Victoria's public role

Victoria's public role

A portrait of Queen Victoria and John Brown (c The Royal Collection)

Victoria's long life and reign was as eventful as the times she lived in.

Becoming queen

At six in the morning on 20 June 1837, Victoria was awoken by her mother. Clothed only in her dressing gown, she met the Lord Chamberlain who told her the king was dead and that she was now queen.

A portrait of Queen Victoria at her first Privy Council (c The Royal Collection)Just a few hours later, Victoria held her first Privy Council meeting in Kensington Palace’s Red Saloon. At just eighteen years old, she was surrounded by a crowd of the most respected and influential men in the country. She was, in her own words, 'not at all nervous.'

The public rejoiced in the new monarch. Her popularity was, however, far from unfaltering throughout her reign. Her withdrawal from public life after Prince Albert’s sudden death in 1861 caused a groundswell of dissatisfaction which seemed to threaten the future of the monarchy itself.

The tide of British republicanism turned in the early 1870s however, and by the time of her Diamond Jubilee in 1897 Victoria had become enormously popular amongst her subjects. 

In 1897, the Duchess of Devonshire held a grand fancy dress ball in honour of Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee. View the slideshow of the ball >


Victoria presided over the heyday of the British Empire. By the late 19th century, almost a quarter of the world’s population was subject to her rule.

Victoria did not travel her vast empire, and never ventured further than Europe. Despite this, she was fascinated by India. She employed several Indian servants, created an Indian-themed room at Osborne, and even learned Hindustani.

Entrance to the exhibition is included in your Kensington Palace admission ticket and is free for members. Buy tickets

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