6. Her Family Had a Bitter Feud
Victoria’s uncle, then King William IV, absolutely despised her mother. When parliament decided that the Duchess could be Victoria’s regent, William’s response was unforgettably petty. At a banquet, the elderly William stood up and publicly proclaimed that he would live until Victoria was 18, just to ensure her mother would never come to power.
Now that’s a commitment.
7. Her Mother Controlled Her in Disturbing Ways
Many historians attribute the stereotypical morality of the Victorian era to Victoria’s mother, and the duchess was obsessed with keeping Victoria “pure”. Since King William had illegitimate children, the duchess thought he was “an oversexed oaf” and even denied the king of England the opportunity to see his niece. Is it any wonder Victoria became so maladjusted?
8. She Was Desperate to Be Loved
Life as the heir to the British throne isn’t all luxury and gallantry. In order to sell Victoria as the next monarch, the duchess forced her daughter to go on a series of exhausting tours around England.
They worked a treat, and the crowds quickly fell in love with the young girl—but this came at a heartbreakingly high cost.
9. Her Mother Tried to Force Her Hand
In October 1835, in the middle of one of these tours, Victoria took ill with an intense fever.
Unsurprisingly, her mother used the opportunity to push her own gross agenda. Throughout the malady, the Duchess of Kent persistently badgered the weakened Victoria to bend to her will. Somehow, the girl held on to her resolve…but she’d need it.
10. There Was a Competition for Her Heart
When she was 16 years old, Victoria’s family started making plans to marry her off. There were two rivals for her royal heart:
Prince Alexander of the Netherlands, who King William IV backed, and Prince Albert, who her maternal uncle King Leopold I of Belgium supported. But when Victoria saw Albert, all bets were off.
11. She Fell in Love at First Sight
It was clear to everyone that Victoria was immediately smitten with Albert, but her private diaries go into very personal detail.
The future monarch was a lovestruck teenager, writing that Albert was “extremely handsome…his eyes are large and blue, and he has a beautiful nose and a very sweet mouth”. As for Prince Alexander? He was “very plain”. Better luck next time, bud.
12. Her Husband’s Family Tree Was Twisted
Victoria and Albert may have bonded through shared family trauma. Albert’s own mother was a piece of work, having divorced his father to go live with her illicit lover. She died without ever seeing her son again.
Oh, and just to make things interesting, Albert’s father then got remarried to his own niece. Bet he and Victoria had a lot to talk about.
13. She Hated the Saying “We Are Not Amused”
One of the legends about Queen Victoria is her reportedly dour saying, “We are not amused”. This circulated even while she was alive, but she vehemently denied ever speaking it.
In fact, when it came to her personality, nothing could be further from the truth. Many servants reported that their queen was often “immensely amused and roared with laughter”.
14. She Became Queen at a Very Awkward Moment
In the end, King William IV held onto his promise, and Victoria turned 18 in May 1837, when he was still alive.
A man of his word, William then promptly passed less than a month later, turning little Victoria into a Queen of the United Kingdom. According to Victoria herself, she found out the news while she was still in her dressing gown.
15. She Had a Famous Father Figure
When Victoria started her reign, she was naïve and desperate for any help. She found it in the Whig prime minister Lord Melbourne, who quickly took the inexperienced queen under his wing. Childless, Melbourne saw Victoria as a kind of adoptive daughter—but their relationship also led to Queen Victoria’s first scandal.
16. She Started a Weird Fashion Trend
Victoria does have one bizarre claim to fame that still exists today.
Back in her day, Victoria was scandalized at the fact that when British lawyers wore their silk stockings, she could still see their leg hair sticking out of the tights. In response, she imposed a royal dress code:
All barristers had to double layer their stockings.
17. She “Banished” Her Mother
England hadn’t had much practice with queens, so there were some very awkward moments at the beginning of Victoria’s reign. For one thing, people expected the young, unmarried woman to live with her mother, despite the fact that the two didn’t get along and, well, she was queen. So Victoria came up with a disturbing solution.
She kept the Duchess at Buckingham Palace, but relegated her to a remote, out-of-the-way apartment that she refused to visit. Ouch.
18. She Didn’t Want to Get Married
History often paints Victoria as a lovesick puppy when it comes to Albert, and while she was certainly deeply—and eventually tragically—in love, even as a young queen Victoria kept her wits about her. When Prime Minister Melbourne suggested that Victoria could get away from her controlling mother if she married the prince, Victoria dismissed it as a “shocking alternative”.
19. She Took Charge With Her Husband
On October 1839, Prince Albert came for his second and most important visit with Victoria in England.
Now, you might think the “Victorian” era is synonymous with conservative and backwards politics, but get a load of this. On October 15, 1839, Victoria was the one who proposed to him. Go get your prince, girl.
20. She Revealed Private Details About Her Wedding Night
Victoria’s personal diary spared no detail when it came to her wedding night. As she writes about their union: “I NEVER, NEVER spent such an evening!!! MY DEAREST DEAREST DEAR Albert…He clasped me in his arms, & we kissed each other again & again”. The girl had it bad, and I think we can all imagine what came next.
21. Her Reaction to Pregnancy Was Disturbing
Well, actually, we don’t have to imagine: Victoria found out she was pregnant mere weeks after her wedding. Her reaction was not what you might expect. She was actually furious, writing to her grandmother, “It is spoiling my happiness; I have always hated the idea, and I prayed God night and day for me to be left free for at least six months”. But then it got even more chilling.
22. She Threatened Her Daughter’s Life
In the same letter to her grandmother, Victoria confesses that if she ended up having a “nasty girl,” she would drown the babe. Um, let’s just sit down and think this one through Vicky. But keep in mind, she was in her twenties at the time, and knew the fatal risks of childbirth.
Sadly, this didn’t get any better…
23. She Had an Incredible Number of Children
Astonishingly, Albert and Victoria had a whopping nine children together: Victoria, Albert, Alice, Alfred, Helena, Louise, Arthur, Leopold, and Beatrice. All of these children survived into adulthood, a huge feat for the time.
24. She Wasn’t Always a Good Mother
Despite having nine children, Victoria was hiding a very unlady-like secret. She absolutely detested child-rearing. Not only was she miserable about her pregnancies, not a whole lot after that pleased her. She thought newborn infants were ugly, and had a deep aversion to breastfeeding.
But again: NINE CHILDREN. Can you blame her?
25. She and Albert Had an Intense Power Struggle
Victoria and Albert have an idealized relationship in history, but all was not well in paradise. Albert struggled with being a husband but not a master, and particularly clashed with Victoria’s old, beloved governess Baroness Lehzen, whom he called “The House Dragon”. Eventually, the situation reached a disturbing climax.
26. She Made a Great Sacrifice for Her Husband
One day, Albert put his foot down. He accused the baroness not only of mismanagement, but also of putting his children in danger. Victoria wasn’t one to back down, and the couple had a furious argument. In the end, Victoria chose to be a submissive wife over a ruling queen, and sent Lehzen off packing.
Tragically, this wasn’t the last of their problems.
27. Someone Tried to Kill Her
Victoria was always a survivor, but in 1840, this was really put to the test. In the first few months of her marriage, a pregnant Victoria was riding in a carriage to visit her mother when a mentally ill teenager named Edward Oxford shot at her twice.
The queen was unharmed and authorities immediately detained Oxford…but Victoria had a target on her back.
28. She Had Nerves of Steel
All in all, Victoria survived a mind-blowing six assassination attempts—and by the time the second one happened in 1842, she was downright blasé about it. In May that year, John Francis aimed a pistol at her while she was driving along The Mall in London, though his gun failed and he ran away.
Unfazed, Victoria came up with an ingenious plan.
29. She Got Vengeance on Her Assassins
The next day, Queen Victoria took the very same route again, albeit with a bigger escort, as a ploy to draw out her assailant once more. Francis took it hook, line, and sinker.
He shot at her again, and was immediately taken in by the authorities. Queen Victoria: 2, Stupid Criminals: 0. This lady had balls of steel.
30. She Was the Longest Reigning Monarch
Victoria ruled for 63 years, an overwhelming span of time that only her great-great granddaughter Queen Elizabeth II surpassed.
31. She Gave Birth in an Unusual Way
When Victoria was giving birth to her eighth child and youngest son, Leopold, in 1853, she made use of a new scientific breakthrough:
chloroform. She was actually so pleased with the effects of chloroform that she used it again when she gave birth to the baby of the family, her daughter Beatrice. But Victoria’s decision was super controversial.
32. The Church Labeled Her a Heretic
At the time, chloroform was seen as ridiculously radical, and even medical professionals thought the queen was off her rocker to go through with it.
Worst of all, the Church believed that the pains of childbirth were a woman’s “duty” to suffer through, and that Victoria was engaging in a heretical act. Did she care? Heck no.
33. She Hated Pregnancy for a Dark Reason
Queen Victoria’s private diaries reveal heartbreaking truth. It’s very likely that after at least some of her many pregnancies, the queen suffered from postpartum depression. In a missive to her uncle, she called her second pregnancy “the heaviest [trial] I have ever had to endure”. To make matters worse, her husband Albert’s response was not understanding…
34. Prince Albert Could Be Very Cruel to Her
During Victoria’s lowest periods, Albert was not a supportive spouse. In his own letters to Victoria around this time, he complains about her moods and her lack of self-control, sneering at her crying over a “miserable trifle”. Not great, dude—though I’m glad my petty arguments haven’t been immortalized in quill and ink.
35. She Practically Invented the “White Wedding”
When Victoria got married, she went the very unusual route and chose to wear a white wedding dress; at the time, most people wore colorful dresses for their nuptials.
Although Victoria wasn’t the first person or even the first royal to wear white on her wedding day, she very much helped to popularize it as a concept, and most people credit her with the trend.
36. She Almost Went Insane
During the lowest periods of her depression, Victoria was pushed further to the brink than most people can imagine. She reportedly began to hallucinate, seeing spots on people’s eyes that would suddenly transform into worms, and soon feared she was losing her mind. Prince Albert had to take Victoria to Scotland to recover.
37. She Claimed to Love Her Husband More Than Her Children
Sometimes Queen Victoria’s aversion to child-rearing and her undying devotion to Prince Albert was a lethal combination. In 1856, while Albert was away on a trip, the unhappy queen wrote, “All the numerous children are as nothing to me when he is away”. Unfortunately, this feeling only worsened as some of the children grew older.
38. She Manipulated Her Daughter
By far Queen Victoria’s favorite child was her youngest, Princess Beatrice. Yet this privileged position came with chilling obligations. As the baby of the family, Victoria intended for Beatrice to never marry and instead devote her life to taking care of mommy.
This made Beatrice’s betrayal sting all the more.
39. Her Husband Took on a Strange Role in the Family
Prince Albert was unusually involved in his children’s lives, especially for the standards of his day. He was present for all of their births (this really blew people’s minds) and took it upon himself to play games with them while they were growing up. But don’t get too many warm and fuzzy ideas: Albert was also a big proponent of corporal punishment.
40. Her Daughter Betrayed Her
In 1884, Princess Beatrice fell in love with Prince Henry of Battenberg. Knowing that her royal mother would never accept their union, the rebellious Beatrice got engaged in secret. When Queen Victoria finally did find out, she punished her beloved daughter in no uncertain terms, refusing to speak to her for six months.
41. She Forgave Only on Her Own Terms
In the end, Queen Victoria agreed to “let go” of her daughter on one rigid condition: Beatrice and her husband would have to live at home so they could always attend to the queen. Having no other choice, they agreed.
But as we’ll see, all this was nothing compared to what Queen Victoria did to her least favorite child.
42. There’s a Piece of Her in the Oval Office
Traditionally, the Royal Family sends gifts to the Presidents of the United States as a token of their friendship.
In 1880, President Rutherford B. Hayes received a particularly special gift from Victoria: A wooden desk built out of the wood from the HMS Resolute, a retired ship. US Presidents use the desk to this day.
43. She Was Hiding a Deadly Illness
Though very few people realized it at the time, the royal family was hiding a rotten core. Today, we know that Queen Victoria was a carrier of hemophilia, an often fatal disease that hinders blood clotting and caused many sufferers to bleed out.
This sounds serious, but the personal consequences to Victoria were even more devastating.
44. She Had a Hand in Her Son’s Death
Because of the complexities of genetics, only male haemophiliacs suffer dangerous side effects. So while Victoria’s daughters Alice and Beatrice inherited the gene, her son Leopold was most at risk when he discovered he had it, too. It led to every mother’s worst nightmare. Leopold died at the tender age of 30 after a cerebral haemorrhage.
Sadly, that wasn’t all.
45. She Started “The Royal Disease”
Victoria being the “Grandmother of Europe” sounds nice—until you remember her silent but deadly genes. Most infamously, haemophilia popped up in Victoria’s great-grandson Alexei Romanov, leading his mother to beg Rasputin to heal him. It got so bad, people began to call haemophilia “the Royal disease”. Not a great legacy—but this is where the story gets mysterious.
46. She May Have Been a Secret Love Child
Strangely, none of Victoria’s ancestors, including her father the Duke of Kent, suffered from haemophilia. This means she must have been the first of her line to have it.
Some historians have used this to make a scandalous claim: Victoria was an illicit love child. Her mother, the theory goes, had an affair with a haemophiliac man and passed the baby off as the Duke’s child. The truth, however, is even more bizarre.
47. She Was a Freak of Nature
Since most haemophiliac males don’t make it to adulthood, it’s unlikely that Victoria was the product of an affair—what probably happened cosmically bad luck. In about 30% of cases, haemophilia is a random mutation, usually when one or both parents are older.
Wouldn’t you know it? Victoria’s father was over 50 when he had her.
48. She Despised One Prime Minister
Especially later into her reign, Queen Victoria was not afraid to show her displeasure, and there was no one who displeased her more than liberal Prime Minister William Gladstone.
Victoria called him “half-crazy” and a “ridiculous old man,” while she disparaged his government as being “the worst I have ever had”.
49. Prince Albert Gave Her a Bizarre Gift
If Beatrice was Queen Victoria’s favorite, Prince Albert’s beloved child was their firstborn, Vicky, who he praised as “very intelligent and observant”. In fact, his affection manifested in kind of creepy ways.
He once gifted his wife with a brooch made out of one of Vicky’s baby teeth. Um, just stick to roses next time.
50. She Found Herself in an Impossible Position
The “bedchamber crisis” of 1839 was Victoria’s biggest scandal. The Whig Prime Minister resigned that year, and Victoria reluctantly invited Conservative leader Robert Peel to form a minority government.
But there was a catch: Custom dictated that Victoria also had to fire her beloved ladies-in-waiting, who were married to Whigs, and hire Conservative women in their place. This is where Victoria rebelled.
51. She Offended the Prime Minister
In a totally unprecedented move, Victoria refused to fire her girls.
And if this doesn’t seem like that big of a deal…it very much was. Peel was so offended, he actually declined the position. Of course, he had the last laugh: When he got a majority government in 1841, the queen was finally forced to toe the party line and boot out her Whig ladies.
52. She Was an Absentee Monarch
One of the many titles Victoria held during her lifetime was Empress of India. However, despite this position, she never once visited the country.
53. Her Family Hated Her Friends
Later in life, Queen Victoria met Indian servant Abdul Karim and soon promoted him to her personal clerk and closest confidant; his story is in the film Victoria & Abdul. This infuriated Victoria’s family, who were convinced that Karim was using her. Sadly, after Victoria passed, they dealt him a heartbreaking betrayal. They deported Karim back to India.
54. Her Attackers Eventually Succeeded
Over the six attempts on her life, Queen Victoria was injured once—but it was the very definition of a “flesh wound”. The likely mentally-ill officer Robert Pate once got close enough to her carriage to hit her with his cane, crushing her bonnet and giving her a light forehead bruise.
To that, Victoria says: “Chump change”.
55. The Irish Hated Her
Victoria wasn’t the most popular with the Irish during her reign, who were going through that little thing we know today as the Irish Potato Famine. Despite the bad PR, the queen personally donated the equivalent of 6.
5 million pounds to the relief fund. It wasn’t enough, and the Irish still sneered she was “The Famine Queen”.
56. She Had Cutting-Edge Transportation
One of the lesser-known firsts of Victoria’s reign is that she was the first British monarch to ever travel by train. Not only that, when she got her own royal train car, it was the first in the world to have a bathroom.
57. She Broke Boundaries
Believe it or not, no reigning British monarch had ever entered the country of Spain before 1889. This changed when Victoria, while visiting the south of France, temporarily crossed the border into Spain. Leave it to her to break a record so casually.
58. She Knew When the End Was Near
By January 1901, Victoria’s other son Alfred had passed, and the queen felt her own end coming too; she suffered from rheumatism, and had nearly gone blind from cataracts. On January 22, the great Queen Victoria finally died at the ripe old age of 81, and at the eminently sensible time of 6:
30 pm. Vicky wouldn’t have it any other way.
59. She Had Her Own Version of the Queen’s Corgis
Queen Elizabeth II is famous for her love of corgis, but Queen Victoria had her own soft spot for pups, too. As one of Victoria’s very last wishes, attendants brought her favorite Pomeranian Turi to her deathbed to keep her company.
60. She Had a Least-Favorite Son
Although the queen’s first son Albert, or “Bertie,” was a long-awaited male heir, he proved to be Victoria’s greatest disappointment. For one thing, he wasn’t the brightest bulb in the drawer: He didn’t realize until he was 10 that he, and not his sister Vicky, would become ruler. Yet he also brought lasting tragedy to the family.
61. Her Heir Was a Disgrace
After a mediocre career as an officer, Bertie really went and broke his parents’ hearts by taking up with the—gasp—actress Nellie Clifton. Prince Albert in particular was so angered by the news of his son’s licentiousness, he traveled all the way to Cambridge where Bertie was studying to confront him. This had a bitter end.
62. She Lost Her Husband Far Too Soon
Prince Albert was already in poor health before he traveled to chastise Bertie, but after he came back he took a turn for the worse. His chronic stomach pains—most people now believe he was suffering from Crohn’s—became fatal. He passed just weeks after the confrontation on December 14, 1861.
But Victoria’s troubles were just beginning.
63. She Never Forgave Her Own Son
Queen Victoria blamed Prince Albert’s demise almost entirely on her son Bertie, once even writing, “Oh! That boy… I never can or shall look at him without a shudder”. She never forgave him, and even denied him any political power or position until the day she died and he became king.
Mothers: do not get on their bad side.
64. She Spiralled Fast After Her Husband Passed
To say Queen Victoria took Albert’s death badly is an understatement. Aside from blaming and all but disowning her son Bertie, she sunk into a deep depression and, most infamously, wore black for the rest of her life.
This last habit earned her the mournful nickname “The Widow of Windsor”. Except that was just the tip of the iceberg.
65. The People Didn’t Let Her Mourn in Peace
Overcome with grief, Victoria retreated from public life. Eventually, she refused to perform all but her most essential royal duties—and the British people definitely took notice. A protester even pinned a cruel notice at Buckingham Palace that read:
“These commanding premises to be let or sold in consequence of the late occupant’s declining business”.
66. She Coped With Her Sadness in an Unhealthy Way
Another consequence of Queen Victoria’s extended period of mourning is something we can all relate to. While inhabiting her “Widow of Windsor” role, the grieving Victoria began emotional eating. Soon after, her size ballooned, leading to the popular myth that the always-short Victoria was now as wide as she was tall.
67. She Refused to Move on From Prince Albert
In the long years after the death of Prince Albert, Victoria insisted that her servants keep his rooms continually prepared, as if he was just going to walk through the doors one day. Aides always placed a bowl of hot water, for shaving purposes, on a side table, and laid out a new change of clothes on his bed.
68. She Made a Heartbreaking Last Wish
Victoria’s lifelong mourning of Albert is notorious, but most people don’t know that it extended to her own funeral. In contrast to her permanent black, Victoria requested that she wear a white dress and her wedding veil when she was laid to rest.
She had waited decades to reunite with her beloved Albert, and she wanted to meet him as a renewed bride.
69. She Experienced a Tragic Coincidence
In 1878, Queen Victoria was due for another vicious tragedy. That year, her second-eldest daughter Princess Alice died of diphtheria when she was only 35 years old.
But that wasn’t even the cruellest part. Alice had passed on December 14, the anniversary of Prince Albert’s own demise. Victoria called the coincidence “almost incredible and most mysterious”.
70. She Had an Arch-Nemesis
As twisted as her childhood was, there was a more sinister figure in the young Victoria’s life: Her mother’s confidante, Sir John Conroy. William IV nicknamed Conroy “King John” for his outsized influence, and he helped the duchess come up with Victoria’s punishing “Kensington system”. But that’s just the beginning of the nightmare.
71. Her Mother May Have Had a Big Secret
According to palace rumors from the time, Conroy wasn’t just the Duchess of Kent’s confidante; he was also her lover. Here Victoria’s mother was preaching chastity and Christian values, but in her off-hours she might have been bonking the help. For her part, Victoria disliked both of them—and she would get her brutal revenge.
72. She Found out a Tragic Truth About Her Mother
In the spring of 1861, after a lifetime of strained relations, Victoria’s mother died. When she went through the duchess’ letters, Victoria made a heartbreaking discovery. She found out that her mother had actually “loved her deeply”. This made her blame Sir John Conroy all the more for turning her mother against her during her youth.
73. Her Royal Retinue Was Steeped in Scandal
Early on in Victoria’s rule, one of her mother’s ladies-in-waiting, Lady Flora Hastings, fell ill. Her symptoms were immediately disturbing. There was a noticeable growth in Lady Flora’s abdomen, and many whispered that she was pregnant…with Sir John Conroy’s baby. It was an instant scandal—and then the plot thickened.
74. She Participated in Malicious Gossip
Queen Victoria was all too ready to believe the gossip.
After all, Conroy had made her childhood a nightmare, and Hastings had often been her strictest disciplinarian. Victoria made it clear she believed the rumors, legitimizing them even further. It got so bad, Lady Flora even agreed to submit to a medical examination.
The results shocked the queen.
75. She Suffered a Huge Embarrassment
The doctor who ran the exam confirmed that Lady Flora was actually a virgin, making it impossible for her to be pregnant and freeing Sir John Conroy of any culpability.
The “good” news immediately undid all the malicious gossip, and left Queen Victoria with a lot of egg on her face. But it was about to get so much worse.
76. The People Gave Her a Cruel Nickname
Lady Flora passed soon after this scandal; her autopsy revealed that the “swelling” had been a massive tumor on her liver. So now Queen Victoria was responsible for tarnishing the reputation of an innocent dead woman. It turned both public opinion against her and her ally Prime Minster Melbourne; crowds even jeered that Victoria was “Mrs. Melbourne”.
77. She Achieved a Brilliant Revenge
When Victoria became queen, she didn’t forget about the people who helped her—and she certainly didn’t forget about the people who hurt her. The moment she accepted the crown, she did the Christian thing and used her power for revenge; she had her nemesis John Conroy “banned from her presence”. Heck yeah, Victoria.
78. She May Have Had a Secret Lover
Everybody knows today about Victoria’s love for Albert, but history tends to forget the illicit man in her life. In the 1860s, Victoria started really relying on her Scottish manservant John Brown. The press had a field day, printing “slanderous” rumors that they had a secret marriage and calling Victoria “Mrs. Brown”. But the actual evidence is more scandalous than “slanderous”…
79. She Wrote Contraband Literature
Victoria heaped praise on Brown both publicly and privately, and when Brown passed in 1883, she devoted much of her time to writing a biography on him.
Oh, never heard of it? That’s because its contents were so juicy, she destroyed them. Her private secretary read a draft and demanded she wipe it out or risk confirming the romance rumors. Oh, but that’s not all.
80. Her Funeral Contained a Deep Secret
On the surface, Victoria’s funeral was a tribute to Albert. But in private, it was something else entirely.
Though She had Albert’s dressing gown beside her, her body concealed a dirty little secret. In her left hand, carefully hidden from her children via a bouquet of flowers, Victoria clasped a lock of John Brown’s hair and a photograph of her strapping Scotsman. Vicky, you naughty girl.