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A brief history of Queen Victoria

Victoria’s marriage was the first of a reigning queen of England in 286 years.

Queen Victoria and Prince Albert’s wedding, which took place in St James’s Palace chapel on February 10th, 1840, was the first marriage of a reigning queen of England since Mary I in 1554. Victoria wore an 18-foot-long train carried by 12 bridesmaids and kicked off a modern-day tradition by wearing white. Outside, the nation erupted into huge public celebrations. Victoria recorded how she “never saw such crowds of people… they cheered most enthusiastically”. She reflected on the event as “the happiest day of my life”.

Throughout their 21-year marriage, Victoria and Albert had a passionate, if sometimes tempestuous, relationship. Although the couple had blazing arguments, Victoria clearly adored her husband, describing him in her diary as “perfection in every way … oh how I adore and love him”.

Queen Victoria spoke several languages.

Perhaps in part due to her strict schooling under the ‘Kensington system’, Victoria proved herself to be a remarkably adept linguist. As well as being fluent in both English and German, she also spoke French, Italian and Latin.

As her mother and governess both hailed from Germany, Victoria grew up speaking the language and at one stage reportedly even had a German accent, which had to be erased by tutors. When she later married her German cousin, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, the couple regularly spoke German together. Although Albert was fluent in English, he and Victoria could often be heard talking, and indeed arguing, in German when in private.

Later in life, Victoria also experimented with some of the languages from across her vast empire. Following the arrival of Indian servants at Windsor Castle in August 1887, she was taught Hindustani and Urdu phrases by her favourite Indian attendant, Abdul Karim. The Queen recorded in her diary: “I am learning a few words of Hindustani to speak to my servants. It is a great interest to me for both the language and the people I have naturally never come into real contact with before”.

Britain’s imperial conquests increased nearly fivefold during Victoria’s reign.

Over the course of her reign, Victoria witnessed a mammoth expansion of the British empire. During her first 20 years on the throne, Britain’s imperial conquests had increased almost fivefold. By the time she died, it was the largest empire the world had ever known and included a quarter of the world’s population. As the monarchy was seen as a focal point for imperial pride and a means of uniting the empire’s disparate peoples, Victoria’s image was spread across the empire.

The Queen herself took a great interest in imperial affairs. In 1877, prime minister Benjamin Disraeli pronounced her empress of India in a move to cement Britain’s link to the “jewel in the empire’s crown.” The Queen had pushed for the title for several years, but, concerned about its absolutist connotations, Disraeli had been hesitant to agree. By 1877, however, Victoria had become so insistent he felt he could not resist any longer for fear of offending her.

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