Among the many other sovereigns of Great Britain there have been none who lived so noble and pure a life and presided over such a grand era of progress as the royal lady Victoria... of the other women sovereigns - Mary, Elizabeth and Anne - only one could be called great, and it would be a misuse of words to call any of them noble. Victoria was not great in the sense of Elizabeth, her hand did not guide the ship-of-state, this was left to her famous ministers - Peel, Gladstone, and Disraeli, - but in moral elevation and nobility of character she rose far above them all, and as an example for good, a light in the pathway of right living and thinking. Victoria has no equal in any of her predecessors, [or successors], on the English throne.
A sincere Christian, a wise ruler, an affectionate wife, a kind mother, a lover of the poor, Victoria was in the best sense of the word, and will pass down to posterity as a 'people's Queen.'
She reigned the longest of them all, her term of life upon the throne surpassing that of George the Third, her long-lived but not illustrious grandfather. She won the high distinction of completing a reign longer in years and more illustrious in its ethical standard than any that went before...
Victoria is sure to live in the chronicles of her country as the "Good Queen."
For much of this century the term Victorian, which literally describes things and events (roughly) in the reign of Queen Victoria, conveyed connotations of "prudish," "repressed," and "old fashioned." Although such associations have some basis in fact, they do not adequately indicate the nature of this complex, paradoxical age that saw great expansion of wealth, power, and culture. Victorian, in other words, can be taken to mean parent of the modern.
In 1897 Mark Twain was visiting London during the Diamond Jubilee celebrations honoring the sixtieth anniversary of Queen Victoria's coming to the throne. "British history is two thousand years old," Twain observed, "and yet in a good many ways the world has moved farther ahead since the Queen was born than it moved in all the rest of the two thousand put together." Twain's comment captures the sense of dizzying change that characterized the Victorian period. Perhaps most important was the shift from a way of life based on ownership of land to a modern urban economy based on trade and manufacturing. By the beginning of the Victorian period, the Industrial Revolution, as this shift was called, had created profound economic and social changes, including a mass migration of workers to industrial towns, where they lived in new urban slums. But the changes arising out of the Industrial Revolution were just one subset of the radical changes taking place in mid- and late-nineteenth-century Britain - among others were the democratization resulting from extension of the franchise; challenges to religious faith, in part based on the advances of scientific knowledge, particularly of evolution; and changes in the role of women.
The ostentatious nature of the Victorian's age was reflected in their elaborate dress, architecture and etiquette. Members of Victorian society kept busy with parties, dances, visits, dressmakers, and tailors. Keeping track of what other people in your social class were doing was also a full-time occupation. Victorian society could be quite pleasant, but only depending on your financial status. Class still plays a subversive role in British society: then it was all-powerful.
T is a singular fact that the two periods in British history which are specially distinguished as "eras," periods of such leading importance as to be thus marked off from the ordinary course of events, should be the reigns of two women. We read of the Elizabethan era, the Victorian era, but not of the eras of any William, Charles, George, Henry. What are we to understand from this? Shall we conclude that these two women shed a lustre upon their respective reigns which no man could equal? Scarcely this; but they had the happy fortune to be born into the most remarkable periods of the history of the British realm. Around the throne of Elizabeth gathered the noblest cluster of authors of modern times, at their head the prince of the authors of all time, Shakespeare the sublime. Around the throne of Victoria there gathered not alone a splendid galaxy of men and women of letters, but also a brilliant host of inventors, of discoverers, of scientists, of men distinguished in every field of effort and intellect, giving her reign a radiant eminence whose lustre was reflected upon the throne itself. Intellectually there was nothing beyond the ordinary in Queen Victoria, but she was born into an extraordinary age and shared the honor of her environment.
ET us quote here an estimate from the London Times: "Her reign coincides very accurately with a sort of second renaissance and intellectual movement, accomplishing in a brief term more than had been done in preceding centuries. Since the days of Elizabeth there has been no such awakening of the mind of the nation and no such remarkable stride in the path of progress, no such spreading abroad of the British race and British rule over the world at large, as in the period covered by the reign whose end we have now to deplore. In art, in letters, in music, in science, in religion, and, above all, in the moral and material advancement of the mass of the nation, the Victorian age has been a time of remarkable activity."
ARIOUS other journals speak to the same effect, and it may be of interest to offer some further journalistic summaries. We quote as follows: "The life of Queen Victoria spanned the most wonderful years of the most wonderful century that the world has ever seen. Other sovereigns have lived almost as long, but, if measured by achievements rather than by periods of time, England itself, and all the world with it, moved farther along during the eighty-two years of Victoria's life than during the reigns of all the men and women who preceded, [or succeeded], her on the English throne. Victoria's nine children married into royal and noble families across the continent, ensuring that their formidable mother's legacy lived on for generations, giving her the sobriquet "the grandmother of Europe".
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