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Queen Victoria

Victoria became queen at 18; by the time she died, Britain was transformed

Victoria became queen at 18; by the time she died, Britain was transformed

The queen who gave her name to an era

Princess Victoria, born 1819, grew up at Kensington Palace. She became queen aged 18 and ruled for 63 years. The Victorian era saw massive social and political change in Britain, which became the greatest of all imperial powers.

The young queen

The tiny (5ft) queen was a slim girl but in old age her waist measured 49in, making her look almost spherical.

Princess Victoria with her spaniel, Dash. The Princess is wearing evening dress, holding a rose, near a table with books and a globe

Young Victoria at Kensington

Victoria was born at Kensington Palace on 24 May 1819. Her parents, the Duke and Duchess of Kent were royal, but not wealthy. After her father died in 1820, Victoria’s mother controlled every aspect of the Princess’s upbringing and education, together with the manipulative Sir John Conroy, the Duchess’s ‘adviser’. It was known early on that Victoria was very likely to inherit the throne, so the little Princess was closely supervised. Her mother even shared her bedroom! Victoria’s beloved governess, Baroness Lehzen, was an ally, and supported her against her mother and Sir John. And even as a little girl, Victoria’s iron will showed through.

Image: Princess Victoria with her spaniel, Dash.

Kensington became a royal residence in 1689 when King William III and Queen Mary II purchased a private country house and commissioned Sir Christopher Wren to enlarge it for their use. For the next 70 years the palace was at the centre of the life and government of the kingdom and played host to the courts of William and Mary, Queen Anne, George I and George II. In the 19th century, Kensington was the birthplace and home of Princess Victoria (later Queen Victoria).

Victoria as wife and mother

Victoria married her German cousin, Prince Albert of Saxe-Corburg Gotha; a union largely arranged by scheming relatives. However, it was a marriage based on genuine love, affection and shared interests. The couple first met at Kensington Palace in 1836. When they met again at Windsor in 1839 Victoria fell madly in love and they were married in 1840. The couple produced nine children and the happiness of family Christmases and birthdays were all recorded in Victoria’s diaries. She also followed Albert’s taste in music, art, and literature. Together they shared an ardent interest in raising and educating their children.

A fashion plate showing Queen Victoria in 'Royal Robes', 1838

'My dearest Albert put on my stockings for me. I went in and saw him shave; a great delight for me'

Victoria records her happiness three days after her wedding

Victoria as widow

Prince Albert died from what was though to be typhoid fever on 14 December 1861, aged 42. Victoria was devoted to her husband and her grief was overwhelming. She wore black for the rest of her reign and for the next decade rarely appeared in public. Victoria never recovered fully from the shock of his death. She became close to her personal servant John Brown and the exact nature of their relationship continues to be controversial today. Although she never neglected her duties, Victoria was widely criticised for living in seclusion.

Gifts

Albert once designed a brooch for Victoria containing their first daughter Vicky’s milk tooth!

Victoria’s World: Britain is transformed

The Queen lived in a world marked by radical change.

Queen Victoria came to the throne as Britain was moving from an agriculturally based economy. By the end of her reign colonial expansion, industrial production and new technologies had transformed the way people viewed the world, how they communicated with one another and how they moved from place to place. Victoria embraced many of these advances. She enthused about the telegraph machine she had seen at the Great Exhibition of 1851. She used chloroform to ease the labour pains during the birth of two of her children and made a voice recording in 1888. The British Empire expanded until it stretched across Africa, Asia, Australia and Canada.

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Go on an interactive adventure at Kensington Palace. Meet a character from history, explore all around you, do challenges and win a badge!

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Families

Explore the beautiful private rooms at Kensington Palace that were once used by Queen Mary II for relaxation and sleep.

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Highlights Things to see
Fountain Court, looking west. The courtyard fountain can just be seen through an archway on the left.

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Discover the history and design of Kensington Palace and learn about the royals who lived there in the official guidebook.

Official Kensington Palace guidebook

Discover the history and design of Kensington Palace and learn about the royals who lived there in the official guidebook.

£4.99

500 fascinating facts about Queen Victoria and her world. This illustrated book uncovers secrets about Victoria and her family.

Queen Victoria: 500 facts

500 fascinating facts about Queen Victoria and her world. This illustrated book uncovers secrets about Victoria and her family.

£12.99

Hand embroidered in silk and metal threads, this luxury tree decoration depicts Victoria as a young Queen.

Queen Victoria tree decoration

Hand embroidered in silk and metal threads, this luxury tree decoration depicts Victoria as a young Queen.

£10.99