From Princess to Empress: The Remarkable Rise of Queen Victoria

Queen Victoria

Updated On: January 23, 2024 by   Noha BasiounyNoha Basiouny

Few figures loom as large in British history as Queen Victoria, the resolute ruler whose long reign shaped the very essence of the 19th century. It was an era of industry, grand social reforms, and cultural renaissance, but also of strict morals and rigid social codes. At the heart of this all stood Victoria, a woman whose own life was a fascinating tapestry of passion, duty, and contradictions.

In this article and a few more to come, we will go on a journey to explore the life of Queen Victoria, her multifaceted reign, and her enduring impact on the world. From her early years as a young queen navigating the complexities of power to her role as a devoted wife and mother, Victoria’s narrative is one of both historical significance and human fascination.

Are you ready to delve into the pages of history to uncover the captivating story of Queen Victoria? Then bring along a cup of Earl Grey, and let’s hop into it.

Queen Victoria

From Princess to Empress: The Remarkable Rise of Queen Victoria
Queen Victoria gradually became a symbol of the values and norms of her era.

With the second-longest reign over the UK after that of Queen Elizabeth II, Queen Victoria holds immense significance in history. Her reign coincided with the peak of the Industrial Revolution which turned the United Kingdom into a leading economic power. It also witnessed the colonisation of territories in Africa, Asia, and the Pacific, solidifying British influence on a global scale.

The Victorian era was marked by a flourishing of literature, art, and culture. Renowned writers like Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, and the Brontë sisters, as well as artists like John Everett Millais and William Holman Hunt, emerged during this period, contributing to a rich cultural legacy. All of this came along with significant social reforms that were made during her reign.

Gradually, and over the years, Queen Victoria became a symbol of the values and norms of her era. The term “Victorian” is even used to describe the moral, social, and cultural attributes associated with that period.

So, let’s take it from the early beginning and explore how it all began.

House of Hanover

Queen Victoria’s lineage might at first glance seem a bit complicated basically due to the numerous intermarriages among European royal families that led to intricate family connections, mixed blood, and shared ancestry. She herself was a product of such intermarriages, and even her nine children and later numerous grandchildren went on to marry into several European royal families as well.

To understand Her Majesty’s tangled descent, we need to go back to the House of Hanover in the 17th century.

The House of Hanover was a German royal dynasty whose origins could be traced back to the first half of the 17th century. Yet, for England, everything started with the marriage of Princess Sophia of the Palatinate to Elector Ernest Augustus of Hanover in 1682.

Sophia was the daughter of Frederick V of the Palatinate—this is modern-day Lauterhofen in Germany—and his wife, Elizabeth Stuart, daughter of King James VI and I, King of Scotland and England. Being the granddaughter of King James, Sophia was technically British.

Now Sophia had seven kids with Ernest Augustus, the oldest of whom was George I, who became the Elector of Hanover after his father died in 1698.

In 1701, the Parliament of England passed the Act of Settlement—that was during the rule of William III and Mary II from the royal house of England, Scotland, and Ireland, also called the House of Stuart. This piece of legislation was designed to exclude Roman Catholics from the line of succession to the English throne and limited it to the Protestant line, ensuring that only a Protestant monarch would rule after William III and Mary II.

William III and Mary II were succeeded by the latter’s sister, Anne, who reigned from 1702 until her death in 1714. Anne had no surviving children, and the nearest Protestant relative to the British throne was Sophia of Hanover. But Sophia had already been dead by that time, so the British crown passed down to her eldest son, George I, who was the Elector of Hanover at the time.

The ascension of George I marked the beginning of the Hanoverian succession in Britain. Georgie I was followed by his son George II, who was followed by his grandson George III, who himself was followed by his son George IV, who was followed by his brother William IV, who was finally succeeded by Queen Victoria in 1837.

So yes, Queen Victoria was partially of German descent and the German House of Hanover ruled Britain for over a century.


Queen Victoria
Queen Victoria was born at Kensington Palace in London in 1819.

Prince Edward, who was Duke of Kent, was the fourth son of King George III. So technically, he was also a House of Hanover descent and, therefore, partially German. In 1818, Edward married Princess Victoria of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld, an already widowed German princess who had two children from her first marriage. On Monday, 24 May 1819, the couple’s only child, Alexandrina Victoria, was born at Kensington Palace in London.

At the time of her birth, little Victoria’s grandfather, George III, was still King. At eight months old, her father, Prince Edward, died and was followed by his father. King George III was then succeeded by his eldest son and Victoria’s uncle, King George IV. At that time, Victoria was third in line to the English throne after her two other uncles, Frederick and William, both of whom had no surviving children.

The Kensington System

Left to be raised and educated by her mother, Victoria had a strikingly isolated and unconventional childhood thanks to the Kensington System.

Devised by Princess Victoria’s mother and her comptroller, Sir John Conroy, the Kensington System was a set of rules and restrictions imposed on the young Victoria during her childhood.

Conroy sought to establish himself as a trusted advisor to both the Duchess of Kent and Victoria, intending to control the royal household and wield significant influence over the princess. So, the Kensington System aimed to control Victoria’s environment and limit her interactions to ensure potential regency if she were to ascend to the throne.

The system imposed a rigid daily schedule on Victoria, controlling her activities and routines. This included specific times for education, meals, and recreation. Victoria was kept relatively isolated from other children and external influences. She had limited contact with her peers, and her playmates were carefully selected to be under Conroy’s watchful eye. She was also under constant surveillance, and her movements were closely monitored.

Victoria’s correspondence was also closely regulated. Conroy and her mother closely watched her letters to ensure that she did not form relationships or alliances that could potentially undermine their influence. Conroy also sought to be appointed Victoria’s private secretary and treasurer, so he worked to control her finances to extend his influence over her decision-making and limit her financial independence.

However, despite attempts to curtail her independence, Victoria demonstrated an early streak of resilience and intelligence and resisted attempts to control her by showing assertiveness and a clear sense of self.

What also helped her was the solace and guidance she found in her German governess, Louise Lehzen, with whom she formed a close bond. Unlike Conroy, Lehzen was loyal to Victoria and provided her with emotional support. This relationship allowed Victoria to have a trusted ally within her household.


Queen Victoria received a comprehensive and rigorous education during her childhood despite the challenges posed by the Kensington System. Her education was designed to prepare her for her future role as Queen and included a broad range of subjects.

Victoria had private tutors who provided her with instruction in various subjects. Her tutors included Reverend George Davys, who taught her Latin, Greek, and mathematics, and Baroness Lehzen, who we mentioned earlier and became her governess. She taught her history, geography, and languages.

Queen Victoria was proficient in multiple languages. She was taught English, French, and German. Thanks to her mother being of German descent, Victoria maintained a lifelong interest in the German language and culture. She also received instruction in history and geography, gaining knowledge about the political and cultural landscape of Europe and other parts of the world.

Speaking of art, Victoria had lessons in music and drawing. She showed a particular interest in music and became an accomplished pianist. She also exhibited a keen intellect and a love for literature from an early age, particularly for poetry and novels. The literary and intellectual influences of the time, including the works of prominent writers, poets, and philosophers, contributed to Victoria’s intellectual growth.

As Victoria approached adulthood, her education included preparation for the responsibilities of governance. She learnt about the British Constitution, the workings of the government, and the role of the monarchy in constitutional monarchy. This highly affected her later years and reign as Victoria maintained a lifelong interest in politics, reading extensively on various subjects and developing close relationships with political figures of her time.

Ascension to the Throne

Queen Victoria’s unexpected journey to the throne can be traced to a series of unforeseen events and twists of fate within the royal family, marked by unexpected deaths and the absence of direct heirs, ultimately propelling Victoria to become the Queen of the United Kingdom.

As we mentioned earlier, Victoria’s grandfather, King George III, was still in power when she was born in 1819. Less than a year later, he died and was succeeded by his eldest son, King George IV. At the time, Victoria’s two other uncles Frederick and William preceded her in the line to the throne.

In 1827, Frederick died then King George IV himself passed away in 1830. So, the throne passed to William, the only remaining son of King George III. He became King William IV.

King William IV remained almost childless throughout his life, as both of his daughters, the oldest of whom was Princess Charlotte of Clarence, died as infants. So, the line of succession was narrowed down to the children of the Duke of Kent; in other words, his only child, Victoria.

King William IV passed away in 1837, and Princess Alexandrina Victoria was woken up in the middle of a summer night to be told she had become Her Majesty, the new Queen of England, Scotland, and Ireland. She was just 18 years old at the time.


From Princess to Empress: The Remarkable Rise of Queen Victoria
Westminster Abbey, where Queen Victoria’s coronation took place.

Queen Victoria’s reaction to her early ascension to the throne and her subsequent preparations for the new role was marked by a mix of emotions, challenges, and a strong sense of duty. The news of her accession to the throne came as a shock to the young princess, who had not anticipated becoming Queen at such an early age.

Victoria’s initial reaction was one of disbelief and overwhelming emotions. She later wrote in her diary that she felt “stupefied” and “overwhelmed” by the weight of her new responsibilities. Yet, she quickly understood the importance of projecting composure and strength to the public. So, she quickly adapted to the ceremonial aspects of her new role and undertook the necessary formalities.

Victoria’s immediate preparations were centred around her coronation, which took place on 28 June 1838 at Westminster Abbey, London. It was a grand and elaborate ceremony, befitting the occasion of a young queen ascending to the throne.

Queen Victoria wore a white satin gown for the occasion, along with the famous crimson gold coronation robe lined with ermine. Her attire was adorned with diamonds, including the famous George IV State Diadem.

The day began with a ceremonial procession where the Queen travelled in the famous Gold State Coach, a magnificent carriage traditionally used for coronations, from Buckingham Palace, which she moved to after officially becoming Queen, to Westminster Abbey.

The procession included various dignitaries, members of the royal family, and other essential figures both from the United Kingdom and abroad. European royalty, diplomats, and other important figures were present to witness the historic event.

The coronation service followed a traditional and elaborate ritual that took a staggering five hours. The Archbishop of Canterbury, William Howley, conducted the ceremony. He administered the oath and placed St. Edward’s Crown on Victoria’s head. She was also presented with the Orb, Sceptre, and other regalia.

Like that of King Charles III, Queen Victoria’s coronation attracted large crowds of spectators who gathered along the procession route and outside Westminster Abbey. The event was celebrated with various festivities, including fireworks and public gatherings.

Victoria returned to Buckingham Palace in another grand procession, now wearing the lighter Imperial State Crown.

“The enthusiasm, affection, and loyalty were really touching,” Victoria wrote in her diary that evening. “I shall ever remember this day as the proudest in my life.”

Young Queen

In the days following her accession, Queen Victoria had several meetings with her political advisors, including Prime Minister Lord Melbourne. Melbourne played a crucial role in assisting the young Queen during the early years of her reign. Queen Victoria’s reliance on Melbourne highlighted her awareness of her youth and inexperience, and she valued the counsel of those more seasoned in matters of governance.

Despite her initial shock, Queen Victoria quickly embraced her official duties. She attended her first Privy Council meeting, where she was sworn in as Queen. During this meeting, she made it clear that she would be actively involved in government matters.

Over time, Queen Victoria grew into her role with confidence and skill. Her reign would go on to become one of the longest and most significant in British history, spanning over 63 years. Her early days as the Queen set the stage for a period known as the Victorian era, characterised by industrialisation, social reform, and the expansion of the British Empire.

In the following story, we are going to continue our journey exploring the life of the magnificent Queen Victoria, more precisely, the chapter on marriage and children that had an impact not just on her life but on the entire world as well.

The tale of Queen Victoria’s childhood and her unexpected ascension to the throne is a narrative woven with complexity, resilience, and a sense of destiny. From the seclusion of Kensington Palace under the stringent Kensington System to the overwhelming responsibilities thrust upon her as a young queen, Victoria’s early years were a crucible that shaped the monarch who would define an era.

As the curtains rose in the Victorian era, it revealed not just a queen but a resilient leader whose influence would extend far beyond her unexpected journey to the throne. In the annals of history, Queen Victoria stands as a testament to the enduring power of character, commitment, and the ability to shape the destiny of a nation.

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