Spotlight: 6 Surprising Queen Victoria Facts
Long live the queen! In honor of her recent birthday (May 24th, 1819), MASTERPIECE is looking back on England’s groundbreaking, record-setting, death-defying monarch.
There is something about the young queen that captures the imagination of those who know her story. But what is so intriguing about this larger-than-life figure?
As MASTERPIECE prepares for the premiere season of Victoria, coming January 15, 2017, get to know her majesty with 6 interesting facts about the real-life Queen Victoria.
1. She was crowned at a young age.
Victoria was only 18 years old when she was crowned monarch, faced with ruling an extensive empire of over 400 million people, including the nations Australia, New Zealand, Canada, South Africa, and India. Her influence on the world stage is still evident today, reflected in the names of geographical sites such as Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe, two states in Australia, and the city of Victoria in British Columbia, Canada.
2. She is one of England’s longest-reigning monarchs.
Queen Victoria was the longest reigning monarch in English history, having kept the throne for 63 years and 7 months—before Queen Elizabeth II beat her record in 2015. For decades, Victoria was also the oldest monarch to ever rule Great Britain, as she died still wearing the crown at age 81.
3. She was unusually short.
Although she ruled a massive part of the free world, Victoria was diminutive in stature. Historians estimate that she was no more than five feet tall. This concerned some of those close to her, including her Uncle Leopold, who sought to prepare her for her future in the public eye. In a letter to his niece, he warned, “high personages are a little like stage actors - they must always make efforts to please their public.”
4. She lived to see the 20th century.
Although her story seems so long ago, Queen Victoria actually lived to see the modern age; she died in 1901. Because her reign landed in the aftermath of the Industrial Revolution, Victoria saw England through a pivotal time in its technological history. She was the first monarch to ride a train, oversaw the creation of The Great Exhibition world’s fair, and utilized modern inventions—like the phonograph—in diplomatic relations.
5. Her gift lives in the White House.
What do Presidents as varied as Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, and Barack Obama have in common? They all enjoyed a gift from Queen Victoria! In 1880, the Queen had a retired ship, the HMS Resolute, made into a desk as a gift for then President Rutherford Hayes. Most presidents since then—including those above—have used the very same desk. Over time, the desk has seen modifications as diverse as the men who have used it: President Roosevelt added an additional panel to hide his leg braces, and President Reagan had the desk raised a few inches to accommodate his height.
6. She had many close calls.
Though the Queen was generally popular, over the course of her long reign she survived at least six attempts on her life. Only one of these attempts harmed her—In 1850 a man struck her forehead with a cane, but the unflappable Victoria was merely bruised. Her security became such a concern that she was outfitted with an unusual fashion accessory: a chain mail lined parasol.