre of Australia, and the explorers Robert Burke and William Wills start out on their epic attempt to cross the continent from south to north.


The American Civil War breaks out between northern and southern states following the bombardment and capture of Fort Sumter by the Confederate forces of the South.

As part of a widespread programme of reform, Alexander II of Russia abolishes serfdom throughout his empire, despite strong opposition from the landowning classes.

Italy is united as a kingdom under Victor Emmanuel II of Sardinia-Piedmont. Venetia, however, is not included until 1866, and Rome not until the Franco-Prussian War of 1870.

The English artist and designer William Morris sets up a company in London to revive the Pre-Raphaelite movement in the fields of handicraft and interior design. It proves highly successful by 1870 (Vb).


Victoria: by the German painter Franz Xaver Winterhalter (1805-1873), 1859 – Royal Collection, UK. Prince Albert: by the Scottish portrait painter John Partridge (1789-1872),1840 – Royal Collection, UK. Coat of Arms: licensed under Creative Commons. Author:Ipankonin –











































































Prince Albert dies of typhoid on the 14th December, aged 42, after a brief illness. The Queen is broken hearted and, as we shall see, Vb (1862-1880), goes into deep mourning for close on twenty years.


Snippets During VictoriaA reign Synopsis of Victoria Reign (Va)

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