Alexandrina Victoria, the only child of Edward, Duke of Kent and Victoria Maria Louisa of Saxe-Coburg, was born in 24th May 1819. She was named Alexandrina after her godfather, Tsar Alexander II of Russia on the insistence of her uncle George IV
On the death of George IV in 1830, his brother William IV became king. William had no surviving legitimate children and so Victoria became his heir.Victoria was not even 19 when she was aroused from her sleep and told that William IV had died, and she would be succeeding the throne.
Lord Melbourne was Prime Minister when Victoria became queen. Melbourne was fifty-eight and a widower. Melbourne's only child had died and he treated Victoria like his daughter. Victoria grew very fond of Melbourne and became very dependent on him for political advice. Victoria and Melbourne became very close. An apartment was made available for Lord Melbourne at Windsor Castle and it was estimated that he spent six hours a day with the queen.
Queen Victoria's cousin, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg, visited London in 1839.They got eventually married in 1840, and in the ensuing 18 years Victoria became mother to 9 children.
Lord Melbourne resigned as Prime Minister in 1841. However, by this time, it was Prince Albert, rather than Melbourne, who had become the main influence over Victoria's political views. Whereas Melbourne had advised Victoria not to think about social problems, Prince Albert invited Lord Ashley to Buckingham Palace to talk about what he had discovered about child labour in Britain.
Victoria and Albert also objected to Palmerston's sexual behaviour. On one occasion he had attempted to seduce one of Victoria's ladies in waiting. Palmerston entered Lady Dacre's bedroom while staying as Queen Victoria's guest at Windsor Castle. Only Lord Melbourne's intervention saved Palmerston from being removed from office.
In the summer of 1850 Queen Victoria asked Lord John Russell to dismiss Palmerston. Russell told the queen he was unable to do this because Palmerston was very popular in the House of Commons. However, in December 1851, Lord Palmerston congratulated Louis Napoleon Bonaparte on his coup in France. This action upset Russell and other radical members of the Whig party and this time he accepted Victoria's advice and sacked Palmerston. Six weeks later Palmerston took revenge by helping to bring down Lord John Russell's government.
In 1855 Lord Palmerston became Prime Minister. Queen Victoria found it difficult to work with him but their relationship gradually improved. When Palmerston died she wrote in her journal: "We had, God knows! terrible trouble with him about Foreign Affairs. Still, as Prime Minister he managed affairs at home well, and behaved to me well. But I never liked him."
While at Balmoral Queen Victoria became very close to John Brown, a Scottish servant. Victoria's friendship with Brown caused some concern and rumours began to circulate that the two had secretly married. Hostility towards Victoria increased and some Radical MPs even spoke in favour of abolishing the British monarchy and replacing it with a republic.
In 1868 William Gladstone, leader of the Liberals in the House of Commons, became Prime Minister. Gladstone's government had plans for a series of reforms including the extension of the franchise, elections by secret ballot and a reduction in the power of the House of Lords. Victoria totally disagreed with these policies but did not have the power to stop Gladstone's government from passing the 1872 Secret Ballot Act.
In 1874 the Tory, Benjamin Disraeli, became Prime Minister. Victoria much preferred Disraeli's conservatism to Gladstone's liberalism. Victoria also approved of Disraeli's charm. Disraeli later remarked that: "Everyone likes flattery, and when you come to royalty, you should lay it on with a trowel." Queen Victoria was very upset when Gladstone replaced Disraeli as premier in 1880. When Disraeli died the following year, Victoria wrote to his private secretary that she was devastated by the news and could not stop crying.
Gladstone's relationship with Victoria failed to improve. As well as her objection to the 1884 Reform Act, Victoria disagreed with Gladstone's foreign policy. William Gladstone believed that Britain should never support a cause that was morally wrong. Victoria took the view that not to pursue Britain's best interest was not only misguided, but close to treachery. In 1885 Victoria sent a telegram to Gladstone criticizing his failure to take action to save General Gordon at Khartoum. Gladstone was furious because the telegram was uncoded and delivered by a local station-master. As a result of this telegram it became public knowledge that Victoria disapproved of Gladstone's foreign policy. The relationship became even more strained when Gladstone discovered that Victoria was passing on confidential documents to the Marquess of Salisbury, the leader of the Conservatives.
In 1885 the Marquess of Salisbury became Prime Minister. He was to remain in power for twelve of the last fifteen years of her reign. Victoria shared Salisbury's imperialist views and was thrilled when General Kitchener was successful in avenging General Gordon in the Sudan in 1898. Victoria also enthusiastically supported British action against the Boers in South Africa.
Queen Victoria died at her house on the Isle of Wight on 22nd January 1901.