QUEEN VICTORIA (1837-1901)
This is an introduction to my first lecture on Victorian Britain for Lockdown on 5th June.
You can't escape Victoria wherever you live in Britain or even the former Empire. She is everywhere - in names of regions, cities, railway stations, roads, London Underground, and in Britain itself in the names of countless pubs. And, that does not include the hundreds of statues of her from New Zealand to Canada.
Yet in life was Victoria as prominent as she has become? Very few people ever saw her, in the days before television, few heard her speak, in the days before radio, after her husband's death she went into seclusion only to emerge later in her life.
Did she make a political or cultural impact in any way? The answer is, with few exceptions, that she did not. She remained a figure-head of Empire; an Empire she never visited. There was even strong Republican feelings at the start of her reign, following the less than satisfactory last years of George III, and the reigns of his two sons, George IV and William IV. Her greatest achievement was arguably proposing marriage to Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. Albert it was who was responsible for beginning the transformation of the Monarchy into what it is today - that is a ceremonial monarchy committed to good works and quiet nudging of politicians, devoted to hard work and public appearances. What an impact Albert would have made on radio and television!
But for all the downside of Victoria the woman, she gave her name to an Age of Change, whilst she herself projected an image of stability, tradition, and security, much as Elizabeth II was to do half a century after her great great grandmother's death.
However, thirteen years after Victoria's death the 20th century burst through the bubble of Victorian and Edwardian stability when The First World War gave the world a glimpse of hell itself.