From 1837 to 1901, the great symbol in British life was Queen Victoria. Her reign was the longest in British history. Although she exercised little real political power, she set the tone for what is now called the Victorian age.
As queen, Victoria came to embody the values of her age. These Victorian ideals included duty, thrift, honesty, hard work, and above all respectability. Victoria herself embraced a strict code of morals and manners. As a young woman, she married a German prince, Albert, and they raised a large family.
Although she outranked Albert, she treated him with the devotion a dutiful wife was expected to have for her husband. When he died in 1861, Victoria went into deep mourning and dressed in black for the rest of her long reign. She was fond of her 36 grandchildren, some of whom later became ruling monarchs.
Queen Victoria in 1887. Her reign began in 1837 and lasted till her death at age 81 in 1901.
Under Victoria, the British middle class—and growing numbers of the working class—felt great confidence in the future. That confidence grew as Britain expanded its already huge empire. Victoria, the empress of India and ruler of some 300 million subjects around the world, became a revered symbol of British might.
During her reign, Victoria witnessed growing agitation for social reform. The queen herself commented that the lower classes “earn their bread and riches so deservedly that they cannot and ought not to be kept back.” As the Victorian era went on, reformers continued the push toward greater social and economic justice.
When Queen Victoria stated that the lower classes “earn their bread and riches so deservedly that they cannot and ought not to be kept back,” what did she mean?
In the 1800s and early 1900s, Parliament passed laws to extend and protect suffrage for men. Why were private booths and a police officer needed in this English polling station?
In the 1860s, a new era dawned in British politics. The old political parties regrouped under new leadership. Benjamin Disraeli forged the Tories into the modern Conservative Party. The Whigs, led by William Gladstone, evolved into the Liberal Party. Between 1868 and 1880, as the majority in Parliament swung between the two parties, Gladstone and Disraeli alternated as prime minister. Both fought for important reforms.