Grandmother of Europe
In the last decades of her life and reign, Queen Victoria received the nickname, "Grandmother of Europe." The nickname had much literal justification, as her many children had married into many of Europe's royal families, and her numerous grandchildren, once grown, did the same. Her own children had married into the houses of Prussia, Denmark, Russia, Schleswig-Holstein, Waldeck, and Battenberg. Among her grandchildren were the future German Emperor Wilhelm II; the future Queen Sophie of Greece; Maud the future queen consort of Norway; the future czarina of Russia, Alexandra, famed for her own, her husband Czar Nicholas II's, and their five children's 1917 assassination by the Bolsheviks; Marie, the future consort of King Ferdinand I of Romania; and the future Queen Victoria Eugenie of Spain.
The two most memorable events of Victoria's later years were the 1887 and 1897 celebrations of her Golden Jubilee and her Diamond Jubilee. The Golden Jubilee marked her fiftieth year as queen; the Diamond her sixtieth. The public festivities on these occasions were massive. The Golden Jubilee featured the attendance of representatives from all over the British Empire: Indian rajahs, Burmese mandarins, tribal chieftains from Africa, and colonial governors from all over the world. The Diamond Jubilee saw a similar delegation, along with numerous guests from the foreign nations. Historian David Thomson describes the occasions as "gigantic advertisements for the new Empire of which Victoria had come to be the crowned symbol, bringing enormous satisfaction to the masses." The events were celebrated all over Great Britain and throughout the Empire.
Amidst such celebrations, Britain experienced social unrest and the prospect of war in southern Africa. The end of the nineteenth century saw the increased power of the Labor movement and unionism in Britain. There were many labor strikes throughout the 1890s, and socialism was gaining new ground among quarters of British workers and intellectuals as it had not been able to in previous decades.
The Boer War finally broke out in 1899, and Britain's southern African holdings were torn apart by violence, bloodshed, and incidents of terrible brutality toward women and children, especially toward of the native black population. The war would not end for another three years.
Despite the hostilities in Africa and the anti-war sentiment they effected among many back home in Britain, Victoria's popularity as queen was unaffected. By the end of her days, she had achieved a sort of popularity among her people which one might never have suspected possible back in the time when the monarchy was being threatened by republican movements to reform the government. Indeed, the security of her once doubted son Edward's immanent succession was assured.
Queen Victoria died on January 22, 1901, at Osborne House on the Isle of Wight. Her reign of nearly sixty-four years ended as the longest in British history. At her funeral, she wore a white dress and her wedding veil along with military regalia of the Order of the Garter. Honoring her instructions before she died, London was bedecked in purple and white, rather than the traditional black. She was buried at Windsor Castle alongside Prince Albert, in a mausoleum which she had built for them. Above the door of the tomb are the words Victoria had inscribed before her death: "Farewell best beloved, here at last I shall rest with thee, with thee in Christ I shall rise again."
Honoring the death of Victoria, a writer in the London Times wrote the following tribute in 1901: "If we have had orderly evolution where other nations have gone through devastating internal conflicts, if the Monarchystands not only broad-based upon the people's will, but strong in the affections of kindred nations overseas, we owe these results, to a degree which is hardly possible to over-estimate, to the womanly sweetness, the gentle sagacity, the utter disinterestedness, and the unassailable rectitude of the Queen." Many in Britain shared the sentiment, and Victoria was greatly missed after she was gone.
Queen Victoria's son, King Edward VII, succeeded her. He died only nine years later, succeeded by his son, King George V, grandfather of the present Queen Elizabeth II.
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