Home > F. Politics & the Velvet Revolution, L. Visionary Art > Queen Victoria’s Coronation, 28 June 1838

Queen Victoria’s Coronation, 28 June 1838

File:Parris - Coronation of Queen Victoria.PNG

That people in the first half of the 19th century were no strangers to illness and death is richly illustrated by the antecedents and birth of Queen Victoria of Britain (r. 1837-1901). Born 24 May 1819, she was originally fifth in line of succession to the throne, but in the 18 years that elapsed between birth and coronation, the people nearer the throne than her all died, her father, Prince Edward, Duke of Kent and Strathern, in 1820 of pneumonia, less than a year after her birth. By 1830, she had become heiress presumptive.

Not that England stagnated during the years prior to Victoria’s coronation: her immediate predecessor, William IV, oversaw an updating of the poor law, the restriction of child labor, and the abolition of slavery in the the British Empire. As if this were not enough, the Reform Act of 1832 was passed by Parliament during his reign. No small achievements, these.

Diminutive, obstinate, and honest, Victoria oversaw the continuing transition of the United Kingdom into a constitutional monarchy even as the British Empire reached the peak of its power. As an adult, she wrote more than 2500 words a day, an achievement any professional writer could admire, and most of her diary survives, a telling account of the Queen’s personal influence during one of the greatest periods of prosperity in human history.

There are no perfect monarchies, and certainly Victoria’s reign produced its share of difficulties, even as the intellectual ferment characterized by the works of Darwin and Marx would go on to shape battle lines in the 20th and 21st centuries. But Victoria helped provide a framework of peaceful political evolution, at least in Britain, the hope that mankind can indeed produce, in the words of Tennyson, “a Parliament of Man.”

The world is working towards a new synthesis, one that is more inclusive, just, and loving. As much as any person in modern history, Victoria has helped set the stage for what may end up being humankind’s ultimate achievement, a prosperous world at peace.

ImageThe coronation of Queen Victoria (1838). Author: Edmund Thomas Parris. WikiCmns; Public Domain.

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  1. May 10, 2014 at 7:18 am

    I wish I could share your optimistic assessment as by nature I’m an optimist, but I also have realist leanings and I feel that power rarely resides in those inclined towards peace.

    • May 14, 2014 at 11:48 pm

      cg: what with the UK’s ban on guns, national health service, and plain common sense, i think that the country has produced many leaders who have taken the good of the common person to heart and done their best to advance it. on the world stage, i can see that elsewhere, and perhaps not least in the united states, transformation (perhaps over a long period of time) may be necessary to get us to a “Utopian” environment. and certainly weapons of mass destruction could do us all in. hitler and company give everyone pause on this subject (as does bosnia, despite the eventual peace treaty and long-term truce that has taken hold there)…we need a reliable political early-warning system, and a better way of intervening in crises like bosnia and now ukraine. a world rapid response force to separate combatants until a real peace treaty is in the place? details are everything, i guess, but then so is hope. RT

  2. May 14, 2014 at 8:06 pm

    The Victorian Age was a deadly one – hence to make sure there were plenty of pawns to work with, royal families were constantly producing children to take the place of those who did not survive. Suffice it to say though there were plenty of births there were also plenty of funerals – every lady in waiting to Victoria had to have a closet full of black gowns and jet jewelry to make sure they were prepared to attend these sad affairs.

    And as for the abolition of slavery, it fascinates me that one of the first movers for this was Lord Mansfield – he who had a ‘niece’ nicknamed “Belle” – subject of an upcoming movie and topic of a post I wrote years earlier! Where are my royalties?

    • May 14, 2014 at 11:29 pm

      aubrey: i must admit, i gave into a curiously patriotic and nostalgic twinge when i wrote this post. victorian england provided the setting for many a difficult and unhappy moment, and full democracy did not arrive until women won the vote in the late 1920’s. still, having read the wikipedia page on QV, I had a better sense of her as a person and in particular her rather demanding personal life (tho this was greatly eased by her famous love, Prince Albert).

      underneath all of that, i suspect i do have fond feelings for England tucked away somewhere, very likely acquired while i was a boy in trinidad. i also remember a visit to the victoria and albert museum in the 1970s, which had on display a pair of elton john’s high-heel boots… RT

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