Manchester Historian

Student newspaper for the University of Manchester's History Department

Wednesday 22nd November 2017 | Manchester, UK

Queen Victoria and her Victorian Britain

Reigning for an impressive sixty-four years, Queen Victoria ruled during a period that witnessed the invention of the telephone, Jack the Ripper roaming the streets and Thomas Hardy dominating book shelves; a period that became renowned in British history.

Queen Victoria took to the throne in 1837 aged eighteen and remained there until her death in 1901. She ruled during a period of immense expansion and progress, both domestically and internationally, becoming the first monarch to have her period of rule named after her during her reign.

The Victorian era was a time of national self-confidence as both the population in England and Wales (16.5 million in 1851 to 30.5 million in 1901) and Britain’s imperial reach almost doubled, becoming the largest in history. The British Empire came to include Canada, Australia, India and various other possessions in Africa and Asia. Queen Victoria was the queen of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and Empress of India, with the Empire extending over approximately one fifth of the earth’s surface. Almost a quarter of the world’s population owed allegiance to Victoria.

As well as ruling Britain’s powerful Empire, Queen Victoria herself also had nine children. After marrying her cousin Prince Albert in 1840, to the dismay of a portion of the British population who were not pleased with the German Prince, they raised nine children together. Queen Victoria quite significantly outlived Prince Albert, as he died in 1861 of typhoid fever, leaving Victoria devastated and sending her in to a twenty-five year recluse. However, her family did help to save Britain from any European entanglement through the marriages of her children. Either directly or by marriage, she was related to the royal houses of nearly every European power, with the exceptions of France and Spain, enabling Britain to avoid any major European conflict, until the First World War, and allow the Empire to successfully grow.

In addition to the legacy of Queen Victoria herself, who is the second longest serving monarch to date, Victorian Britain itself also left an impressive and wide-ranging legacy. For example, in terms of sport, tennis was created in Birmingham between 1859 and 1865 and Wimbledon was held in 1877 for the first time as well as the establishment of the first football league in the world in 1888.

Britain also experienced unprecedented expansion in industry, railways, and science. Victorian Britain was a period of breakthroughs with the creation of the underground, the telephone, photography and Darwin’s theory of evolution. Historians have often credited Victorian Britain as the ‘golden years’ of British history, supported by the strong reign of Queen Victoria, the expansion of the Empire and the breakthroughs in multiple fields.

Comments are closed.