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13 February 2013

Mark Black: Queen Victoria: A Very Brief History

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This is a very satisfying potted history of Queen Victoria - the longest serving English monarch in history. Queen Victoria reigned for over 63 years (Queen Elizabeth II has currently reigned for 61 years). Victoria became Queen less than 3 weeks after her 18th birthday and during her reign she lived through several assassination attempts, many changes of governments and reigned over the largest empire in world history.

She married Prince Albert early in her marriage and within months her Consort became her valued confidant and adviser. Although Victoria hated being pregnant she had nine babies with Albert during their 21 years of marriage and after his death from typhoid idolised him for the rest of her life.

One of the best things about these brief histories is that I always I discover something new. From the movie "Mrs Brown" (starring Billy Connolly and Judy Dench) many of us will have heard about the enigmatic commoner John Brown who became Victoria's close companion in her later life. I was stunned to learn that when she was buried Victoria wore a wedding ring which had belonged to Brown's mother and had a lock of Brown's hair and a picture of him placed in her coffin.

Despite being brief I found this history gave me a good overview of the reign of a fairly ordinary woman whose influence helped to shape the UK's modern system of constitutional monarchy. While this history was brief, researchers now have an immense source of information about her life as Victoria kept detailed diaries from 1832 until her death in 1901. 40,000 pages of the surviving volumes are now available to researchers on-line.


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