Queen Victoria, 1845, by Alexander Melville (Castle Museum, Gotha, Germany)
When 18-year-old Victoria came to the throne, England was on the brink of industrial expansion, economic progress, and the establishment of an empire. How could a young woman with no experience or training in governance rule a troubled nation through turbulent times? Could the monarchy survive growing republican sentiment and a changing world?
Tudor and Renaissance scholar Carol Ann Lloyd-Stanger guides a journey through Victoria’s life and reign. She traces the steps that transformed the young, inexperienced, and initially ineffective young queen into one of the most iconic monarchs of all time. Participants explore how Victoria learned to use her influence as a constitutional monarch to oversee the establishment of the British Empire and the modernization of her nation. They also examine the overall impact of a monarch who sat on the throne for more than 60 years and changed England, Europe, and the world.
9:30–10:45 a.m. A Difficult Beginning
Princess Victoria was not born to be queen. In fact, the arrival of a baby girl born to the youngest son of the king garnered little attention. But heirs were hard to come by, and before long the young girl was next in line. Once Victoria became queen at 18, her gender and age worked against her. A series of missteps cast doubt on her ability to maintain her throne and heightened the question of whether a monarch was necessary at all.
11 a.m.–12:15 p.m. A Family on the Throne
Victoria’s marriage to Albert was the beginning of a family dynasty that would reshape England and the world. For the first time in many years, the royal family was a married couple with young children. Victoria and Albert cultivated the notion of a happy family at the head of the nation. But with nine children and royal duties competing for her time and energy, Victoria wasn’t always able to recreate the happy public image in her private life.
12:15–1:30 p.m. Lunch (participants provide their own)
1:30–2:45 p.m. The Widow, the Nation, and the Empire
Prince Albert had been Victoria’s personal companion and her most trusted adviser in affairs of state. The death of her beloved husband sent her into deep mourning. Devastated by the loss, Victoria largely withdrew from public life, making no public appearances for more than five years. Her refusal to play the role expected of her as queen led to a strong republican movement. Advisers and unexpected friends coaxed her into returning to public duties, and her popularity and influence returned and increased.
3–4:15 p.m. Becoming “THE Queen”
Throughout her reign, the constitutional and legal duties and powers of the monarch decreased. However, Victoria held a high level of prestige and used her ability to master the details of political life to exert influence when she considered it important. She masterminded the marriages of her children and grandchildren, spreading British influence across the world. As she celebrated her Golden and Diamond Jubilees, Victoria was referred to across Europe as simply “THE Queen.”
Lloyd-Stanger, the former manager of visitor education at the Folger Shakespeare Library, speaks nationally on English history and Shakespeare.
S. Dillon Ripley Center
1100 Jefferson Dr SW
Metro: Smithsonian (Mall exit)