Lehzen's ideal of a queen was Queen Elizabeth I , and she imbued in Victoria a sense of the importance of strength of will, elevating her natural obstinacy and stubbornness to a principle. Lehzen , who was the princess's constant preceptress until she came to the throne, would read to Victoria morning and evening, while she was being dressed or prepared for bed, thereby helping to instil the rigid work discipline which served Victoria well throughout her life. Contrary to her own later recollections, Victoria's formal education began before she was four, when the Revd George Davys later bishop of Peterborough became her tutor.
From April he went regularly to Kensington Palace, where he taught Victoria the basic skills of literacy and numeracy, and gave religious instruction. Like that of most girls at this time, Victoria's early education was dominated by the writings of the evangelical moralist Mrs Trimmer , but with Davys and Lehzen she also studied history, geography, natural history, poetry, and by Latin. Despite her future destiny, Victoria never experienced the classical education that was the shared intellectual heritage of the men of the political classes: the requirements of femininity were not to be subordinated to the needs of the state.
Nor was Victoria to be a Renaissance woman like Elizabeth I , educated to write poetry as well as to embroider, to muse philosophically as well as to direct the affairs of her family. Yet her education was thorough and intensive—by she was spending five hours a day, six days a week, in formal lessons—and it stood her in good stead. French, German, and Italian were added to her curriculum.
English was always spoken in Kensington Palace, despite the preponderance of German-speakers; Davys commented on the princess's German accent, which he helped to eradicate. In the duchess of Kent invited the bishops of London and Lincoln to examine her daughter, and to comment on her education so far. The bishops' verdict was positive, and the duchess was publicly commended. Shortly after this examination the princess was allowed to learn of her probable future destiny. Keeping the information from her had been a kindness in the light of the uncertainty of the succession, and although some doubted whether she could have been as ignorant as was claimed, Victoria herself endorsed Lehzen's account of the way she was told.
A genealogical table was inserted in her history book for her to study; 'I see I am nearer the throne than I thought … I will be good', she said. After the examination Victoria's lessons were relieved by regular visits to the theatre and the opera. This latter was the princess's passion, and she now acquired her lifelong love of the bel canto operas of Bellini , Donizetti , and Rossini. She was even star-struck: the soprano Giulia Grisi always remained her ideal type of the singer, and she idolized the ballerina Marie Taglioni.
Luigi Lablache , the bass baritone whom she first heard at a private recital in , became the princess's singing teacher in , beginning a relationship that lasted twenty years. If Victoria's childhood resembled a moral and improving tale for young women, her teenage years approached melodrama. Victoria herself was the oppressed heroine, supported by her faithful retainer Lehzen , with the duchess of Kent as wicked step mother, the willing tool of Sir John Conroy , the 'Arch-Fiend'.
Walk-on parts were played by the new king, William IV , as the choleric but kindly uncle, and the duke of Cumberland the next heir as the off-stage bogeyman. Victoria later recast her memories, painting her entire youth in gloomy colours and seeking to absolve her mother from all responsibility as, like herself, a victim of an all-powerful, all-malignant Conroy. Yet the duchess was no dupe, and concurred willingly in Conroy's actions: she was no less ambitious than he to wield the authority of her daughter's crown. Conroy's influence had been tempered by the irregular but commanding presence of the duchess's brother Prince Leopold.
Then in Leopold accepted the throne of Belgium. He remained in regular correspondence with both his sister and niece, but his absence enhanced the position of Conroy , whom Victoria came to loathe as 'the Monster and demon Incarnate' Hudson , Their aim was to ensure that Victoria was totally dependent on them, and would not look to others for advice when she came to the throne. The duchess was appointed regent in the event of William IV dying before Victoria reached eighteen, and Conroy's aim was to get the princess to agree to appoint him her private secretary. There was thus a practical, political reason for keeping Victoria away from the court, where she might find other advisers, and away from society, in which she might find alternative sources of support.
The Kensington system was, however, more than an exercise in ambition: the aim was to make Victoria herself popular and ensure the survival of the monarchy.
Beginning in , Conroy and the duchess staged a series of royal progresses directly imitating those of Elizabeth I , ostensibly to show the princess some of the historic sites of her country but in practice to bring her before the public eye and to assert her position as the heir to the throne.
They succeeded: large crowds gathered to see the princess wherever she was taken, local dignitaries presented loyal addresses, and, until the enraged William IV stepped in to prevent it, guns were fired in salute. Victoria herself became increasingly unhappy about these progresses, which became more frequent and exhausting as she neared her eighteenth birthday and William IV's health began to fail. In Victoria became seriously ill at Ramsgate. While she was in her sickbed, Conroy unsuccessfully attempted to force her to sign a document making him her private secretary when she became queen.
Conroy believed she could be bullied and hectored into compliance, while the duchess applied a none-too-subtle mixture of commands, threats, and emotional blackmail. In this they misread Victoria's character completely. Strong-willed, intelligent, emotionally sensitive, lonely, with a fierce temper kept firmly in check, the young Victoria had a deep sense of duty and obligation instilled in her by Lehzen , and also a profound sense of propriety.
A feeling that she was a pawn in a game being played by Conroy , who did not even treat her with courtesy, aroused all the princess's stubborn hostility and enabled her to resist her mother's demands. A little kindness and consultation, together with an acknowledgement that she was not without power, always went a long way with Victoria. Victoria was not alone in her dislike for Conroy and the Kensington system. The most important opponent of Conroy and the duchess was the king himself. William IV and Queen Adelaide were fond of their niece, and in the s had a better relationship with the duchess of Kent than most of the rest of the royal family.
On coming to the throne, William acknowledged Victoria as his probable successor and approved the appointment of the duchess as her regent. He hoped that the princess would become a regular visitor to his court, and indeed on 24 February Victoria made her first appearance at her aunt's drawing-room these were formal occasions at which ladies were presented and received at court; men were received at the king's levees. But the isolationism of the Kensington system demanded otherwise, and the duchess deeply offended the king by refusing to allow her daughter to attend his coronation.
Further disputes about the composition of the princess's entourage followed, and the king ordered Conroy to leave Victoria's confirmation service at the Chapel Royal in St James's Palace on 30 July At a dinner in August William IV publicly insulted the duchess, who was sitting next to him, as he announced his intention to live another nine months solely to thwart her plans for a regency:. I should then have the satisfaction of leaving the royal authority to the personal exercise of that young lady … and not in the hands of a person now near me, who is surrounded by evil advisers and who is herself incompetent to act with propriety in the station in which she would be placed.
The king sought to free Victoria from Conroy and her mother when she came of age by offering her an independent income and household. The duchess of Kent dictated the refusal which Victoria sent, but the king recognized the mother's voice, and exonerated the princess from blame. On her eighteenth birthday, 24 May , Victoria noted in the journal which she had kept since , 'I shall from this day take the firm resolution to study with renewed assiduity, to keep my attention always on whatever I am about, and to strive to become every day less trifling and more fit for what, if Heaven wills it, I'm some day to be!
That evening she attended a ball at St James's before returning to Kensington through the thronged streets: 'the anxiety of the people to see poor stupid me was very great, and I must say I am quite touched by it, and feel proud which I always have done of my country and of the English nation' ibid. The king had not been at the ball, as he was ill in bed. Time was fast running out for the Kensington system. King William IV survived for another month, before finally succumbing on 20 June Lord Conyngham the lord chamberlain and William Howley the archbishop of Canterbury were dispatched at once to Kensington Palace to bring the news to the new queen.
Victoria was summoned from her bed by her mother at six in the morning to receive them, which she did ' only in my dressing gown , and alone ' Girlhood , 1. That characteristic emphasis pointed to the total and immediate failure of the Kensington system as far as it concerned the ambitions of its progenitors: Conroy was immediately banished from the royal presence, and although the duchess was regularly called upon to attend her daughter in public, she was systematically excluded from all the new queen's decisions and counsels. But in its wider aims the Kensington system bore instant fruit in the widespread popularity of the new queen.
The hagiographical accounts of universal popular acclaim for Victoria were undoubtedly exaggerated: radicals, republicans, and the huge masses of the indifferent certainly did not see her as their saviour, or the monarchy as the guardian of British liberty. But, primed by the careful publicity of the previous years, the political classes were swept up in a fever of curiosity about the new queen, and for a few weeks her smallest actions were recorded, analysed, and discussed, and her public appearances were attended by vast, good-humoured crowds.
Those who came into direct contact with the queen at this time had little but praise for her charm, her graciousness, her willingness to be happy, her sheer pleasure in her position, and even her appearance. The queen was constantly spoken of in diminutives at this time 'her little majesty', 'the little queen' , and even when fully grown she was only 4 feet 11 inches tall, and in extreme age lost several inches.
Her voice, on the other hand, was praised from the outset for its melodious quality: 'as sweet as a Virginia nightingale's', rhapsodized one American observer E. Boykin , ed. Much play was made with the burdens of majesty heaped on the small shoulders of an inexperienced, unprotected girl. David Wilkie's painting The First Council of Queen Victoria , painted in , contrasts the white-clad Victoria with the sombrely dressed, bewhiskered, elderly members of her government.
The picture was inaccurate in several respects— Victoria was actually dressed in mourning for her uncle at the council on the first day of her reign—but the contrast between the masculine world of politics and the femininity of the queen was valid. It was not, however, Victoria's inexperience and fragility that impressed those present so much as her presence of mind, dignity, and courage.
Although curiosity about the queen was universal among the political classes, intense party factionalism meant that whigs and tories responded rather differently to the new reign. Seen from a long-term perspective, the monarchy's political power was slipping by comparison with that of parliament and the cabinet.
But from the standpoint of the s many of the precedents limiting the sovereign's power were recent and susceptible to challenge from a new monarch. The monarchy's patronage powers were considerable: a new reign might entail a new distribution. The whigs were in office in , but had never had the real support of William IV. Victoria's accession offered them hope for the first time of receiving the active favour of the monarch, for the duchess of Kent and Sir John Conroy were known to support the whigs, and Victoria was supposed to have been raised a whig. The same facts caused the tories to despair: the support they had enjoyed from the monarch and their virtual monopoly on power since seemed to be at an end.
The queen's intense and close relationship with her first prime minister, Lord Melbourne , lent credence to tory fears and whig hopes. Victoria herself greeted the news of her accession with the characteristic reflection that:. I shall do my utmost to fulfil my duty towards my country; I am very young and perhaps in many, though not in all things, inexperienced, but I am sure, that very few have more real good will and more real desire to do what is fit and right than I have. Melbourne was with the queen by 9 a. She found him sympathetic, her initial assessment of him as 'a very straightforward, honest, clever and good man' ibid.
Melbourne's constant attendance on the queen and his obvious affection for her earned her the nickname Mrs Melbourne , but although their relationship had an air of romance about it, Melbourne was more father figure than potential lover. Despite his rather lurid past, Melbourne was in many respects the ideal minister, counsellor, and private secretary for the young queen; his scholarly mind and fund of learning supplied the theoretical and practical answers to her questions about her position, and his wide experience of aristocratic and royal society, men, women, and manners was invaluable for one who had lived as secluded a life as the queen.
Victoria was not a complete political innocent in Her first mentor was her uncle Leopold , who on her fourteenth birthday began her political education with a dissertation on the character necessary for a monarch in an era when 'the transition from sovereign power to absolute want has become as frequent as sudden' Letters , 1st ser. Over the next four years he regularly discussed current especially foreign affairs with her and advised her about reading: history and historical memoirs would enable an isolated princess to learn about the world and thus avoid being imposed on by 'wicked and designing people, particularly at a period when party spirit runs so high' ibid.
By , when it was obvious that his niece's succession to the throne his wife had been born to occupy was close, Leopold's advice came thick and fast, and much of it had a lasting impact on Victoria. He impressed on her the value of listening to the conversation of clever and informed people at dinners and social gatherings, of prudence and discretion, of support for the established church and generally conservative though not tory principles. Although Victoria occasionally resented the energetic interference of her uncle, Leopold gave her enough early guidance and backbone to take on her new position with something approaching equanimity.
Moreover, in June he sent his own confidential adviser, Baron Christian Stockmar , to act as a friend at court for the new queen; he remained there for fifteen months, until disquiet about foreigners' influence over the queen sent him back to Coburg. Praised and admired in her reign's honeymoon months, Victoria blossomed in her new role and threw herself with energy into learning her profession, and into the novel social whirl of balls, theatre, opera, dinners, and confidential chats with the attentive Melbourne. For the first time in more than three generations Britain had a young monarch and a lively court.
Victoria relished the contrast between her oppressed youth and her new position. The coronation was held on 28 June , and, while much of the lengthy ceremonial was ineptly performed the ancient Lord Rolle tripped and rolled down the steps when paying homage to the queen , the large crowds that turned out to see the queen were enthusiastic. But the adulation did not last long. In accordance with tradition, the ministry of the day was responsible for forming the queen's household as well as her government, and Melbourne surrounded the queen exclusively with active whig partisans.
Not only her officials and attendants but also the society which gathered at the court was dominated by the whig aristocracy. By the end of the first year of her reign the tories considered Victoria 'the queen of the whigs'. Attacks on the government began to include attacks on the queen; she came to view the tories as her enemies and clung even more closely to Melbourne. The dangers of a party-political court surfaced in the Lady Flora Hastings affair, which broke out in February The unmarried Lady Flora , the duchess of Kent's lady-in-waiting and a member of a prominent tory family, was suspected of being pregnant by Conroy.
In fact, she was suffering from a tumour on her liver, and died in agony on 5 July. But before the nature of her illness became known, rumours flew about the court, medical examiners were called in, and the affair became public. The Hastings family fanned the flames of hostility towards the queen, who had not acted to quench the gossip or protect the reputation of Lady Flora. Victoria's popularity took a considerable blow—she was, after all, supposed to stand for a new, moral court, and the Lady Flora affair smacked of the old Hanoverian scandals—and she was hissed by two aristocratic ladies as she drove to Ascot on 7 June.
On 7 May , in the midst of the Flora Hastings controversy, Melbourne resigned. Victoria responded with an 'agony of grief and despair' Charlot , He was not only her minister; he was her friend. The tories she considered her enemies, and she had a particular horror of the probable new prime minister, Sir Robert Peel , whose lack of social graces made the contrast with Melbourne unbearable.
Melbourne's advice to the distraught queen was sound: she must accept the tories as her ministers and try to shed her dislike for Peel. She should safeguard her prerogatives, but be seen to be scrupulously fair. But he also put in her mind the idea that she might keep her household as it was, and when Peel requested changes among the ladies of her household, Victoria baulked. The ladies made a convenient sticking point for Victoria , but possibly also for Peel , who perhaps had less relish for the task of forming a minority government than his party supposed.
The queen maintained that the ladies were domestic appointments, that they had no political influence, and that the precedents required no changes. Peel argued that the exclusively whig female court signalled that his government lacked the queen's confidence. If changes were not made, he could not form a government. Melbourne had stayed away from the palace during these negotiations, but Victoria had written him almost hourly accounts of events, and now she sent for him to tell him of Peel's demands.
Melbourne called a cabinet meeting, which formally advised her to refuse changes to her household. Here, if nowhere else, Melbourne acted unconstitutionally: until Peel declined the commission to form a government, Melbourne had no authority to advise the queen. The attempt to form a tory ministry over, Victoria rejoiced in Melbourne's resumption of office, and in the retention of the ladies who were supporting her through the later, and most trying, stages of the Lady Flora affair.
Greed & Grievance
In fact, it was something in between: the already overwrought Victoria certainly responded emotionally in this crisis, but in resisting her ministers she was testing the limits of her power. As it was obvious, even to Victoria , that the whigs could not be kept in power indefinitely, the principal result of the crisis was to confirm the widespread view that an unmarried girl on the throne was a loose cannon.
Since marriage with a commoner was thought undesirable though not, in Britain, illegal the pool of Victoria's possible spouses was restricted to the protestant princes of Germany , the Netherlands , and Scandinavia , and a remote possibility the Orthodox princes of Russia.
A great dynastic marriage was unnecessary, even unwanted: by uniting disparate countries by marriage between their hereditary rulers was a thing of the past. Possible consorts had been suggested for her since she was a tiny child, among them her cousins Prince George of Cambridge and Prince George of Cumberland.
King Leopold had long ago determined to promote another Coburg alliance—between Victoria and her cousin Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha — —and had been supervising the education of his motherless nephew as a potential consort. Victoria was alerted to the intention, and Albert and his brother Ernest were brought to Britain in May to be scrutinized.
Eager to frustrate the duchess of Kent's plans, King William IV favoured a match with Prince Alexander of Orange , and invited him to Britain with his brother also in May , but he was not a success with Victoria , and nothing more was heard of that match. Albert , on the other hand, came with the blessing of Uncle Leopold , and Victoria was more or less determined to find him pleasing. His physical attractions did much to outweigh his tendency to fall asleep during evening parties, and the cousins kept up a correspondence over the next few years.
But the engagement which Albert had been led to expect was slow to materialize. Once on the throne, Victoria relished her independence. Even the scandals of failed to persuade her that marriage was a solution to her difficulties. On 15 July ten days after Lady Flora's death she told Leopold that there was no prospect of her marrying Albert for at least two or three years: she had a ' great repugnance to change my present position' Letters , 1st ser.
A visit from the Coburg brothers was nevertheless scheduled for the autumn, and on 10 October they arrived at Windsor. Watching them arrive from the top of the stairs, Victoria fell in love. On 15 October she undertook the somewhat awkward task of proposing to Albert , saying 'it would make me too happy if he would consent to what I wished to marry me ' ibid.
Albert accepted. Albert was far from a popular choice of consort. In some quarters he was viewed as a penniless foreign adventurer, coming to Britain to burden its taxpayers. Moreover, he was slightly younger than the queen, and part of the purpose of encouraging her marriage was to place the inexperienced, wilful girl under the tutelage of a more mature, masculine intellect. When the match was first raised with him, Melbourne objected on grounds of their consanguinity, adding 'Those Coburgs are not popular abroad; the Russians hate them.
Marriage changed everything for Victoria. Before the wedding, on 10 February in the Chapel Royal at St James's Palace, she had been anxious to assert herself and her authority over her future husband. Albert was not permitted to select his own household apart from a few personal retainers ; his desire for an extended honeymoon in the country was rebuffed with a reminder that his wife had political duties in London; and in several ways Victoria made plain that politics were to be her preserve, not his.
Within two years Albert had moved from wielding the blotting paper on Victoria's official letters to dictating their content. He also changed her preference for the gaieties of London society to one for the relative rural quiet of Windsor, and was poised to remove from his wife's household the long-serving Baroness Lehzen whom he loathed and regarded as an evil, and countervailing, influence with his wife. This transformation stemmed in part from Albert's determination to reshape his wife's character and to be the master in their relationship, and in part from Victoria embracing wholeheartedly the prevalent view of the correct relationship between the sexes, and especially between husband and wife: women were by nature inferior and dependent, and it was their duty to submit to and adore their husbands.
Indeed, Victoria frequently expressed her regret at the unnatural order within her own household, in which the accident of her birth and position denied Albert his rightful place at the head of all her affairs. Not that a submissive role came entirely easily. She was used to having her own way, and her fiery temper fitted uneasily with Albert's chilly rationality. There were frequent scenes: Albert preferred to deal with an argument by leaving the room, and the corridors could echo to the sound of his wife's fury.
Victoria soon became accustomed to finding herself in the wrong, and blamed herself bitterly for disputing with her husband. For his part, Albert keenly felt the anomalies of his position, and determined from the outset that although he could not officially assume the male role at the head of his family's public affairs, he would be master in his own house.
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Albert's dominance over Victoria became total; after his death she observed desolately that she had 'leant on him for all and everything—without whom I did nothing, moved not a finger, arranged not a print or photograph, didn't put on a gown or bonnet if he didn't approve it' Dearest Mama , This was the ideal of womanhood with a vengeance, and it was achieved by Albert breaking his wife's will.
If she challenged him, he responded by threatening to withdraw his affection or even on occasion to withdraw entirely from the relationship; Victoria would respond with abject submission. Albert's patriarchy was thus achieved by treating his wife as a wilful child in the evangelical tradition of child-rearing, the child's will had to be broken in order for it to be remade as a Christian : the 'Beloved Victoria ' of his letters before their marriage soon became 'Dear Child' or 'Dear Good, Little One'. The fatherless Victoria all her life needed a strong, masculine figure to lean on.
Albert was only too happy to oblige. But no doubts can be entertained about the depth of Victoria's passion for her husband. Albert made up for her childhood; he became her moral guide and teacher as well as her lover, companion, friend. She idolized him, worshipped him, and sang his praises to all who would listen. He was 'my beloved Albert ', an 'Angel' constantly , a 'perfect being' Letters , 1st ser. The strong-willed, stubborn, curious, sociable Victoria , whose character had been forged by the Kensington system, was transformed within years of her marriage not without some difficulty and rebellion on her part into a personally and intellectually submissive, almost reclusive wife by Albert's patriarchal insecurity.
She loved him; she was diminished by him. If the transformation of Albert's position owed much to his wife's temperament, it owed as much to her fertility. Within weeks of their marriage Victoria was dismayed to find herself pregnant. Although the queen was blessed with an iron constitution and her pregnancies were generally physically easy, custom—and memories of the death of her cousin Princess Charlotte in childbirth—required that she be treated as an invalid for their duration.
She also suffered severely from what was later termed postnatal depression after the births of several of her children. It was during the weeks before the birth of their first child that Albert established himself de facto as the queen's private secretary she had no officially appointed private secretary until , and as a powerful, even dominant, voice in court politics.
Victoria Adelaide was born on 21 November ; 'Never mind, the next will be a Prince', Victoria told her disappointed attendants Weintraub , The queen suffered no miscarriage or stillbirth, and all her children survived to adulthood, a situation unusual even among the Victorian upper classes. Victoria herself had been breastfed by her mother; her own children were promptly put out to wet-nurses.
Victoria , who dreaded childbirth, recognized the political as much as the personal inconvenience of numerous offspring. The critics were in a minority. From the birth of the princess royal in the royal couple—now a royal family—were held up as an example of domestic felicity. The irony, however, was that although the Victorians placed a high premium on the role of the wife and mother in creating ideal family life, in the royal family this was Albert's province.
They consciously took the decision that, in their home life at least, Albert would have the authority and rights of a traditional paterfamilias. Hence it was he, not Victoria , who after some early arguments was the dominant voice in determining how the children were educated and brought up, who oversaw the modernization of the royal household managing servants was usually a female job , and who romped in the nursery with his children.
Victoria was by no means an archetypal Madonna-esque mamma, her world revolving around her children: she disliked small babies—'froglike', she thought—and children were a worry. Besides, they distracted her attention from Albert and, more importantly, they distracted Albert's attention from her. Being a wife ranked high above motherhood in Victoria's priorities, and she was jealous of anyone or anything that took his attention from her. She was lucky in Albert's utter uxoriousness: his care to avoid even the semblance of interest in other women pleased Victoria , while alienating him further from British aristocratic society and the royal household.
The apocryphal story of the lady in the audience at a performance of Antony and Cleopatra turning to her companion and saying 'How unlike, how very unlike the home life of our own dear Queen' represents something fundamental about the impact of royal domesticity. George IV and William IV in their private lives had been bywords for lechery and irregular marital affairs; Victoria and Albert were their diametric opposites.
And as the sons of George III symbolized the excesses of aristocratic behaviour, so his granddaughter came to symbolize middle-class virtue, with her family life—notably painted by Landseer —at its heart. But although the queen shared some of the tastes and values of her most respectable subjects Lord Salisbury later declared that if he knew what the queen thought about an issue, he knew what the middle classes would think , and although in later life her deliberate shunning of the more ostentatious trappings of royalty made it easy to think of her as a bourgeois widow at the head of the family firm, she was in fact sui generis , one of a kind.
As Arthur Ponsonby put it, 'She bore no resemblance to an aristocratic English lady, she bore no resemblance to a wealthy middle-class Englishwoman, nor to any typical princess of a German court. Creating a suitable setting for this idyllic family life took up much royal energy in the s and s. Victoria had inherited three royal residences with the crown: Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle, and the Brighton Pavilion. All had disadvantages: Albert disliked London life, which made him ill; at Windsor there were no private grounds the public had admission to all the gardens and park, and the family were on constant display ; and the Brighton Pavilion was hedged in by suburban development.
Added to which, all three were, as crown property, under the control of the Office of Woods and Forests , which inhibited changes to the buildings that would make them suit their needs and taste. The need for a home of their own became pressing. The major role in imagining, designing, and executing the building of the royal houses most closely associated with Victoria —Balmoral Castle on Deeside in Aberdeenshire, and Osborne House, near Cowes on the Isle of Wight—was Albert's , with Victoria an uncritical admirer of his achievements.
Albert's taste in matters architectural inevitably dominated: he, after all, had travelled, had been in Italy as well as his native Germany, while Victoria's experience, even of her own country, was limited to the tours Sir John Conroy had planned, and the childhood trips to the south coast for her health.
In September the royal couple made their first visit to Scotland, keeping great state in Edinburgh but not on the scale of George IV's famous Scottish jaunt of , and then visiting in slightly less state some grandees of the lowlands and southern highlands. It was, ' Albert says very German-looking' Leaves from the Journal , There could be no higher praise, and Victoria's love affair with Scotland, which long survived her husband, began.
A summer cruise around the south coast and across to France and Belgium in reminded Victoria of her pleasant seaside holidays as a child, and she and Albert began to look for a seaside retreat. The Osborne estate near Cowes on the Isle of Wight was for sale, and after a preliminary visit in October they completed the purchase in November Even before this, Albert began an ambitious programme of building, and he and Victoria visited Osborne seven times in to familiarize themselves with their new home and to oversee progress on the building site.
An Italianate palace replaced the original eighteenth-century Osborne House with remarkable speed: the old house was demolished in May , and Victoria and Albert moved in during September , although the building was not complete until Victoria was delighted with it: it offered distance from the annoyances of London and politics, privacy, serenity, space for family life. More importantly, it was a 'place of one's own ' Letters , 1st ser.
And it was all Albert's work: 'I get fonder and fonder of it, one is so quiet here, and everything is of interest, it being so completely my beloved one's creation—his delight and pride', she wrote Duchess of York , Victoria and Albert: Life at Osborne House , , Albert relaxed at Osborne, and occupied himself with estate improvement, building, and playing with the children while Victoria sketched and painted in watercolours and admired everything he did. Courtiers and ministers were less enamoured of the domestic idyll on the island: there was no room in Osborne for a large entourage, and staff and courtiers were out-housed around the estate, while ministers found the distance from London inconvenient for the execution of public business.
But the royal couple found that even a few miles of sea were insufficient protection from the intrusions of the curious and the demands of their position: Scotland called them. Victoria and Albert returned to Scotland in to stay with the duke and duchess of Atholl at Blair Castle, Perthshire, and again in , this time as part of a yachting tour.
Their pleasure was dimmed by wet weather, and on learning that the east coast, and Deeside in particular, had a better climate, Victoria and Albert decided to look there for a Scottish home. They purchased Balmoral, sight unseen, in August and rebuilt it between and Balmoral provided privacy in abundance and, for Victoria , a kind of freedom unavailable elsewhere: 'The Queen is running in and out of the house all day long, and often goes about alone, walks into the cottages and sits down and chats with the old women', Charles Greville reported Charlot , Victoria delighted in the frank conversation of the highlanders.
Influenced by her love of Walter Scott's novels, she saw highlanders as noble peasants, with none of the cringing servility, corrupted manners, and predatory impertinence of southerners. They seemed to stand outside the usual British class structure: she thought them a colourful feudal remnant rather than an agricultural proletariat, enjoyed their theatricality, and granted them a licence not permitted to any others of her subjects.
Victoria and Albert embraced Scottishness wholeheartedly. Balmoral was bedecked in tartan, the children were dressed in kilts, and the whole family took to highland pursuits. They made expeditions some in transparent incognito to local beauty spots, climbed and rode in the mountains, attended the local highland games, and rowed on the loch.
Albert studied Gaelic, hunted, shot, and fished; Victoria followed, often taking her sketchbooks with her. When even Balmoral seemed too crowded, too urban, Victoria and Albert retreated to the remodelled shiels stone huts , formerly used by the gillies, at Alt-na Giuthasach, some 5 miles from the castle, for greater solitude and simplicity. The annual autumn train journey to Balmoral Victoria first travelled by train in was eagerly awaited by the royal family; the royal household were less enthralled at the prospect of weeks of isolation in the chilly north, while the ministers required to be in attendance, far from Westminster, seldom comfortable, and often unwelcome, tended to greet news of their duty with dismay.
The fall of the Melbourne government in was a personal and political blow to the queen. Under Melbourne she had developed from an isolated, quietly rebellious child into an eager, imperious young woman. She had thoroughly established her independence from her mother and her mother's agents: by she was beginning to forgive the duchess of Kent for her childhood, and to establish a more amicable relationship with her. Albert's arrival at her side in ensured that the lessons of her early errors did not go unheeded: that gossip leads to slander, and too much fraternizing with courtiers endangered the dignity of the queen; and that while the ministry served at the queen's pleasure, the queen was to find her pleasure in accordance with the will of the electorate.
Even before the return of a tory majority in the House of Commons in September , Melbourne began preparing the ground for his inevitable departure, offering sound advice to Victoria on her constitutional duty towards her ministers, of whatever political complexion. It was arranged that three ladies would offer their resignations without being asked and would be replaced with less overtly political women, thereby saving face all round. But, despite the months of careful preparation, Victoria was desolated by Melbourne's departure, and Melbourne similarly distressed agreed to continue their correspondence.
Although Melbourne's letters urged the queen to have confidence in Peel and to comply with the ministry, the correspondence was strictly unconstitutional, as it meant that the monarch was secretly receiving information and advice from the opponents of her ministers. Had it become widely known, the exchange would have amounted to a public declaration of her lack of confidence in her government. Despite intervention from Baron Stockmar the correspondence continued unabated through , and diminished only when Melbourne's health collapsed and the queen thoroughly let go of the past.
The constitution, according to Stockmar , gave ' the Sovereign in his functions a deliberative part ' Letters , 1st ser. Her prerogatives were to be observed rigorously, and in return she would support her ministers publicly and endorse their decisions.
Stockmar doubted whether the queen possessed the means to carry out this deliberative role, an assessment which belittled both Victoria's intellect and her character. Certainly the queen needed political advisers, yet the constitution hindered her from obtaining them, as theoretically the monarch should be advised only by her ministers, and particularly by her prime minister.
From her ministers she would hear only one side of an argument, restricting her capacity to deliberate on the issues. If she could not receive advice from the opposition, where was she to turn? A king might expect his court to provide an additional source of political information, from among the lords-in-waiting with seats in parliament , and the great officers of his household, or from friends of his youth.
And she had no friends from her childhood. Educated in isolation, and a girl to boot, she had no network of acquaintances in the political world and restricted contacts even with aristocratic society: when she came to make appointments to her household, she was forced to rely on hearsay accounts of the agreeable qualities of different ladies or, as time passed, to select her attendants from among the families of people already in her service. So the queen had a small pool of resources on which to draw: King Leopold and Stockmar , Albert and his secretary Anson , and ultimately her own judgement.
Her judgement generally found that reliance on Albert in all political matters would produce the best results. An account of Victoria's political opinions and actions from her marriage until Albert's death, then, is largely an account of Albert's. Slowed down by her frequent pregnancies and constrained by her acceptance of the inferiority of women's capabilities and her own education and intellect, she gave the function of deliberation to Albert.
Fitted by sex, by temperament, and by training, Albert was king in all but name. It was the one thing she could not do for him. The years between and have often been described as a period of 'dual monarchy': Albert took on the executive, deliberative role, while Victoria took the more dignified part to use Bagehot's term and provided legitimacy for Albert's executive. She worked hard at the official papers, discussing them with Albert every morning and corresponding with and interviewing her ministers always with Albert present ; but Albert often drafted the responses, which Victoria copied out to send.
In Albert summed up his interpretation of his position to the duke of Wellington : he was 'the natural head of her family, superintendent of her household, manager of her private affairs, sole confidential adviser in politics, and only assistant in her communications with the officers of the Government, … the private secretary of the sovereign and her permanent minister' Martin , 2. Unlike Melbourne , Albert was not subject to the vagaries of the electorate, and he had no political interests to serve that were not Victoria's.
The monarchy, in Albert's and Stockmar's formulation, was to be politically neutral. Neutrality meant not taking sides in party-political disputes; it meant considering a question from all sides and promoting the national interest, not the short-term interests of political parties bent on gaining and retaining power. It did not mean forgoing a political function for the monarchy. If anything, it elevated the importance of the monarch's political voice: 'Is the sovereign not the natural guardian of the honour of his country, is he not necessarily a politician?
In the early Victorian state Albert was the politician in the royal family. Victoria's conversion to Albert's way of thinking was nowhere clearer than in the transformation of her feelings about Sir Robert Peel , whose assumption of office in she had so dreaded. By his own resignation was a matter of profound regret, for he had become 'our worthy Peel … a man of unbounded loyalty , courage , patriotism, and high-mindedness ' Letters , 1st ser.
Peel was a man after Albert's own heart: hard-working, earnest, reserved, dedicated. Through Albert's eyes Victoria came to see the merits of her prime minister, and, in his resignations over the corn laws in and , recognized a disinterested service to herself and the nation that rose above the interests of party.
Above all, the domestic political agenda for Victoria and Albert was defined by a quest for political stability. Men and measures that upset the equilibrium of the country were to be deplored, and the highest praise they could heap on a minister was that he was 'safe'. A safe minister placed the needs of his country above the demands of party politics; a safe minister headed a government with a firm, controllable majority in the House of Commons, thus obviating the need for frequent, potentially tumultuous elections; a safe minister was considerate of Victoria's and Albert's feelings and position, and upheld the constitutional privileges of the monarchy.
All government business passed across Victoria's and Albert's desks; Albert's conscientiousness ensured that it all received due attention. Victoria involved herself wholeheartedly less often. The issues which caught her attention and seemed to her to be of paramount importance fell broadly into two categories: matters concerning British security and prestige, and matters concerning royal authority, prestige, and security. In the substantive domestic debates of the s—over the corn laws, the effects of industrialization, the implications of organized working-class radicalism—she expressed little interest.
Neither Lord Ashley's Ten Hours Act which reduced working hours for women and children in factories nor the agitations of the Chartists could expect sympathy from the queen. It was not that Victoria lacked compassion. But like most of the upper classes, she regarded charity as an individual, religious duty, not a matter for government or collective action, which could damage trade and industry. She used her position to encourage others to be charitable, and became patron of some institutions.
But her sympathy with the sufferings of the Irish peasantry waned rapidly when they turned to political action to improve their lot, threatening the security of her realm. The agitation in Ireland and the murders of landlords in —8, coinciding with the year of revolutions on the continent, filled Victoria with foreboding for the safety of her throne; the Chartists' Kennington Common meeting of 10 April , though ultimately a damp squib, sent the royal family scurrying from London to the safety of the Isle of Wight. Foreign affairs were Albert's greatest preoccupation, and he drew Victoria along with him.
His vision was for Europe to be led by a united, liberal Germany in alliance with Britain—constitutional monarchy triumphing over the despotic monarchies of Russia, Austria, and Prussia for the general good and in the interests of international peace. Ironically, it was with Britain's hereditary enemy, France, that Victoria and Albert developed their first ties in the s. Perhaps in consequence, Victoria was in visited by no fewer than three reigning sovereigns: the king of Saxony , Tsar Nicholas I of Russia , and Louis Philippe paying a reciprocal visit, the first such since The crown prince of Prussia also visited Windsor in , and in Victoria made her first journey to Germany, to see Albert's homeland of Coburg and also to visit the Prussian court in Berlin.
In consequence, Victoria came increasingly to feel herself part of an international brotherhood of monarchy. She and Albert felt that their personal ties with the ruling houses of Europe gave them a special knowledge and authority in foreign affairs, an opinion which brought them into regular conflict with Lord Palmerston , who in returned to the Foreign Office. Palmerston took a thoroughgoing whig view of the relationship between crown and parliament , and had no time for the royal couple's inflated idea of their own role.
For their part, Victoria and Albert found Palmerston's policies often rash and inflammatory, and they found his unpopularity in the courts and embassies of Europe personally embarrassing. His support for liberal, constitutional causes abroad and his hostility to French interests seemed to Victoria and Albert the very opposite of desirable—not least because they undermined the position of monarchs abroad—and his habits in the matter of the dispatches, which he often sent to the royal couple only after they had been sent abroad, were at best discourteous and at worst unconstitutional.
While the queen repeatedly called on her prime minister, Lord John Russell , to dismiss Palmerston , and even threatened to do so herself, Palmerston , secure in popular approval and parliamentary ascendancy, carried on blithely, though he bowed to proprieties and pulled back from the brink of open confrontation with the queen.
Great were the rejoicings at court in December when Palmerston brought about his own downfall by expressing support for the new emperor of France , Napoleon III , contrary to the government's stated policy of neutrality. Palmerston's fall crowned for Victoria a triumphant year which had been dominated by the realization of Albert's plans for the Great Exhibition.
Her total faith in her husband's vision for the Crystal Palace in Hyde Park was triumphantly vindicated. The opening was, Victoria thought, 'the greatest day in our history, the most beautiful and imposing and touching spectacle ever seen' Letters , 1st ser. Albert still had no official status in Britain, a situation the queen considered intolerable and which she regularly pressed her ministers to remedy, to no avail. Two events overseas engaged Victoria in a way that no peacetime incident had: the war in the Crimea, and the mutiny in India in As the first troops departed for the Crimea in , she became fervently martial in spirit.
Regarding herself as head of the army, and the soldiers peculiarly her own, she watched countless soldiers depart, and when the navy set sail for the Baltic, she was aboard the royal yacht Fairy at Spithead: 'Navy and Nation were particularly pleased at my leading them out ', she reported to King Leopold Letters , 1st ser. Victoria was not called on to be another Elizabeth , but she became engrossed in the distant war, seizing on dispatches and news, writing constant encouragement to her generals and to the widows of fallen officers, instigating the casting of the Crimean campaign medal, and bestowing it personally on hundreds of returning soldiers; the first such ceremony was on 18 May For example, elements of the Red Spear Society performed secret ceremonies to confer invulnerability from bullets to channel the power of Qi and went into battle naked with supposedly bulletproof red clay smeared over their bodies.
The past was widely romanticized, and many believed that a Ming emperor would bring a "reign of happiness and justice for all". The death of Yuan Shikai split the Beiyang Army into two main factions. The Zhili and Fengtian clique were in alliance with one another, while the Anhui clique formed their own faction. International recognition was based on the presence in Beijing, and every Beiyang clique tried to assert their dominance over the capital to claim legitimacy. The government worked closely with the Zhili clique, led by Vice President Feng Guozhang, to maintain stability in the capital.
Continuing military influence over the Beiyang government led to provinces around the country refusing to declare their allegiance. The debate between the President and the Premier on whether or not China should participate in the First World War was followed by political unrest in Beijing.
As Zhang marched into Beijing on 1 July, he quickly dissolved the parliament and proclaimed a Manchu Restoration. The new government quickly fell to Duan after he returned to Beijing with reinforcements from Tianjin. As another government formed in Beijing, Duan's fundamental disagreements over national issues with the new President Feng Guozhang led to Duan's resignation in The alliance with the Fengtian was only one of convenience and war broke out in the First Zhili—Fengtian War , with Zhili driving Fengtian forces back to Manchuria.
Next, they wanted to bolster their legitimacy and reunify the country by returning Li Yuanhong to the presidency and restoring the National Assembly. They proposed that Xu Shichang and Sun Yat-sen resign their rival presidencies simultaneously in favor of Li. Chen Jiongming by recognizing him as governor of Guangdong.
With Sun driven out of Guangzhou , the Zhili clique superficially restored the constitutional government that existed prior to Zhang Xun's coup. Cao bought the presidency in despite opposition by the KMT, Fengtian, Anhui remnants, some of his lieutenants and the public. I n the autumn of the Zhili appeared to be on the verge of complete victory in the Second Zhili—Fengtian War until Feng Yuxiang betrayed the clique, seized Beijing and imprisoned Cao.
Zhili forces were routed from the north but kept the center. Feng soon broke off from the Zhili clique again and formed Guominjun and allied himself with Duan Qirui. Zhang Zuolin took advantage of the situation, and entered Shanhai Pass from the Northeast and captured Beijing. The southern provinces of China were notably against the Beiyang government in the north, having resisted the restoration of monarchy by Yuan Shikai and the subsequent government in Peking after his death.
Sun Yat-sen along with other southern leaders have formed a government in Guangzhou to resist the rule of the Beiyang warlords, and the Guangzhou government came to be known as part of the Constitutional Protection War. In September Sun was named generalissimo of the military government with the purpose of protecting the provisional constitution of The southern warlords assisted his regime solely to legitimize their fiefdoms and challenge Beijing.
In a bid for international recognition, they also declared war against the Central Powers but failed to garner any recognition. In July southern militarists thought Sun was given too much power and forced him to join a governing committee. Continual interference forced Sun into self-imposed exile.
While away, he recreated the Chinese Nationalist Party , or Kuomintang. With the help of KMT Gen. Chen Jiongming , committee members Gen. Cen Chunxuan , Adm. Lin Baoyi and Gen. Lu Rongting were expelled in the Guangdong—Guangxi War. In May Sun was elected "extraordinary president" by a rump parliament despite protests by Chen and Tang Shaoyi , who complained of its unconstitutionality.
Tang left while Chen plotted with the Zhili clique to overthrow Sun in June in return for recognition of his governorship over Guangdong. After Chen was driven out of Guangzhou, Sun returned again to assume leadership in March The party was reorganized along Leninist democratic centralism , and the alliance with the Communist Party of China came to be known as First United Front.
The Guangzhou government focused on training new officers through the newly created Whampoa Military Academy. In , the Zhilii clique fell out of power, and Sun travelled to Beiping to negotiate terms of reunification with leaders from Guominjun , Fengtian and Anhui clique. He was unable to secure the terms as he died in March from illness. Power struggles within the KMT ensued after the death of Sun. In the north, there were struggles led by Guominjun against Fengtian-Zhili alliance from November to April The defeat of Guominjun ended their reign in Beiping.
Wu Peifu and Sun Chuanfang of the Chili clique were subsequently defeated in central and eastern China. In response to the situation, the Guominjun and Yan Xishan of Shanxi formed an alliance with Chiang to attack the Fengtian clique together. In , Chiang initiated a violent purge of Communists in the Kuomintang, which marked the end of the First United Front. Though Chiang had consolidated the power of the KMT in Nanking, it was still necessary to capture Beiping Beijing to claim the legitimacy needed for international recognition.
Yan Xishan moved in and captured Beiping on behalf of his new allegiance after the death of Zhang Zuolin in Despite the reunification, there were still ongoing conflicts across the country. Remaining regional warlords across China chose to cooperate with the Nationalist government, but disagreements with the Nationalist government and regional warlords soon broke out into the Central Plains War in Northwest China erupted into a series of wars in Xinjiang from to Following the Xi'an Incident in , efforts began to shift toward preparation of war against the Japanese Empire.
These are general studies or works cited.
For works on individuals, battles, or special topics, please see the pages on those topics. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Period in the history of the Republic of China. Main article: List of warlords and military cliques in the Warlord Era. Main article: Northern Expedition. Warlord Era at Wikipedia's sister projects. The Revival of China, Volume 1. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.
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