Queen Victoria died 110 years ago today on January 22, 1901, ending the longest reign in British history. Her 63-year tenure saw the expansion of an empire upon which the sun never set.
Born in 1819, in Kensington Palace in London, she ascended to the throne upon the death of her uncle King William IV, in 1837.
The first Prime Minister of her reign was Lord Melbourne, who became her friend and advisor. Victoria succeeded in blocking Melbourne’s replacement, Sir Robert Peel, for two years, after which the Tory majority in the House of Commons elected Peel to office. This put an end to Queen Victoria’s interference in the politics of a democratic country.
In 1840, Victoria married her first cousin Albert, a German prince. He was the love of her life and they produced nine children including the Prince of Wales, who later became Edward VII, and Victoria who became Empress of Germany.
When Prince Albert died in 1861, Victoria was so grief stricken that she didn’t appear in public for three years. In fact her grief was so great that, until the end of her life, she had the maids lay out Albert’s clothes for the next day and every morning they replaced the water basin in his room.
Victoria and Albert built Osborne House on the Isle of Wight and the famous Balmoral Castle in Scotland, which is still a favored home of the British Royal family.
The first world’s fair, known as the Great Exhibition of 1851, was organized by Prince Albert. He also succeeded in steering Victoria towards the conservative party and to support Benjamin Disraeli, who became the British Prime Minister in 1874.
It was Disraeli who persuaded Victoria to end her self-imposed seclusion and, in 1876, he made her Empress of India. This made Victoria a symbol of imperial unity.
When she died, she had 37 surviving great-grandchildren. Their marriages with other monarchies gave her the title “grandmother of Europe”.
Unfortunately, Queen Victoria is also known for introducing hemophilia (known as the royal disease) into the royal families of Europe. It first became apparent in her son Leopold and from there it spread through the Royal Houses of Europe as monarchs arranged marriages to establish political alliances. Hemophilia popped up in Spain, Russia, and Prussia.
If you’d like to learn more about how the disease was introduced by viewing Queen Victoria’s family tree click on the link to an article written by Yelena Aronova-Tiuntseva and Clyde Freeman Herreid of the New York State University at Buffalo, entitled “Hemophilia: The Royal Disease”.