Saturday, January 22, 2011

Pop History Moment: The Death of Queen Victoria

More than just a woman died on this day in 1901; indeed, more than just a Queen. No less than the Victorian Era died with her, an age in which the scientific and cultural advancements of the Industrial Revolution were tempered by various deleterious 'isms' - militarism, colonialism, and parochialism to name just three.

PhotobucketBorn in May 1819, when she came to the throne in June 1837 Britain was already a formidable world power; throughout that reign her influence came to be felt everywhere in the world, not just the quarter of it directly under her sway. The British monarchy also went from an executive to a constitutional one during her tenure; similarly, the decadence of the Royal Family into which she'd been born gave way to a more sedate one with which Britain's burgeoning middle class - always a perennial bugbear where royalty and aristocracy are concerned - could have greater sympathy.

There are memorials to her on every continent, be they geographical features (Victoria Falls and Lake Victoria in Africa, Burma's Mount Victoria), political regions (Victoria and Queensland states in Australia), urban centres (Regina and Victoria in Canada), and even a village in Newfoundland! Her birthday is celebrated in Canada still as Victoria Day.

Likewise there are statues, plaques, paintings, and other pictorial tributes too numerous to mention; some are lovingly tended still while others, such as those in India and Ireland, have been removed or renamed in the backlash following the independence of those countries. This is not counting the images of her on money, coins, and stamps (where she was first to appear - on the Penny Black - in 1840) which surely number in the millions.

Today her descendants reign over much of Europe (the sovereigns of England, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, and Spain) and would reign over much more of it, given half a chance (the would-be monarchs of Romania, Serbia, Greece, Russia, France, and Germany); yet Victoria was also a carrier of hemophilia, which she unwittingly passed to many of these royal houses as well, most famously destabilizing the Russian monarchy. World War I to her would have been a family scrap, fought as it was between three of her grandsons - the German Kaiser, the British King, and the Russian Tsar.

She survived three assassination attempts to surpass her grandfather George III as the oldest British monarch ever (81 years and 240 days) just three days before her own death; her great-great granddaughter passed this landmark herself in December 2007. Victoria's reign lasted 63 years, 216 days, which the current Queen will not attain for six more years.

Queen Victoria died at her favourite home, Osborne House on the Isle of Wight, with her son and heir at her side; she was 81.

A renewed interest in the life of Queen Victoria is beginning to be felt in bookstores and on television sets throughout the world, beginning with Dame Judi Dench's stellar portrayal of her in 1997's film Mrs. Brown and continuing with Carrolly Erickson's recent biography Her Little Majesty. Also in theatres of late has been The Young Victoria, in which Emily Blunt undertook the title role with considerable aplomb.

share on: facebook

No comments: