Biography of Famous Rulers Queen Victoria of England Part 3

About the famous English Queen Victoria, biography and history of the ruler.

THE HIGH AND THE MIGHTY

Famous and Infamous Rulers in History

QUEEN VICTORIA

Rise to Power: Victoria's heirless uncle, King William IV, died at Windsor Castle on June 20, 1837, and Victoria ascended the throne.

In Power: When the teenage Victoria became queen, she knew little about the ruling of her empire. But in her handsome prime minister, Lord Melbourne, she found the ideal person to instruct her. Victoria thought Melbourne sparkling, merry, and witty, and in a week's time she was calling him "my friend." More than that, Melbourne served as a father figure to Victoria.

Unfortunately, Melbourne was of little help when Victoria faced her first major crisis early in 1839--the "Ladies of the Bedchamber" scandal. The scandal involved Flora Hastings, lady-in-waiting to the Duchess of Kent, who suddenly began showing signs of pregnancy. All eyes turned to John Conroy, who had shared a carriage with her on her return from a family visit. Although doctors certified that Lady Flora was still a virgin, ugly rumors circulated about the immorality of the court. When Victoria drove into Ascot with Lord Melbourne, whose government was falling, the populace taunted the queen with cries of "Mrs. Melbourne!" Lady Flora died in July, and an autopsy revealed that the swelling of her stomach had been caused by a tumor-infested liver.

The tumult died down, and Victoria was soon preoccupied with plans for her wedding to Albert. After their marriage, the royal couple set out on a round of state visits to the other royal families of Europe. They were particularly close to King Louis Philippe of France, who found refuge in Britain in 1848 after a revolution placed Napoleon III in power. In that one fateful year, nearly every government in Europe changed hands.

Another problem was also looming on the horizon. The weakness of Turkey encouraged Czar Nicholas II of Russia to champion the claims that the Russian Orthodox Church had over the Turkish-controlled holy places in Palestine. Britain--and indeed most of Europe--believed that Turkey would be torn apart by Russia, and this led Britain to declare war on Russia on Mar. 24, 1854. Although the Crimean War was in many ways disastrous for Britain, it won new respect for the British soldier. "I feel so much for them, and am so fond of my dear soldiers, and so proud of them," Victoria wrote to her uncle. She personally visited the wounded in hospitals and created a medal for outstanding bravery and courage--the Victoria Cross.

Another matter soon claimed Victoria's attention. In 1857 the Sepoy Mutiny broke out after Indian soldiers (Sepoys) were forced to use gun cartridges that were greased with pig or cow fat and that had to be bitten open. Since Hindus consider the cow sacred and Muslims are forbidden to eat pig, it was the final indignation in their struggle against the East India Company, which had ruled India for 99 years. The Sepoys went on a rampage, killing British men, women, and children indiscriminately. Victoria was horrified, but she fought against reprisals once the mutiny had been quashed.

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