10 February 2015

Today's Princess: Queen Victoria

By Franz Xaver Winterhalter
via Wikimedia Commons
On this day 175 years ago, the tradition of white wedding dresses was born when the young Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom married her first cousin, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. Before that brides had often worn cloth of silver or gold, or whatever was their nicest dress.

Victoria's journals and letters made it quite clear that she thoroughly enjoyed her wedding night. She also had hoped to keep her handsome groom to herself for several years before their relationship had "consequences" Alas, even Queen's don't always get their way, and the couple soon had nine consequences, but Victoria was not used to having a large family around her.

Princess Alexandrina Victoria of Kent was born after her middle-aged father, fourth son of King George III, finally went looking for a suitable wife. Like his brothers, he was galvanized into action by the death of their only legitimate niece, Princess Charlotte Augusta of Wales. (Read about her in my post A Tragic Royal Birth.) After Charlotte their were no heirs in that generation and each prince hoped to father the next King. The Duke of Kent married the widowed Victoria of Saxe-Coburg, who had proven her childbearing abilities. Their only daughter together was born shortly before the Duke died. Baby Drina, who would eventually adopt her second name, grew up in the palace where she was born, Kensington Palace.

Barely 18 when she ascended the throne, she thwarted her mother's attempts at a Regency, determined to make her own way. She soon chose her own husband and became completely devoted to him. When Albert died suddenly of typhus, Victoria was a 42-year-old single mother of nine children, although her oldest had already married and moved to Germany.

Victoria was a tiny woman with a giant presence. She dominated her family with an iron fist, meddling in the activities of her children, grandchildren and great-children with incessant letters filled with demands and advice. While some of them adored her, others were intimidated by her. (Meet her granddaughters in my post, Gorgeous Granddaughters of Victoria.)

Her long reign came to be associated with the best of Industrial Age England and its allegedly prim and proper ways. She herself was undoubtedly the most famous woman in the world, as the head of the British Empire, which spread across every continent.

When she died at the age of 81, the 20th century had already dawned and the frictions within her own family fueled by the social, political and military tensions of the 19th were about to break loose and change forever the world that Victoria had known, but Victoria's legacy lives on in the person of her great-great granddaughter, Queen Elizabeth II, who seems to live by the words that Victoria uttered when she learned that she would one day be queen: "I will be good."

For more about Victoria: 
Victoria's Secrets on Princess Palace
Queen Victoria Revealed blog
Descendants of Queen Victoria on All About Royal Families
Queen Victoria Biography on Biography Online

Just for fun:
New Adventures of Queen Victoria comic strip

Best films about Victoria:

Books about Victoria:

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