Named Alexandrina Victoria but known as Victoria, she was the only child of Edward Duke of Kent and Victoria Saxe-Coburg. Her father died when she was 1 year old and her domineering mother kept her away from her ‘wicked’ uncles Kings George and William. She had a sheltered upbringing, and came to the throne shortly after her 18th birthday in 1837 on the death of her uncle William IV who had no surviving legitimate children. She was at the time unmarried and not crowned until June 28, 1838. In February 1840 she married her cousin and love of her life Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha.
The British Empire was at the height of its power and she ruled over 450 million people, one quarter of the world’s population and approximately one quarter of the work’s landmass. It stretched so far around the globe from Canada to the Caribbean, Africa, India, Australia and New Zealand that it was said that the sun never set on the British Empire. India was Jewel in the Crown and in 1876 she was given the title Empress of India. The Victorian era was a time of immense industrial, political, trade, scientific and military progress for Great Britain. In her early years she was dependent on her Prime Minister Lord Melbourne and her uncle King Leopold of Belgium for advice, but increasingly her husband Albert became her main advisor. He was involved in organising the Great Exhibition in 1851, and persuaded her to take a more constitutional role in leaving the rule of the nation and Empire to Parliament. She was strong willed and her relations with her prime ministers ranged from the affectionate (Melbourne and Disraeli) to the stormy (Peel, Palmerston, and Gladstone).
Victoria and Albert had four sons, five daughters and 42 grandchildren who were married to royalty across Europe making her the ‘grandmother of Europe’. Her daughter Victoria was mother of the German Emperor Kaiser Wilhelm II, and her grand-daughter Alexandria was the wife of Nicholas II Emperor and last Tzar of Russia. The death of Albert from typhoid in 1861 plunged Victoria into mourning and she withdrew almost completely from public life spending her time at Balmoral Castle in Scotland and Osborne house on the Isle of Wight where she spent time with her favourite Scottish servant John Brown. This encouraged republican sentiments and she was the target of several assassination attempts.
However she kept control of affairs, refusing her son Edward, Prince of Wales (who became Edward VII) any active role. Her golden jubilee in 1887 and diamond jubilee in 1897 regained her popular support and matriarchal role as Queen of the nation and Empire. She died at Osborne House on 22 January 1901, and was buried at Windsor. Her reign lasted 63 years and 7 months which is the longest of any British monarch to date and the longest of any female monarch in history (Royal family history: www.britroyals.com)