Useful Notes: Queen Victoria

aka: Queen Vicky

Captain Darling: I'm as British as Queen Victoria!
Captain Blackadder: So your father's German, you're half-German, and you married a German?

Queen Victoria (1819-1901) reigned over the largest empire the world has ever seen. She was a hugely important figure, causing sweeping changes in the history of many parts of the world, and inspiring her people. She was not simply a prudish old woman with no sense of humour, and in fact probably never said, "We are not amused".

Her reign was equally momentous, occupying nearly the entire period of the Industrial Revolution, from 1837 to 1901, and being the longest in British history to date.

She married her cousin Francis Albert Augustus Charles Emmanuel in 1840. Albert died of typhoid fever in 1861, still young(ish) and handsome, leaving Victoria stricken with grief. She never remarried, and indeed she spent the rest of her reign wearing only mourning colours and only rarely making public appearances and even more rarely living at Buckingham; this earned her the not-entirely-complimentary nickname "the Widow of Windsor." As a result, republican sentiment in Britain was at its height, to the extent that some felt the monarchy was going to be abolished sooner or later; fortunately (for the monarchy at any rate), the Prince of Wales Albert Edward had a better understanding of public relations and charmed the socks off the whole country, and partied the socks off the whole upper crust.

Many, many books have been written about her and her era. These tend to be set when they were written, either in Victorian London or in the colonies. Also the default timeframe for Steampunk works.

Her Majesty Victoria and her reign involve examples of the following tropes:

  • Beam Me Up, Scotty!: The "We are not amused" story is most likely apocryphal. In fact, she wrote constantly in her journal about how much things amused her, and in fact laughed uproariously at most of the operas of Gilbert and Sullivan.
    • The story may have arisen from an incident where a courtier named Alexander G. "Alick" Yorke told a filthynote  joke in front of a number of small children at lunch. Her "we" was meant to encompass the confused and worried girls, who either didn't understand the joke or were upset by it.
    • Lampshaded humorously in the Tooth and Claw episode of Doctor Who, where a running gag was Rose trying to get Her Majesty to say it to win a bet with the Doctor.
    • Also true about the phrase "lie back and think of England." (Which was not uttered by her.) She and Albert loved each other passionately (in both senses of the word) - none of that for them! They had nine kids! note 
    • The claim that she detested a northern city so much that she always had the curtains closed on her train when passing through it—the reason why this is suspicious is that it's claimed by multiple places, including Newcastle and Edinburgh. Again, this is almost certainly apocryphal - Victoria was too soft-hearted to hold a grudge against an entire city.
  • British Accents: Despite her mixed heritage (British-German), there is a very ancient recording of her voice, and she sounds like a typical British Grande Dame, as expected.
  • Cool Crown: Her tiny, diamond-studded hoop crown became part of her iconic image. It dates from her widowhood—she needed a crown that would (1) not interfere with her mourning veil (thus the small size) and (2) conform to the allowed materials and colours for widowhood (among the precious stones, only colourless diamond qualifies).
  • Crystal Spires and Togas: This is somewhat what the Crystal Palace was supposed to suggest, though that wasn't its original design (see Dumbass Has a Point).
  • Determinator: See the above caption, spoken during the Second Boer War in 1899. For the record, they won, though she didn't live to see it.
  • Dumbass Has a Point: At first the Queen and Prince couldn't decide on the design for the Great Exhibition Building; brick or stone would be too heavy and costly, and would never get done in time, and wood would still take too long and add fire danger. A public contest was held, and the winning answer (a giant greenhouse, which was easy to assemble quickly, let in sunlight and could be built around the trees in the park) came from a lower-class gardener, Joseph Paxton, who was supposedly quite dull (despite already being world-famous for his horticulture work and being in the employ of the Duke of Devonshirenote ). This and Paxton's other work was also largely responsible for the modern greenhouse design.
    • This also spawned the saying "Got a problem? Give it to Paxton!"
    • Later, they wondered how to stop the sparrows in the trees from defecating on everyone, and the Duke of Wellington gave an answer that got him knightednote :
    "How about sparrow hawks?"
  • Embarrassing First Name: Not embarrassing for her personally, but her first name was chosen as a Take That. Her first name was "Alexandrina", which was chosen specifically to upset her uncle (who hated the Russian Tsar Alexander I).
    • When she first acceded to the throne, Parliament disliked both her names, viewing them as 'un-British', and wanted her to change her name to Elizabeth or Charlotte. Ironically of course, 'Victoria' ended up becoming inextricably associated with Britishness as a result of her reign.
  • The Emperor: She was the first British monarch to take up the title of emperor, as the "Empress of India." Her descendants would keep the imperial title until India became independent after World War II. Supposedly, this was because her daughter was married to the Prussian crown prince who would become the German kaiser whose imperial title would have had precedence over Victoria's mere royal title.
  • Enemy Mine: Historical rivals England and France teamed up, along with the otherwise-hated Ottoman Empire and the came-out-of-nowhere Kingdom of Sardinia (turns out it was a plan on poor French Emperor Napoleon III by Sardinia's Magnificent Bastard Prime Minister Cavour, but that's another story), to beat up the expansionist Russians and their Bulgarian allies in the Crimean War.
  • Ermine Cape Effect: Just that after Albert died, she made a more modest, but still grand, effect.
  • Establishing Character Moment: At her coronation, an elderly Lord tottered when he tried to pay homage to Victoria. She got up from from her throne and helped the old man.
    • Lakotah dancer and eventual holy man Black Elk toured England with Buffalo Bill's company (seen in Hidalgo). When Victoria met the Indians, she said they were "the best-looking people" she'd ever seen. About two weeks later they attended her Golden Jubilee parade, and Black Elk's memoir is worth quoting:
      When she came to where we were, her wagon stopped and she stood up. Then all those people stood up and roared and bowed to her: but she bowed to us.
    • It has been noted that Victoria (despite the culture she grew up in and presided over) was quite racially blind. She later struck up an odd friendship (and some would say platonic love affair) with her Indian Muslim tutor Abdul Karim and was extremely angry when her advisers and family tried prevent her from giving him any more royal favours. She adored the Indian and Scottish servants and caretakers that oversaw many of her properties. By many accounts though, she was less pleasant to her English servants.
  • Evil Matriarch + Education Mama:
    • Not evil exactly, but her mother was morally dissolute and almost entirely self-centered; she once ordered ships in the harbor to salute to her and not the then-King. Victoria is said to have believed this herself. She suspected her mother's aide, Sir John Conroy, of attempting to have her declared insane so that her mother could be appointed permanent regent (and him the power behind the regency). Victoria's feelings towards her mother were so cold that she married Albert as soon as possible so that she could establish her own household and leave her mother's. (Even as Queen, custom dictated that she had to live with her mother as long as she was single.) It wasn't until her mother died and she reviewed her journals that Victoria discovered her mother actually loved and cared for her. note 
    • Victoria was also an Education Mama herself, at Albert's insistance; this was particularly hard on the Prince of Wales, as the education was very strict and very private (even at Cambridge he was forbidden from socialising), but the Prince wasn't much for book learning and was a natural in social settings.
  • Fairytale Wedding Dress: Her dress was the Trope Codifier, as it popularized the bride wearing white. Wedding dresses in the past were often indistinguishable from regular pimped out dresses.
  • The Federation: The British Empire under Victoria is one of the Trope Codifiers. Towards the end of her reign, there was talk of establishing a literal Federation (well, "Imperial Federation") with a central Parliament to set Empire-wide policy and local parliaments in each realm to determine local matters; Canada, Australia, South Africa, New Zealand, Newfoundland (at the time separate from Canada), and of course the United Kingdom would be its initial members. The idea eventually morphed into the Commonwealth of Nations.
  • The Good Chancellor: Benjamin Disraeli, from her perspective, anyway; in truth, virtually all of her Prime Ministers were good, hardworking, and intelligent, but Disraeli was the one who best knew how to relate to her.
    • She also liked her first PM, Lord Melbourne, who helped her navigate the often-treacherous waters of Court and Parliament.
  • God Save Us from the Queen!: An Averted Trope for many, but at least to the Irish, she is known as "The Famine Queen". Even if one accepts the Irish nationalist interpretation of the Potato Famine ("it was all Britain's fault!"), Victoria's influence on policy-making would have been negligible. In fact, great softie and lover of Ireland (it was her favourite place to go on holiday, and nobody likes to see horrible sights of dying people anywhere, but especially not on holiday) that she was, she is known to have repeatedly harangued her ministers over their neglect of the poor people of Ireland!
  • Grande Dame: Though she was not actually lacking humour, she is generally portrayed this way in fiction — not entirely without justification.
  • Happily Married - A pleasantly straight example for a real-life royal couple. Victoria was so dedicated to her husband (as he was to her) that even after his death she still insisted that the linens and wash basin in his room be changed just as if he were still living in there.
  • Hero's Muse: She was often portrayed this way.
  • The High Queen: Or at least portrayed this way by sympathetic authors.
  • History Marches On: It was once thought that the hemophilia Victoria passed on to one son and (through her carrier daughters) the royal families of Europe was "caused" by inbreeding. This is in itself nonsense, as inbreeding doesn't miraculously cause genetic mutations to happen; it merely concentrates genes (good and bad) and makes it more likely that recessive and polygenic traits will arise. But it's now been found that hemophilia is a sex-linked trait: a man only needs one defective gene (on his X chromosome) to be a hemophiliac. The chance of inheriting a condition caused by a single gene is no higher in inbred conditions than in outbred ones.
  • Honest John's Dealership: On hearing that Prince Albert was deathly ill, a certain London businessman bought up all the black crepe in the city. When it came time to go into mourning with the queen, he made, as it were, a killing.
  • Hot Consort: Prince Albert.
  • Huge Guy, Tiny Girl: Victoria was 4'11"; Albert was about six feet. The sight of them together was thought to be amusing by the kind of people that that sort of thing amuses.
  • I Was Quite a Looker: Oh, she most certainly was. Much of the justification for The Young Victoria.
  • Kissing Cousins: Victoria and her husband Albert were first cousins; Albert's father and Victoria's mother were brother and sister.
  • Kneel Before Frodo: She bowed to some Lakota travelling with Buffalo Bill's tour.
  • Massive Numbered Siblings: Victoria had nine children herself, all of whom survived to adulthood. Considering the intermarriage that took place among European royalty, almost every royal family in Europe is or was somehow related to her (she is today known among historians and genealogists as "the grandmother of Europe").note  Victoria was also a carrier of the haemophilia gene (or the werewolf gene, if you like) which ended up manifesting itself in one of the children of Tsar Nicholas II, resulting in the influence Rasputin had over the family.
  • Long Runner: Her rule lasted 63 years and 7 months, longer than any other female ruler in history, and longer than any other British monarch. Queen Elizabeth II is set to overtake her as of 2015, though.
  • Lord Error-Prone: the nearly-senile Lord Raglan, and the pugnacious and nearly-idiotic Earl of Cardigan (who invented Raglan sleeves and Cardigan sweaters, by the way), in the Crimean War. Together with a few others (Captain Nolan, the Earl of Lucan), and with Raglan's vague orders, they caused the Charge of the Light Brigade. Raglan repeatedly referred to his enemies as "The French" (in a flashback to the Napoleonic Wars), even though the French were now on his side.
  • The Man Behind the Man: Queen Victoria may have *reigned* over the British Empire, but the real power was in the hands of her prime ministers. That's how a Westminster parliamentary democracy works: the sovereign reigns, but Parliament rules.
    • This principle became more firmly established under her uncles George IV and William IV; her youth and inexperience helped Parliament make this an absolute rule, and by the end of her reign it was clear that it was the Commons specifically, and not the Lords and Commons together, that held power.
    • An honourable mention goes to John Ponsonby Conroy, who worked so hard to get into this position. He and Victoria's mother designed Victoria's early education to make her pliable and obedient to his influences and tried to browbeat the teenage Victoria to sign a document that would name him and Victoria mère regents even after Victoria turned eighteen. Although this would technically make him the man behind the woman (Victoria senior) behind the woman (Victoria) behind the men (of Parliament), so it's doubtful he would have wielded any power even if his plans succeeded. Unfortunately for him, Vicky was made of sterner stuff; the plan backfired miserably and he died bankrupt and in disgrace (his obituary described him as ''that ridiculous fellow").
  • The Mourning After: She never really did recover from the death of Albert.
  • My Beloved Smother: When the Queen was inconsolable after Prince Albert's death, her youngest daughter Princess Beatrice (then aged five) became her main source of support, and at one point while a child Beatrice declared that she would never marry and stay with her mother to support her — as time passed, it became clear that Victoria intended to hold Beatrice to this. She continued to live with her mother, and was single well into her twenties, with Victoria doing her best to interfere with a number of possible suitors. When Beatrice announced her intention to marry Prince Henry of Battenberg (who she had met at a wedding), Victoria refused to speak with her for seven months despite them continuing to live in the same house, and finally consented to the marriage only when the couple promised to continue to live with her. Beatrice continued to live with Victoria until the Queen's death in 1901, at which point she spent the next thirty years editing her mother's journals.
  • Never Mess with Granny
  • No Guy Wants to Be Chased: High-profile aversion—due to her being a queen and Albert only being a prince, it was Victoria who had to propose to Albert.
  • Odd Name Out: Her four sons were named Albert, Alfred, Arthur... and Leopold. However, she later created him the Duke of Albany.
    • More subtle with her daughters: of Victoria, Alice, Helena, Louise, and Beatrice, only Louise lacked the letter A in her first name (as with Leopold, this was "corrected" when she became the Duchess of Argyll).
  • One Steve Limit: Subverted and played straight. Victoria's mother was also named Victoria. So was her eldest daughter, but was called Vicky for most of her childhood. So was her cousin and close friend Princess Victoria of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, who usually ended up being called by the French form of the name, "Victoire", to avoid confusion.
    • Victoria and Albert's eldest son was also named Albert, but the British people wouldn't accept such a German name for their future monarch and was always referred to as his middle name, Edward, in the press (which was the name he eventually adopted when he ascended to the throne). Within the family, though, he was always called Bertie.
    • Victoria intended for there to be a Victoria and an Albert in every generation of the senior royal family, whenever possible. The trend died out almost immediately after her least, on a first name basis. Her descendent Kings carried on the tradition in their names: Edward VII (Albert Edward), George V (George Frederick Earnest Albert), Edward VIII (Edward Albert Christian George Andrew Patrick David), George VI (Albert Frederick Arthur George), and right up to the present day (Prince Andrew's middle name is Albert, for instance).
  • Parental Substitute: Arguably her uncle Leopold, King of the Belgians, and her first Prime Minister Viscount Melbourne; Victoria's own father, the Duke of Kent, died when she was an infant.
  • Pimped-Out Dress: She and the other women in her family and court, as fitting their stations. Even some of her mourning dresses were fancy.
  • Science Marches On: Many of the "futuristic" ideas of some British authors at the time seem ludicrous and dated now. H. G. Wells got some social changes correct, though, and Jules Verne did basically predict the nuclear submarine.
  • Sugar and Ice Personality: Just read her journal entries on Albert.
  • Trope Maker/Trope Codifier: Without Prince Albert, we would not have Christmas Tropes, at least in English; when Victoria came to the throne, it was just a minor holiday in England. Albert introduced the concept of the Christmas tree, Christmas cards, Christmas carolling, Christmas lights and the traditional turkey dinner from Germany.
    • Ditto for most Wedding and Engagement Tropes. The huge white dress, huger cake with figurines on top, and other frills we commonly associate with weddings were inspired by Victoria's (and at least one by her eldest daughter's, the Lohengrin and Mendelssohn trope was popularized and codified at her wedding.).
  • Team Mom: To the whole Empire.
  • Unexpected Successor: Subverted. While Victoria was fully expected to inherit the throne from the day she was born, her existence was the result of an unexpected succession crisis. As of 1816, George III only had one legitimate grandchild: Princess Charlotte of Wales, the only legitimate child of the Prince of Wales.note  It was fully expected that Charlotte would inherit the throne in the fullness of time, as her parents loathed each other and neither was thought capable of having more children. And then Charlotte died in childbirth at the age of 21, leaving a huge gap in the line of succession. Cue a mad rush by Charlotte's uncles to dump their long-standing mistresses and woo and wed Protestant princesses who could give them the priceless heir. Even the Prince of Wales, sick, fat, and impotent, attempted to divorce his wife after he succeeded as King George IV. Victoria's father, Edward, Duke of Kent and Strathearn, George III's fourth son, was the oldest to produce a surviving child.
  • Unrequited Love Switcheroo: Victoria, Albert, his brother and another girl as teenagers...eventually it worked out.
  • Victorian Britain: The Trope Namer.
  • Victorian London: Also named it.
  • When She Smiles: DAAAWWWW...
  • Widow Woman: After the death of Prince Albert, Victoria always wore mourning clothes, though she did eventually brighten up personally.
  • Who Names Their Kid "Dude"? Unbelievably now, 'Victoria' fell into this category in 1819.
  • Young Future Famous People: Numerous incidents from her diaries and letters, but this one takes the cake: Victoria wrote about how she had sent Leopold I of Belgium's young son Leopold junior a steam engine to play with and commenting on his industriousness—Leopold II of Belgium would later become one of the greatest villains of history due to his actions in the Congo Free State.

The Queen has been seen in the following works:

  • The film The Young Victoria, which is based on, well... a young Victoria.
  • The 1950 film The Mudlark is about a street urchin who finds a medallion of Vicki while scavenging. A friend tells him she's "the mother of all England", so he sets out to meet her. She's a Hero's Muse in this, and played by an almost unrecognizable Irene Dunne.
  • One of The Royal Diaries books is "written" by Queen Victoria when she is in her late preteens/early teens.
    • Incidentally, in real life Victoria really was an obsessive journal writer, even by the standards of the times. Her daily journals cover a 69 year period and totals 121 volumes (that would mean that Victoria wrote about two thousand words a day—i.e. roughly the daily output of a professional author).
  • Mrs. Brown starring Dame Judi Dench as the Queen mourning the death of Prince Albert and her friendship/romance with her unconventional Scottish servant John Brown.
  • In Black Butler, main character Ciel Phantomhive directly serves as her "watchdog" as part of his family's role and does what she wants to protect the country, essentially serving as England's black-ops.
  • The Doctor Who episode "Tooth and Claw". A running subplot in the episode is a bet between the Doctor and his companion Rose whether or not they could get the Queen to say "I am not amused". In direct response to the events of the episode, she founded the Torchwood Institute.
  • Vicki and Albert begin to appear in episode 3 of the 1978 ITN miniseries Disraeli: Portrait of a Romantic, played by Rosemary Leach and Jeremy Longhurst. Disraeli is telling his wife that facing the royal couple is like — cutting to our first view of them as Dizzy continues in voiceover — "looking into a double-barreled shotgun."
  • Victoria and Albert naturally appear in the 1975 ATV miniseries Edward the Seventh (also called Edward the King). Victoria, played by Annette Crosbie in a BAFTA-winning role, appears in 10 of 13 episodes and the first focuses largely on her (the title character being unborn, a baby, or small child for most of it).
  • A child Victoria makes an appearance in the Gaslamp Fantasy The Missing Magician. Also it turns out that as she is of Royal Blood, no one can cast spells on her because England's ley lines protect her.
  • The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists has Queen Victoria as a katana-wielding Caligula and Cruella to Animals.
  • Appears in two Jackie Chan movies - played by Kathy Bates in Around the World in 80 Days, and Gemma Jones in Shanghai Knights.
  • From Hell by Alan Moore gives her a rare Historical Villain Upgrade, as the Bigger Bad who ordered the Jack the Ripper murders as a cover-up for a dalliance with the Crown Prince.
  • Blackadder's Christmas Carol has a short, chubby, highly-sexed, Victoria and a doofus Albert (played by Miriam Margoles and Jim Broadbent, respectively) singing Christmas carols and exchanging gifts.
  • Victoria featured twice in Hark! A Vagrant, first in a parody of The Graduate (with Albert as Mrs. Robinson) and then here, mainly concentrating on her love for Albert.
    Memoirs Chapter One: Albert is a Babe and We Do It Constantly
  • Makes the occasional appearance in The Parasol Protectorate.
  • The 1939 movie adaptation of A Little Princess
  • The 1966 movie The Wrong Box begins showing members of a tontine dying off one by one over the decades - one by the hand of Queen Victoria, who is knighting him and uses the sword a bit too forcefully. "Oh! ...We are dreadfully sorry."
  • Monty Python's Flying Circus
    • The "Wacky Queen" sketch features Queen Victoria acting out silly hijinks from a turn-of-the-century silent film comedy, like squirting Gladstone with a garden hose.
    • Another sketch, the "Queen Victoria Handicap", is a horse-racing spoof in which all eight participants are named, and are, Queen Victoria.
  • The play Victoria Regina (1934) with Helen Hayes as Victoria and 24-year-old Vincent Price making his acting (and Broadway) debut as Albert.
  • Appears in The Simpsons episode Last Exit to Springfield during Lisa's dream sequence, where a large photo cut-out of her makes the The Beatles' airship crash.
  • Queen Mousetoria in The Great Mouse Detective is the mouse counterpart of her.
  • The animated sequences of The Charge Of The Light Brigade feature satirical representations of her and Prince Albert. Notably, they appear as angels dancing in Heaven to celebrate the British capture of Sevastopol and eat a cake shaped like the Kremlin. It's a strange film.
  • In Australian and Kiwi cinema, Victoria is usually the unseen Big Bad in whose name the Evil Brit colonialist officials oppress the poor Irish settlers and natives. Examples: Mad Dog Morgan, Ned Kelly, Utu, and Captain Thunderbolt. There's also Picnic at Hanging Rock where one scene contrasts Mrs. Appleyard's breakdown and a portrait of Queen Victoria glowering stoically from the wall.
  • She was the #18 "Greatest Briton" on One Hundred Greatest Britons.

Alternative Title(s):

Queen Vicky