Many of us have been watching the myriad of posts regarding Queen Elizabeth being set to exceed Queen Victoria as Britain’s longest reigning monarch on Wednesday, 9th September.
By the Numbers
To start at the beginning of their respective reigns, Queen Victoria acceded to the throne at the tender age of 18. She had been born Princess Alexandrina Victoria on 24th May at Kensington Palace. Her parents, Edward, Duke of Kent (fourth son of King George III) and Princess Victoria Mary Louisa of Saxe-Saalfeld-Coburg, were delighted and quickly had her christened at 3pm on 24th June 1819. The strictly private service was held in the Cupola Room at Kensington Palace. The baptism was performed by The Archbishop of Canterbury, Charles Manners-Sutton.
Victoria reigned for a further 23,226 days, or 63 years, seven months and two days.
Queen Elizabeth II acceded to the throne when she was 25. She had been born on 21st April 1926 at 2.40am at her maternal grandfather’s London house, 17 Bruton Street in Mayfair, London. Her parents were, Prince Albert, Duke of York, later King George VI, (second son of the King George V) and Elizabeth, Duchess of York (later Queen Elizabeth). Elizabeth was their first child and was baptised by the Anglican Archbishop of York, Cosmo Gordon Lang, in the private chapel of Buckingham Palace on 29 May 1926.
Elizabeth will, therefore, surpass Victoria’s reign on 9th September 2015 as Britain’s longest reigning monarch.
As well as a long reign, Queen Victoria had a large (by today’s standards) family of nine children. Her reign dominated Europe with her first four children becoming sovereigns themselves or marrying sovereigns:
Her first child Princess Victoria Adelaide Mary Louisa became German Empress and Queen of Prussia by marriage to German Emperor Frederick III.
Her second child, Prince Albert Edward, became King Edward VII
Her third child, Princess Alice Maud Mary, became Grand Duchess of Hesse and by Rhine and was also the mother of Tsaritsa Alexandra Feodorovna of Russia (Empress Consort of Tsar Nicholas II)
Her fourth child, Prince Alfred Ernest Albert, became The Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha
At just 4ft 11in (1.5 metres), Queen Victoria was petite by any standard and was the last of the Hanoverian monarchs. However, this ‘Little Lady’ as John Brown referred to her, reigned over a Britain, which rode the successes of the industrial revolution and saw itself become a truly global power.Victoria reigned over an empire, measuring a quarter of the globe, and some 400 million people. Today Elizabeth is head of state of the UK and 15 Commonwealth realms, with a combined population of about 139 million.
In contrast, Queen Elizabeth II has a much more modest family of just four children, a number not uncommon at the time. At just 5ft 4ins (1.6 metres), it would appear she may have inherited some of her Great Grandmother’s genes. She is a descendant through the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, which was renamed the House of Windsor during World War One by George V.
Her first child was Prince Charles, who became heir apparent on 6th February 1952 and Prince of Wales in 1968. He is now the longest-serving heir apparent in British history.
Approximately 400,000 people gathered in London for Victoria’s coronation, which at the time, was a major event in the city. Could she ever have imagined that her great-great-granddaughters coronation would be viewed by an estimated 27 million people in Britain watching on the still new television? Or that a further 11 million tuned in and listened on the radio, or wireless.
Queen Victoria married the love of her life, Prince Albert on 10th February 1840 in the Chapel Royal of St James’s Palace, London, aged 21. They were married for 20 years, before Prince Albert died in December 1861, throwing Victoria into deep, sustained mourning.
Princess Elizabeth married the Duke of Edinburgh on 20th November 1947, also aged 21. They had been married just over four years before Elizabeth became Queen. The Queen and Prince Philip have been married for nearly 68 years which has meant that Elizabeth is the first reigning British monarch to celebrate a diamond wedding anniversary.
For the Record Books
Both Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth II are the only monarchs in British history to celebrate, a Silver Jubilee, a Golden Jubilee and a Diamond Jubilee. If The Queen has inherited her mother’s longevity genes, we could well see Her Majesty celebrate the rarest of all celebrations for a monarch, a Platinum Jubilee.
Britain was a very different country when Queen Victoria reigned.
When Victoria acceded the throne in 1837, the population of England, Scotland and Wales was 16 million. When she died on 22nd January 1901, there were 32.5 million people living in England and Wales.
Elizabeth became Queen in 1952 when the UK’s population topped 50 million. At her Diamond Jubilee, in 2012, it had increased to 63.2 million.
Not only had Britain changed during the reigns of these two monolithic monarchs, so had the world.
Victoria oversaw an empire, measuring a quarter of the globe, and some 400 million people. Whilst Elizabeth is head of state of the UK and 15 Commonwealth realms, with a combined population of about 139 million.
Another change has been the way each of the monarchs was able to communicate. Queen Victoria was one of the first people and the first monarch to send an electronic message by telegraph, the 98-word message to some 16 hours to send. In contrast, The Queen sent her first, almost instantaneous ‘Tweet’ in 2014. It read: “It is a pleasure to open the Information Age exhibition today at the @ScienceMuseum and I hope people will enjoy visiting. Elizabeth R.”
Queen Victoria travelled, but nowhere near as extensively as Queen Elizabeth. Victoria made her (first of four) official visit to Ireland in 1849; she visited Germany and France as well.
The Queen has visited 116 countries on 265 official trips. In 1953 alone, she covered 43,618 miles in her coronation tour.
Victoria’s reign included 10 UK prime ministers of whom she outlived all but two.
Elizabeth has overseen 12 prime ministers. Margaret Thatcher was the longest-serving, for more than 11 years.
During Victoria’s reign, some 2.5 billion coins were produced by the Royal Mint.
Since Elizabeth’s coronation, 68 billion coins have been produced (8.1 billion pre-decimal coins and 60.3 billion decimal coins).
Victoria’s reign oversaw six Archbishops of Canterbury and three popes.
Elizabeth’s has included seven archbishops and seven popes.
There were seven attempts to kill or assault Victoria during her lifetime.
A teenager was arrested in 1981 for firing six blank cartridges at Queen Elizabeth as she rode on horseback before the Trooping the Colour ceremony.
Join Royal Central on Wednesday for full coverage of this historic day.
Photo Credit: Royal Bank of England via Flickr