Queen Victoria ascended the British throne in 1837 and ruled for 63 years and seven months until her death in 1901, making her the longest-reigning ruler of the United Kingdom up to that time. Her reign is known as the Victorian era, during which the British Empire experienced a large expansion and many political, military, and scientific developments. Take a look into the life of this long-reigning queen and learn about the love she had for her husband, her country, and the strange and secretive instructions she left behind for her funeral.
She Was Just Eighteen When She Became Queen
In the early morning of June 20, 1837, Queen Victoria’s life would forever change when she awoke to the news that her uncle, King William IV, had died during the night. This made her, at the young age of 18, the new queen of England.
She held her first meeting as the queen just hours later. Having turned 18 only one month before it meant that she was of age and that she would not need her mother to rule as regent.
Her Wedding Gown Started A New Bridal Tradition
Queen Victoria’s marriage to Prince Albert took place on February 10, 1850, making it the first marriage of England’s reigning queen in 286 years! At her wedding, she started a new bridal tradition by wearing a white wedding dress, also requesting that other guests refrain from wearing white to prevent them from drawing attention away from her.
In the end, despite Victoria and Albert each having their fair share of marital issues, they loved each other dearly. Victoria described her husband as “perfection in every way…oh how I adore and love him” in her diary.
She Spoke Several Languages
From the time she was a child, Queen Victoria was a skilled linguist who was fluent in languages such as English, French, Italian, Latin, and German. Because her mother was from Germany, Victoria grew up speaking the language and had a German accent that her tutors helped diminish.
She and her husband would often speak German in private, especially when they were fighting. In addition to some of the other languages spoken throughout Europe, Victoria also learned some Hindustani and Urdu phrases from her Indian attendant, Abdul Karim.
The Empire Expanded Drastically Under Her Leadership
During the first 20 years of her reign, England expanded to almost five times the size it had been the day she first ascended the throne. When she finally passed away, Britain was the largest empire the world had ever seen, holding a quarter of the world’s population.
She can take responsibility for most of this expansion, mostly due to her personal interest in imperial affairs. In 1877, Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli announced her as the empress of India, a title that she had been eager to acquire for a number of years.
She Survived A Number Of Assassination Attempts
Incredibly, Queen Victoria was the target of no fewer than six assassination attempts over the period of her reign. On one of these occasions, in 1840, Victoria was four months pregnant when she was shot at while on a carriage ride with her husband. Thankfully, the would-be assassin, Edward Oxford, was arrested shortly after.
The assaults on her while riding in a carriage did not stop there, and she was attacked four more times in similar situations between 1850 and 1872. Queen Victoria was also targeted by a stalker known in the newspaper as “The Boy Jones,” who broke into Buckingham Palace on several different occasions.
Queen Victoria Was The One To Propose To Prince Albert
The future Queen of England and Albert first met at Kensington Palace when the two were just 17. This was no coincidence, as the two, who were also first cousins, had been set up by Victoria’s uncle Leopold I of Belgium. The two were matched for political reasons but ended up falling in love.
In her diary, Victoria noted that Albert was “extremely handsome” and said that she adored him. However, tradition stated that no one could propose to a reigning monarch, so it was Victoria who proposed to Albert in October 1839.
Victoria Had Buffalo Bill Perform A Private Show At Windsor Palace
On May 9, 1887, Buffalo Bill Cody brought The Wild West Show to London as part of the summer celebrations for Queen Victoria’s 50th year on the throne. The queen attended with her son Edward and enjoyed it so much that she wrote to Cody asking for a private show by “royal command.”
Cody was happy to oblige, and a full show was put on for the queen and just 26 others in a stadium that could hold 40,000 people. “For the first time in history, since the Declaration of Independence, a sovereign of Great Britain had saluted a star-spangled banner,” according to a biography about Cody,
She Was Under Constant Surveillance As A Child
Just one year after Victoria’s birth, her father, Edward, the Duke of Kent, passed away from pneumonia. Therefore, Victoria was left under the control of her mother, who feared that the child would become queen at too young an age if Victoria’s uncle were to die.
Victoria was then raised using a code of discipline that would teach her how to act like a queen from a young age. This code was known as the Kensington System, which included a daily regiment of lessons to shape Victoria’s personality and manners.
She Helped Popularize The Christmas Tree
In 1848, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert popularized the Christmas tree tradition when they sent decorated trees to schools and army barracks in the areas surrounding Windsor. According to BBC, “Queen Victoria and Prince Albert brought the tree into Windsor Castle on Christmas Eve, and they would decorate it themselves.”
It’s unsurprising that this tradition managed to catch on so quickly since Victoria was the face of England, and everyone admired her and respected her as a ruler.
She Was Actually Born Fifth In Line To The Throne
Born on May 24, 1819, Queen Victoria would grow to become one of the most important figures in British history. However, her birth was no immediate cause for widespread celebration.
She was born the daughter of King George III’s fourth son, which made her fifth in line for the throne. Most believed that she would be a royal relative who would be married into another European royal family. Nevertheless, by the time she was 18, her father, brothers, and any other legitimate heir were all dead, and she ascended the throne.
She Left Detailed Instructions For Her Burial
Queen Victoria died at the age of 81, on the Isle of Wight on January 22, 1901. Making sure that she still got her way after she died, she left behind 12 pages of very specific instructions regarding the details of how she was to be buried.
The notes were recorded by her secretary, who wrote down her requests and had the instructions hand-delivered to the Queen’s physician, Sir James Reid. These instructions were kept a secret for many years, with Reid following through with them to the best of his abilities.
She Wanted Her Funeral To Be All White
Queen Victoria made it clear that she wanted her entire funeral procession, from the horses to the carriage, to be white. She also wanted to be buried in her bridal veil from her wedding to Prince Albert. She was buried in the shroud as a symbol of her love for her husband and what she described as the happiest day in her life.
This wasn’t the first time she would wear the veil after her wedding, as she and Albert were known to pose in their wedding attire frequently.
She Requested A Sprig From A Certain Flower
Queen Victoria was buried with several souvenirs and plenty of flowers that came from greenhouses across the empire. There are rumors that her daughter-in-law’s gift of fresh hyacinths was put into the casket to hide an item of importance in her left hand.
This hidden item was a sprig of Scottish heather that had been placed on her body. This was important to Victoria as a symbol of Scotland that reminded her of the time she spent there with her close friend and servant, John Brown.
There Was No Shortage Of Jewelry… Or Charcoal
Even though Queen Victoria was a rather small person standing just under five feet tall, her coffin certainly wasn’t small. It was nearly completely full of objects by the time her body was placed inside. However, before any jewels or any expensive items were placed inside, a layer of charcoal was put down in order to prevent any odors or dampness to come from her body.
Along with her favorite articles of jewelry, Queen Victoria also had mementos from friends and family which included books, lockets, and rings on every one of her fingers. She also had one of Prince Albert’s dressing gowns with her.
She Wanted A Plaster Cast Of Prince Albert’s Hand Buried With Her
One of her top demands was to be buried with a plaster cast of Prince Albert’s hand, which had been made shortly after he had died. It’s no surprise that Victoria requested this because she deeply mourned his death for almost forty years after he died at 42.
She missed him so much that she had Albert’s servants continue with their daily routine even after he had died, such as bringing him hot water and clothing every day, only to repeat the process the following morning.
She Was Buried With A Ring From Another Man
Following her death, only Queen Victoria’s secretary and physician knew that she wanted to be buried with a second wedding ring on her left ring finger that wasn’t from her husband. It was actually a gift from another man named John Brown, whom Victoria became increasingly close with in the 40 years after Albert’s passing.
Brown was a servant, so Victoria’s relationship with him became extremely controversial within the royal family, although her husband had spoken highly of him. Victoria’s children despised Brown, with King Edward VII destroying every monument of him on the royal properties once Victoria had died.
A Cloak Made By Her Daughter Was Placed In The Casket
One of the most notable items placed in her casket was an embroidered cloak that belonged to her husband, Prince Albert. What made it of particular importance is that her daughter, Princess Alice, sewed it, and Albert was known to wear it frequently and with pride.
The cloak was placed with Victoria as a reminder of Albert, but also of Alice, who was known for being the closest to her mother of all her siblings. Unfortunately, Alice was also the first of Victoria’s nine children to die.
One Of Her Burial Requests Wasn’t Followed
The queen was buried in a mausoleum that she had commissioned to hold the remains of her husband, Albert. Upon his death, she had a life-size statue of Albert built that was supposed to reach out toward a statue of the queen. The statue of the queen was only to be displayed following her own death.
However, her statue was misplaced in the 40 years after Albert’s death, so she was initially buried without it. It was months before her own statue was found behind a wall in Windsor Castle.
She Had A Plan In Place To Keep Some Items A Secret
For many years, only Victoria’s physician and secretary knew about a few of the items that she would be buried with. However, they had to find a way to place them without anyone else knowing. So, before her death, the queen devised a plan to make sure her wishes were executed perfectly.
She had the physician and secretary help move her body from her bed to the casket, and when everyone had left the room, they secretly placed John Brown’s ring on her finger, a photo of him, a lock of hair, and a flower from Scotland. They then sealed the coffin.
The Queen’s Death Requests Are Still Kept By The Reid Family
Sir James Reid was the primary care physician of Queen Victoria for the last 15 years of her life, and they grew quite close. Because she didn’t trust her family with her final wishes, she had them given to Reid for safekeeping.
Her specific instructions still exist, although they are held by Reid’s descendants, something that the royal family isn’t happy about. Supposedly, Princess Margaret once confronted the family about the papers demanding that they give them back, but they never did.