Alexandrina Victoria was the Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland from the 20th June 1837 until her death in January 1901. Her reign was 63 years and 7 months, considerably longer than that of her predecessors, consequently the era she reigned is known as the Victorian Era, a hugely influential period of time in British History.
Victoria took up accession to the crown after her uncle the King George III died, leaving no legitimate successor despite him having had 15 children, Victoria became next in line. On the 19th June 1837 Princess Victoria woke a Queen. A little over a year later she was crowned the sovereign of Britain, on 28th June 1838.
In October 1839, Victoria proposed to her cousin, Prince Consort Albert of Saxe-Coberg-Gotha, of which royal tradition dictated that a reigning monarch could not be proposed to. They had met a few times, after being introduced by Victoria’s uncle Leopole. Victoria had expressed her adoration for Albert numerous times, describing him lovingly in her diary, proving the relationship to be one of love over duty. Soon after, on February the 10th, they got married at St James Palace Chapel, with Victoria dressed in a simple white dress, which was unusual for the time. Thus, the Queen set the trend for future brides.
A highlight of Queen Victoria and Albert’s reign came in 1851, with the opening of the Great Exhibition. The exhibition has been well documented, and is often held up as a symbol of progress made during the Victorian era. Albert played a leading role in the organising of what was an international trade show, which ran from May – October. It was set inside the architectural wonder of the Crystal Palace, erected in Hyde park. There were 13,000 exhibits, centred around Britain’s global wealth and technological achievements, as well as objects from colonies within the empire at the time.
Victoria’s reign was a long one, and as such she oversaw the development of many advances that have helped shape our modern society. Scientific advances like photography, the material development of the Industrial Revolution, societal changes such as the rise of the new woman, and significant social and political reform all took place during the Victorian era.
Under Victoria, Britain not only advanced domestically, but it also expanded rapidly, becoming an empire. By the the time of her death in 1901, she would be the head of nearly a quarter of the world’s population.
Elena Cossar interdisciplinary Historian and social science writer for The Herstorian, based in Suffolk.