With the possible exception of the late Queen Elizabeth II, Queen Victoria is the most well-known monarch in British history. During her reign, she birthed nine children, oversaw the expansion of Britain’s empire, and became a symbol of longevity and stability.
However, certain aspects of Victoria’s life were far from ideal. In addition to the tragic death of her husband, Victoria had to deal with loneliness, overindulgence, and a troublesome son. She also held opinions that would be condemned if she were alive today.
1. Victoria Had An Unpleasant Childhood
Though Victoria grew up with many luxurious and material privileges, her childhood was tough.
Unlike most children from this era, Victoria had little contact with girls and boys her own age. Rather, she grew up under the watchful eye of her overprotective mother and her household servants in Kensington Palace. She wasn’t even allowed to walk down the stairs without someone holding her hand.
Worse still, Victoria was forced to follow a rigorous schedule. Everything from her meals to her education was locked into a strict pattern, and Victoria wasn’t always pleased with this setup. As well as the boring and unappetizing selection of food, she also loathed the more mundane aspects of her education.
After they had grown up, Princess Feodora, Victoria’s half-sister, wrote to Victoria and described their grim childhood:
‘… [having] not one cheerful thought in that dismal existence of ours was very hard. I escaped some years of imprisonment, which you, my poor darling sister, had to endure after I was married.’
2. Victoria Struggled With Motherhood
Victoria married her cousin, Prince Albert, in 1840, and over the next seventeen years, she gave birth to nine children.
But childrearing wasn’t always easy for the queen. She was exhausted by her long string of pregnancies, and she didn’t always take to the babies when they were born. In her diary, she even used the word ‘disgusting’ when describing infants.
Worse still, Victoria and Albert’s eldest son was a nightmare. The young Prince Edward (who became King Edward VII in 1901) hated his education even more than his mother had during her childhood. During his lessons, he often screamed and kicked his way into a furious tantrum. He also enjoyed attacking people with scissors.
Albert did his best to control Edward. But the father and son were not alike. Whilst Albert was studious and honorable, Edward was aggressive and mean-spirited.
3. Victoria Blamed Her Son For Her Husband’s Death
Edward’s behavior didn’t improve as he grew up. During his university years, he neglected his studies and spent far too much time smoking, hunting, eating, drinking, and gambling.
Then, in 1861, he caused a royal scandal when he spent three nights in the company of a famous actress called Nellie Clifden. Albert was appalled, so he traveled across the country to talk with his son about the situation.
During this trip, Albert was overexposed to the cold weather, and he became perilously ill and developed a fever. He died soon afterward on the 14th of December. Victoria — as well as being heartbroken — struggled to forgive Edward, blaming him for her husband’s early death.
She was convinced that Edward’s regular bouts of misbehavior had damaged Albert’s long-term health, and if it wasn’t for the affair with Nellie Clifden, Albert would never have been overexposed to the cold weather.
4. Victoria Had An Eating Problem
Despite the lackluster meals she was presented with during her childhood at Kensington Palace, Victoria developed a great fondness for food as an adult. After Albert’s death, she overindulged by comfort eating to excess.
The kitchen staff at Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle delivered huge meals for Victoria and her guests. Whilst working-class communities struggled to survive, the royal household gorged themselves on rich meats, such as chicken, beef, haggis, venison, lamb, and foul.
But puddings were Victoria’s greatest vice. She enjoyed gobbling down a wide range of desserts, including chocolate cakes, chocolate biscuits, sponge cakes, jam trifles, pancakes, waffles, jellies, and cranberry tarts.
Despite being a relatively short woman, Victoria swelled to a huge size in her later years, and she would be considered obese by today’s standards.
5. Victoria Was Against Votes For Women
Though the activism of the suffragettes didn’t hit Britain until the Edwardian era, the votes-for-women campaign existed long before this.
During the Victorian era, many campaigners said it was absurd that Britain had a female head of state, yet women weren’t allowed to vote in political elections. However, Victoria herself did not support female suffrage. In fact, she was very hostile to the entire movement.
She described the campaign for female suffrage as a ‘mad, wicked folly’, believing that a woman’s place was in the home. Likewise, she condemned the idea of women becoming doctors for similar reasons.
Is it fair to judge the people of the past by the standards of today? This isn’t an easy question to answer, but it’s impossible to deny that Victoria’s hostility to female suffrage hasn’t aged well.