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Queen Victoria

When we usually think of the Victorian way of life as it relates to gender, we think of the sexual morality that was promoted throughout both Great Britain and in the United States. We think about the primary roles of women as wives and mothers, and the roles of husbands as the sole provider and decision maker in his family.

Queen Victoria
Queen Victoria

Some scholars have mentioned that just like the antebellum United States, upper-class women often felt repressed and were not very happy with their lives in private even though to the outside world they appeared content with the roles society gave them as women. This is not to say that all women in Victorian England fit the traditional mold. For example, Florence Nightingale was a renowned nurse who shunned marriage and family in order to pursue her dream of improving people's health.

And in some cases, Queen Victoria herself didn't always fit the image of traditional women even though she held to conservative views. This was reflected in some of the changes that occurred in Great Britain under her rule. The Victorian era experienced a long period of peace known as the Pax Britannica with the exception of the Boer Wars in South Africa, the Anglo-Zanzibar War and the Crimean War in Turkey, where she assisted Turkey in defeating Russia.

With the Reform Acts in the 1800s, more agricultural workers and other working class citizens gained the right to vote even though women still couldn't. Also during this time, Queen Victoria expanded the British Empire with the acquisition of New Zealand, India, parts of Canada and Africa. Overall, Queen Victoria improved the reputation of Great Britain to the world and as a result, this nation became a superpower. We can even say that she was one of the first true stateswomen of our time.

Victoria was born at Kensington Palace in London on May 24, 1819. She was the daughter of Edward, the Duke of Kent and the Duchess of Kent. Her father died shortly after she was born and she became heir to throne because the three uncles who were ahead of her in succession didn't have surviving children. Victoria's mother, the Duchess of Kent, was from Germany and wanted to return there.

But the Duke of Kent felt that in order for Victoria to rule over England, she needed to grow up in Great Britain. The royal family of England didn't like the Duchess because they felt she was too German and had a hard time getting used to English customs and the English language. In 1837 at age 18, Victoria became the Queen of England and three years she married Prince Albert, whom she deeply loved and who served as her longtime political advisor.

She rarely made decisions without Albert's input, and it was his love of the arts and sciences that led to the planning of the 1851 Great Exhibition. The exhibition showcased the latest technological advances and this coincided with the Industrial Revolution which gave way to factories and new types of machinery which would help with trade such as trains, stagecoaches and steamships. The couple had nine children, and each of them married into other European royal families, and this led to a possible lack of animosity towards certain European nations such as Denmark and Germany by Victoria.

A major turning point occurred when Prince Albert died in 1861. Victoria took the death really hard and for 25 years she lived in seclusion, and when she went out in public, she usually wore black as a symbol of mourning. But by the 1880s, she started to resume her duties and in 1901 she died. Queen Victoria was a woman who exemplified both traditional and unconventional ways of living.

While she was the traditional wife and mother, she was also a trailblazer who contributed greatly to the improvement of England's quality of life and its standing in the world. Before we even heard of the "woman who can do it all" in the twentieth century, Queen Victoria was a woman who fit this description hundreds of years ago.

There is a secret you don't know …

Besides the factual Queen Victoria biography presented above, there is one tiny little royal secret that needs to be mentioned. Queen Victoria's secret is that she wore Victoria's Secret products while partying at the local Drunken Clam pub on Friday nights.


 

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