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Queen Victoria

Study Questions and Essay Topics

Grandmother of Europe

Quiz

Study Questions

Early in her reign, Victoria depended heavily on the friendship and advice of several important men. Describe her relationships to her uncle Leopold, Prime Minister Lord Melbourne, and her husband Prince Albert.

As a teenager, Victoria came to look upon her Uncle Leopold, King of the Belgians, as a father figure. Her own father had died when Victoria was a baby, and Leopold fulfilled her need for fatherly counsel. This was an especially important role as she was growing up, since Victoria did not get along very well with her mother, Victoire, who was ambitious for her daughter, and not a terribly caring mother. Victoria corresponded often with Leopold and valued his advice on political and personal matters. Their communication continued while she was Queen. Upon Victoria's succession to the throne, however, another important male figure entered her life: Lord Melbourne, the Whig Prime Minister. Melbourne was a charming man, several decades older than his young sovereign. He often spent hours at a time with Victoria teaching her about constitutional government and matters of state. His friendship and advice came at a crucial time. Victoria was only eighteen when she came to power, and was therefore very inexperienced with politics. She needed a political mentor who would not take advantage of her and seek to dominate the government through her (as her mother's friend Sir John Conroy had attempted to do). Melbourne became that mentor. His role as an adviser and confidante was put aside, however, after Victoria's marriage to Prince Albert of Saxe-Cobure Gotha. Victoria was devoted to Albert and came to rely on his advice in nearly every matter. His opinions on foreign policy matters were of particular importance to Victoria's rule in the government, since the Queen was not very interested in foreign affairs. Albert also influenced Victoria to favor the Tory party in government—and later the Conservative party—even though she initially favored the Whigs very strongly.

Describe the two major military conflicts of Victoria's reign, the Crimean War and the Boer War.

The Crimean War was the first military conflict of Victoria's reign, occurring between 1853 and 1856. Britain entered the war in response to Russian aggression on Turkish lands in the Balkans. A British fleet was sent into the Dardanelles—straits in the eastern Mediterranean—in October 1853. At home in Britain, many people clamored for war, and the fighting soon began. The Russians eventually moved out of the Balkans, giving the British a victory, if not a strategically important one. The war is best remembered, however, for the thousands of casualties related to illness and disease rather than to battle wounds. It is also known for the military incompetence demonstrated by the British Army, most famously in the suicidal Charge of the Light Brigade.

The Boer War occurred at the very end of Victoria's reign. It began in 1899 as a result of British desires to control the former Dutch territory of Transvaal in southern Africa. The war was brutal—women and children were victimized by British soldiers. The guerilla warfare of the Boers gave the British forces serious losses in the first part of the war, though eventually Britain achieved victory. The war did not end until 1902, the year after Victoria's death. It also saw little support at home in Britain and was criticized by the international community, which condemned Britain as an imperialistic aggressor. The victory of this war was a major step in the creation of the nation of South Africa.

What was Victoria's opinion of prime ministers Benjamin Disraeli and William Gladstone, respectively? Describe her relationship to both men.

In a nutshell, Queen Victoria adored Conservative Benjamin Disraeli, and she hated Liberal William Gladstone. Disraeli became a good friend of the Queen's when he was Prime Minister, and often flattered her. He was responsible for giving her the title Empress of India in 1876. Victoria generally supported his imperialist views and his domestic politics, which favored the slow, gradual reform of British institutions. There were times, however, when Victoria thought Disraeli was not zealous enough in his actions, such as his handling of the crisis in the Balkans in 1878, the crisis which ended in the Treaty of Berlin. Victoria had wanted to go to war with Russia during this time, but Disraeli did his best to avoid such a conflict.

On the other hand, Victoria looked upon Gladstone as an enemy.. She was greatly distressed when he retook Parliament in 1880. His manner in cabinet meetings bothered her greatly, though for his part, Gladstone always respected Victoria and was loyal to her. More than anything else, perhaps, Victoria despised Gladstone's democratic sensibilities, as demonstrated in his 1879 campaign for Parliament—known as the "Midlothian Campaign"—when he engaged in an unprecedented tour of Britain giving speeches on foreign and domestic policy issues. Victoria also disliked his stand on the issue of Irish Home Rule. Gladstone was for Home Rule and for the general relief of the Irish from the generally oppressive rule of the British over their island.

Essay Topics

How did Victoria's home life and upbringing of her children differ from that of previous British monarchs?

What was the Great Exhibition and why can it be said to have been a particularly important event in Victoria's reign?

Why did Victoria come to favor the Conservatives over the Liberals in the British government?

Describe what you know of Victoria's "irregular" relationship with the Scotsman John Brown. What does public reaction to this relationship tell you about the moral and sexual codes of Victorian Britain?

Why was Victoria known as the "Grandmother of Europe"?

How important a figure was Prince Albert in Victoria's life and how did her married life with him affect her role as Queen? Include some thoughts about how Albert's death affected Victoria's performance of public duties.

Why can Victoria's reign be said to have effected a major transition in the institution of the British monarchy?

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