Queen Victoria was famous for her strict morals and serious countenance. However, behind that severity, Queen Victoria was a hopeless romantic who would change romance and relationships for centuries to come.
Along with Elizabeth I and Elizabeth II, Queen Victoria is one of the most iconic female monarchs not only in British history but all over the world. She gave her name to an era of great cultural, scientific, and artistic impact in contemporary history, and her reign is synonym of high morals, strict social behavior norms, and huge economic disparities. However, behind her serious and imposing image, there was a vibrant and romantic woman who found true love, lost it quite soon and spent most of her reign secluded in mourning.
Queen Victoria and Prince Albert on Horseback (19th Century) Unknown
Traditionally, royalty was supposed to marry into political and economic arrangements, so it’s hard to believe that one of the most most powerful monarchs in history married out of love. However, according to historians, that's exactly how it happened. Though Albert was one of the preferred candidates to become the Queen’s consort, at the end, it was her the one entitled to choose her husband. And history has it that since the moment Queen Victoria and Prince Albert met, she was hooked on the young and handsome German prince.
Princess Victoria Aged Four (1823) Stephen Poyntz Denning // Louise of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg Duchess of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha with her Children [Detail] (1823/24) Ludwig Döll
Victoria and Albert were born in 1819, with just a few months apart. She was the only child of Prince Edward (fourth son of King George III) and Princess Victoria of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld. He was the second son of Ernest III, Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld and Louise of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg. And Victoria’s mother and Albert’s father were brother and sister, making them first cousins. However, while Victoria had basically won the power lottery, Albert was destined to marry into a more powerful royal house if he wanted to become an influential member of his dynastic family.
Portrait of Queen Victoria (1840) John Partridge // Prince Albert (1840) John Partridge
When Victoria was born, she was fifth in line to the crown. By the time she was one year old, her father, Prince Edward died. One week later, her grandfather, King George III also passed away, making her uncle George IV King of the UK. Prince Frederick, Duke of York, was next in succession for the throne, but died in 1827 due to a cardiac-vascular condition. Three years later, George IV died and the only remaining brother, William IV ascended to the British throne. King William and Queen Adelaide were childless, so 11-year-old Victoria became “heir presumptive” and as such she was raised into a very strict and isolated system (known as the Kensington System).
Queen Victoria and Prince Albert Wearing Clothes of the Restoration for their Ball (1851) Franz Xaver Winterhalter
Victoria's mother planned to become the ruler behind her daughter, so she had plans to marry her into her family, the Saxe-Coburgs, in order to make it the most powerful royal dynasty in Europe. The King wished Victoria to marry Prince Alexander of the Netherlands, precisely to reduce the Coburg’s influence in England, but at the end of the day, out of all the prospects, it was Albert who stole her heart. She even wrote to her uncle Leopold I (king of the Belgians and the one she always considered her greatest advisor) to thank him for “the prospect of great happiness you have contributed to give me, in the person of dear Albert ... He possesses every quality that could be desired to render me perfectly happy.”
The Marriage of Queen Victoria (1840) George Hayter
Just some months after she turned 18, in 1837, her uncle King William died, making her Queen of the British Empire. This meant she could sought emancipation from her mother and her vicious adviser John Conroy. However, according to the moral values of her time, a young woman had to live with her mother until marriage, so she keep her in Palace since she didn't want to rush into marriage.
Queen Victoria and Prince Albert on their Return from the Marriage Service at St- James’ Palace (1840) S. Reynolds
Victoria decided to invite Albert to an official visit once again to see if her feelings for him had changed or were as intense as when they first met in 1836. Albert arrived in London in October 1839 and their affection was as strong as ever. Besides their kin, both had much in common: they shared a huge passion for music and the arts, which would eventually become one of the main features of Victoria’s reign, and both felt they had always been pawns in their parent’s chess of power. After just a couple of days, Victoria, being the one in charge in the relationship, proposed to Albert that same year.
The First of May 1851 (1851) Franz Xaver Winterhalter
Victoria and Albert married in February 1840. As she put down in her diary, her wedding day was the happiest day of her life. Albert was her everything, “his beauty, his sweetness & gentleness – really how can I ever be thankful enough to have such a Husband!” Albert became her confidant and one of her most influential political advisers, and throughout her nine pregnancies, he would take care of the most important court issues. Their first child was born nine months after their wedding, and for the next seventeen years, they welcomed eight more children. Victoria and Albert's offspring eventually got married in strategic alliances with the most important European royal families, giving her the nickname of “grandmother of Europe”, something that remains till this day.
A gift from Victoria to Albert on his 24th birthday: Queen Victoria (1843) Franz Xaver Winterhalter
The impact of Victoria's reign is also present in traditions and customs regarding love, relationships, and marriage. Queen Victoria and Prince Albert’s started traditions such as the white wedding gown, engagement rings, gift exchanges in anniversaries, and even the Christmas tree.
Queen Victoria and Prince Albert Decorating a Christmas Tree (1848) Anonymous
In November 1861, after rumors that claimed their son Albert, Prince of Wales (who would later become King Edward VII), was dating an Irish actress. Prince Albert went to Cambridge to confront his son and control the situation. Unfortunately, he had been suffering from stomach cramps for a while and that visit weakened his health. Just a few weeks later, he was diagnosed with typhoid fever and died on December 14.
After 21 years of marriage, the man who challenged her to become a better person and monarch, her advisor, and most importantly, her lover and best friend was gone. The Queen never recovered from Albert’s death and blamed his son for the rest of her life. She secluded herself in her palace, refused to make public appearances, and wore black till the last breath.
Windsor Castle in Modern Times (1840-43) Edwin Henry Landseer
Together, Victoria and Albert turned their passion for art into a crucial aspect of their love life, which also encouraged an artistic blooming in Great Britain. With Victoria’s support, Albert organized the Great Exhibition, an event that promoted and exhibited art from all over the world with the aims of sharing art (showing Britain’s power and influence in all fields). So after Albert's death, Victoria was determined to make the world honor him in every aspect she could think of. Art institutions, venues, lakes, cities, awards, military ranks, palaces, and so many other things were named after him, and later on with both the names of Victoria and Albert. Their story is the ultimate royal fairy tale and consolidating the craze over royal weddings which have endured the passing of time.
The Royal Family (1946) Franz Xaver Winterhalter
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