The Spirit of England - Victoria Regina et Imperatrix - an Enigma

© Copyright Peter Crawford 2014

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Victoria (Alexandrina Victoria; 24 May 1819 – 22 January 1901) was the monarch of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland from 20 June 1837 until her death.
From 1 May 1876, she used the additional title of Empress of India.
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2014
Full Titles and Style
 "Her Majesty Victoria, by the Grace of God, of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland Queen, Defender of the Faith, Empress of India."

William IV
George IV
Victoria was the last monarch of the House of Hanover, herself speaking with a distinct German accent.
In private she would converse with her mother, her governess Baroness Louise Lehzen, and her husband, Prince Albert, in German, which was, to all intents and purposes, her 'native language'
Victoria was an unlikely sovereign, being the first female monarch since the great Elizbeth, and substantially different in outlook and temperament from her Hanoverian forebears, particularly her two rather debauched predecessors, George IV and William IV.

The Young Victoria
Victoria of Kent was the daughter of Prince Edward, Duke of Kent and Strathearn, the fourth son of King George III.
Both the Duke of Kent and King George III died in 1820, and Victoria was raised under close supervision by her German-born mother, Princess Victoria of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld.
She inherited the throne at the age of 18, after her father's three elder brothers had all died, leaving no legitimate, surviving children.
The United Kingdom was already an established constitutional monarchy, in which the sovereign held relatively little direct political power.
Privately, Victoria attempted to influence government policy and ministerial appointments. 
Publicly, she became a national icon, and was identified with strict standards of personal morality.
Prince Albert
of  Haus Sachsen-Coburg und Gotha
(Saxe-Coburg and Gotha)
as Prince Consort
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2014
Victoria married her first cousin, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, in 1840.

Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg und Gotha
Prince Albert of  Haus Sachsen-Coburg und Gotha (Saxe-Coburg and Gotha) (Francis Albert Augustus Charles Emmanuel; later The Prince Consort; 26 August 1819 – 14 December 1861) was the husband of Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.
He was born in the Saxon duchy of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld to a family connected to many of Europe's ruling monarchs. At the age of 20 he married his first cousin, Queen Victoria, with whom he would ultimately have nine children. At first, Albert felt constrained by his position as consort, which did not confer any power or duties upon him. Over time he adopted many public causes, such as educational reform and a worldwide abolition of slavery, and took on the responsibilities of running the Queen's household, estates and office.

'First of May -1851' - Winterhalter
He was heavily involved with the organisation of the Great Exhibition of 1851 (see right). Albert aided in the development of Britain's constitutional monarchy by persuading his wife to show less partisanship in her dealings with Parliament—although he actively disagreed with the interventionist foreign policy pursued during Lord Palmerston's tenure as Foreign Secretary.
He died at the early age of 42, plunging the Queen into a deep mourning that lasted for the rest of her life. Upon Queen Victoria's death in 1901, their eldest son, Edward VII, succeeded as the first British monarch of the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, named after the ducal house to which Albert belonged.

The nine children of Albert and Victoria married into royal and noble families across the continent, tying them together and earning her the nickname "the grandmother of Europe".

Badge of the
House of Windsor
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2014
As stated previously, Victoria was the last of the Hanovarians, and she and Albert founded the British branch of the Royal House of Sachsen-Coburg und Gotha.
Later, in a rather pathetic attempt to sever links with German Royalty during the First World War, (which was also an extreme insult to the memory of Prince Albert) George V changed the name of the 'Haus Sachsen-Coburg und Gotha' to the rather prosaic 'House of Windsor'.
After Albert's death in 1861, Victoria plunged into deep mourning and avoided public appearances.
As a result of her seclusion, republicanism temporarily gained strength, but in the latter half of her reign, her popularity recovered.

Queen-Empress Victoria
Diamond Jubilee Portrait
Her Golden and Diamond Jubilees were times of public celebration.


After the death of Prince Albert Queen Victoria had a very close relationship with a highland servant called John Brown.
John Brown (8 December 1826 – 27 March 1883) was a Scottish personal servant who was appreciated by many (including the Queen) for his competence and companionship, and resented by others for his influence and informal manner.
The exact nature of his relationship with Victoria was the subject of great speculation by contemporaries, and continues to be controversial today.
Prince Albert's untimely death in 1861 was a shock from which Queen Victoria never fully recovered.

John Brown
John Brown became a good friend and supported the mourning Queen.
The Queen gave him gifts and created two medals for him, the 'Faithful Servant Medal' and the 'Devoted Service Medal'.
She commissioned a portrait of him.
Victoria's children and ministers resented the high regard she had for Brown, and, inevitably, stories circulated that there was something improper about their relationship.
Perhaps the most compelling evidence of the depth of Victoria and Brown's relationship comes from the pen of the Queen herself.

John Brown and Queen Victoria
"Perhaps never in history was there so strong and true an attachment, so warm and loving a friendship between the sovereign and servant ... Strength of character as well as power of frame – the most fearless uprightness, kindness, sense of justice, honesty, independence and unselfishness combined with a tender, warm heart ... made him one of the most remarkable men. The Queen feels that life for the second time is become most trying and sad to bear deprived of all she so needs ... the blow has fallen too heavily not to be very heavily felt..."

The Queen was buried with a lock of Brown's hair, his photograph, and a ring worn by Brown's mother and given to her by Brown, along with several of his letters.
The photograph, wrapped in white tissue paper, was placed in her left hand, with flowers discreetly arranged so as to hide it from view. The ring she wore on the third finger of her right hand.
The statues and private memorials that Victoria had created for Brown were destroyed and discarded at the order of her son, Edward VII, with whom Brown had often clashed and who bitterly resented Brown for his influence on his mother.
Queen Victoria commissioned a life-sized statue of Brown by Edgar Boehm shortly after Brown's death.
The inscription on the base read: Friend more than servant. Loyal. Truthful. Brave. Selfless than Duty, even to the grave.
When Victoria's son succeeded to the throne he had the statue moved to a less conspicuous site on the estate.


Map of the British Raj
After the Indian Rebellion of 1857, the British East India Company, which had ruled much of India, was dissolved, and Britain's possessions and protectorates on the Indian subcontinent were formally incorporated into the British Empire.
The Queen had a relatively balanced view of the conflict, and condemned atrocities on both sides.
She wrote of "her feelings of horror and regret at the result of this bloody civil war", and insisted, urged on by Albert, that an official proclamation announcing the transfer of power from the company to the state "should breathe feelings of generosity, benevolence and religious toleration".

The British Raj was headed by a Viceroy to represent the British monarch in India, and a Secretary of State for India in Whitehall to handle affairs in London end.

Flag of the Viceroy of India
Queen Victoria, an ardent Indophile, had always taken a deep, personal interest in Indian affairs.
In the 1874 general election, Disraeli was returned to power. 
He pushed the 'Royal Titles Act 1876' through Parliament, so that Victoria took the title "Empress of India" from 1 May 1876.
The new title - Kaisar-i-Hind, Mallika-e-Hindustan - was proclaimed at the Delhi Durbar of 1 January 1877.
The Imperial Crown of India

The Imperial Crown of India was the crown of three British sovereigns as Emperors of India during the final decades of the Indian Empire. The crown is housed with the Crown Jewels of the United Kingdom. The crown was created for George V, in his position as Emperor of India, to wear at the Delhi Durbar of 1911. It is also the only crown of a British sovereign with eight half-arches. The need for the new crown lay in the tradition that the British crown jewels do not leave the United Kingdom. The crown was never, therefore, worn by Queen Victoria.

Victoria saw the expansion of the British Empire as civilising and benign, protecting native peoples from more aggressive powers or cruel rulers:
"It is not in our custom to annexe countries", she said, "unless we are obliged & forced to do so."

No other title could have pleased Victoria more.
For the first time since the death of Prince Albert, the Queen presided over the state opening of Parliament.
The Widow of Windsor” was back in the public eye.
In 1887, Victoria had been on the throne for half a century.
Maharajas and maharanis from India were to visit her court during her Golden Jubilee, and the Queen wanted India represented in her court. 
Accordingly, a regiment of Indian soldiers on horses were to be her personal escort, riding in front of her landau as she drove through London on her jubilee procession on 21 June 1887. The cavalry with their ornate uniforms, flashy turbans and flapping pennants splashed new colour into the pageant.
Abdul Karim - khidmatgar
Londoners had not seen anything like it before, and the Queen requested Indian servants in her entourage as well, to help her out when visiting potentates from India called.
The escorts and the servants would be the closest to the Queen’s person, so it also signalled to the world her faith in her Indian Empire - 'the Jewel in the Crown'.
For the jubilee, carpets woven by prisoners in Agra’s Central Jail were sent to the Queen by the prison superintendent, John Tyler.
Tyler also sent his assistant, a tall, handsome 24-year-old called Abdul Karim, as a “jubilee gift” to the Queen.
Karim was told he would enter the Queen’s service as an “orderly,” and he expected to ride behind her on a horse.
Instead, he became a khidmatgar (waiter) at her table, in scarlet or blue tunics with a pristine white or gold turban.
The young man was put off, until he became convinced that the Queen had a genuine affection for India and cared for her Indian servants as human beings.
She was always worried whether they ate well, and whether they kept warm in England’s chilly weather.
She had new tunics made for them, Indian style, but from tweed instead of cotton.

حافظ محمد عبد الكريم
Hafiz Mohammed Abdul Karim
Enter Karim ...
حافظ محمد عبد الكريم - Hafiz Mohammed Abdul Karim CIE, CVO (1863–1909) - known as "the Munshi", was an Indian Muslim attendant of Queen Victoria.
He served her during the final fifteen years of her reign, gaining her maternal affection over that time.
Karim was born near Jhansi in British India, the son of a hospital assistant.
In 1887, Victoria's Golden Jubilee year, Karim was one of two Indians selected to become servants to the Queen.
Victoria took a great liking to Karim, and ordered that he was to be given additional tuition in the English language.
By February 1888 he had "learnt English wonderfully" according to Victoria.
After he complained to the Queen that he had been a clerk in India, and thus menial work as a waiter was beneath him, he was promoted to the position of "Munshi" - an Urdu word often translated as "teacher" - in August 1888.
In her journal, the Queen writes that she made this change so that he would stay: "I particularly wish to retain his services as he helps me in studying Hindustani, which interests me very much, & he is very intelligent & useful."

حافظ محمد عبد الكريم
Hafiz Mohammed Abdul Karim
Photographs of him waiting at table were destroyed, and Victoria appointed him her 'First Indian Secretary', showered him with honours, and obtained a land grant for him in India.

Queen-Empress Victoria and Abdul Karim
The Queen's own letters testify that "her discussions with the Munshi were wide-ranging—philosophical, political and practical. Both head and heart were engaged. There is no doubt that the Queen found in Abdul Karim a connection with a world that was fascinatingly alien, and a confidant who would not feed her the official line."
Karim was placed in charge of the other Indian servants, and made responsible for their accounts.
Victoria praised him in her letters and journal. "I am so very fond of him" she wrote, "He is so good & gentle & understanding all I want & is a real comfort to me."
She admired "her personal Indian clerk & Munshi, who is an excellent, clever, truly pious & very refined gentle man.."
At Balmoral Castle, the Queen's Scottish estate, Karim was allocated the room previously occupied by John Brown, a favourite servant of the Queen's who had died in 1883.(see above)

حافظ محمد عبد الكريم
Hafiz Mohammed Abdul Karim
Despite the serious and dignified manner that Karim presented to the outside world, the Queen wrote that "he is very friendly and cheerful with the Queen's maids and laughs and even jokes now..."
The close relationship between Karim and the Queen led to friction within the Royal Household, the other members of which felt themselves to be superior to him.
The Queen insisted on taking Karim with her on her travels, which caused arguments between her and her other attendants.
Karim's decorations included the 'Star of India' and the 'Companion of the Indian Empire' from Queen Victoria, and the 'Order of the Red Eagle' from the German Kaiser, Wilhelm II.
Following Victoria's death in 1901, her successor, Edward VII, returned Karim to India and ordered the confiscation and destruction of the Munshi's correspondence with Victoria.
Karim subsequently lived quietly near Agra, on the estate that Victoria had arranged for him, until his death at the age of 46.
Historians agree with the suspicions of her Household that the Munshi influenced the Queen's opinions on Indian issues, biasing her against Hindus and favouring Muslims
In her later life, Victoria was very much preoccupied with her Indian Empire, and this is reflected in her 'infatuation' with Karim, and the building of the 'Durbar Room' at Osborne House.

The Durbar Room - Osborne House
The Durbar Room is named after an anglicised version of the Hindi word durbar.
This word means court.
The Durbar Room was built for state functions, and decorated by Bhai Ram Singh in an elaborate and intricate style, with a carpet from Agra.
It now contains the gifts Queen Victoria received on her Golden and Diamond Jubilees.
These include engraved silver and copper vases, Indian armour and even a model of an Indian palace
The Indian associations of Osborne House also include its housing a collection of paintings of Indian persons and scenes, painted at Queen Victoria's request by Rudolf Swoboda.
There are both depictions of Indians resident or visiting Britain in the 19th Century and scenes painted in India itself when the painter went there for the purpose.

Osborne House was built between 1845 and 1851 for Queen Victoria and Prince Albert as a summer home and rural retreat.
Prince Albert designed the house himself in the style of an Italian Renaissance palazzo.
The builder was Thomas Cubitt, the London architect and builder whose company built the main façade of Buckingham Palace for the royal couple in 1847.
An earlier smaller house on the site was demolished to make way for a new and far larger house.

Queen Victoria died at Osborne House in January 1901.
Following her death, the house became surplus to royal requirements, and was given to the state, with a few rooms retained as a private royal museum dedicated to Queen Victoria.
From 1903 until 1921 it was used as a junior officer training college for the Royal Navy known as the Royal Naval College, Osborne.
Today it is fully open to the public.


Victoria Memorial - Calcutta
Around the world, places and memorials are dedicated to her, especially in the Commonwealth nations.
Places named after her, include the capital of the Seychelles, Africa's largest lake, Victoria Falls, the capitals of British Columbia (Victoria) and Saskatchewan (Regina), and two Australian states (Victoria and Queensland).
The Victoria Cross was introduced in 1856 to reward acts of valour during the Crimean War, and it remains the highest British, Canadian, Australian, and New Zealand award for bravery.
Victoria Day is a Canadian statutory holiday, and a local public holiday in parts of Scotland celebrated on the last Monday before or on 24 May (Queen Victoria's birthday).


Frogmore House, a Royal retreat, is also the site of three burial places of the British Royal Family: the Royal Mausoleum containing the tombs of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert; the Duchess of Kent's Mausoleum, burial place of the Queen Victoria's mother; and the Royal Burial Ground.

Mausoleum of the Duchess of Kent

Mausoleum of the Duchess of Kent
This mausoleum within the Frogmore Gardens is the burial place of Queen Victoria's mother, Victoria of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld, the Duchess of Kent.
The Mausoleum was designed by the architect A J Humbert, to a concept design by Prince Albert's favourite artist, Professor Ludwig Gruner.
In the latter years of her life, the Duchess lived in Frogmore House and in the 1850s, construction began on a beautiful domed 'temple' in the grounds of the estate.
The top portion of the finished building was intended to serve as a summer-house for the Duchess during her lifetime, while the lower level was destined as her final resting place.
The Duchess died at Frogmore House on 16 March 1861 before the summer-house was completed so the upper chamber became part of the mausoleum and now contains a statue of the Duchess.

Royal Mausoleum

Royal Mausoleum - Frogmore
Royal Mausoleum - Frogmore - Windsor
The second mausoleum in the grounds of Frogmore is the very much larger Royal Mausoleum, the burial place of Queen Victoria and her consort, Prince Albert.
Queen Victoria and her husband had long intended to construct a special resting place for them both, instead of the two of them being buried in one of the traditional resting places of British Royalty, such as Westminster Abbey or St. George's Chapel, Windsor.
The mausoleum for the Queen's mother was being constructed at Frogmore in 1861 when Prince Albert died in December of the same year.
Within a few days of his premature death, proposals for the mausoleum were being drawn up by the same designers involved in the Duchess of Kent's Mausoleum: Professor Gruner and A J Humbert.
Section Thru Royal Mausoleum - Frogmore - Windsor

Work commenced in March 1862.
The dome was made by October and the building was consecrated in December 1862, although the decoration was not finished until August 1871.
The building is in the form of a Greek cross.
The exterior was inspired by Italian Romanesque buildings, the walls are of granite and Portland stone and the roof is covered with Australian copper.
The interior decoration is in the style of Albert's favourite painter, the Renaissance genius Raphael, an example of Victoriana at its most opulent.

The interior walls are predominantly in Portuguese red marble, a gift from King Luis I of Portugal, a cousin of both Victoria and Albert, and are inlaid with other marbles from around the World.
The monumental tomb itself was designed by Baron Carlo Marochetti.
It features recumbent marble effigies of the Queen and Prince Albert.
The sarcophagus was made from a single piece of flawless grey Aberdeen granite.
The Queen's effigy was made at the same time, but was not put in the mausoleum until after her funeral.

Only Victoria and Albert are interred there.

Royal Burial Ground

Royal Burial Ground
Frogmore - Windsor
Since its inauguration in 1928, most members of the royal family, except for Kings and Queens, have been interred in the Royal Burial Ground, a cemetery behind Queen Victoria's mausoleum.

Indian Kiosk - Frogmore - Windsor
Among those buried there are Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught, and Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester, as well as Prince George, Duke of Kent; the Duke of Windsor, who reigned as King Edward VIII before abdication; and his wife Wallis.
Many members of the families of Prince Christian of Schleswig-Holstein and of the Marquess of Cambridge are also buried there.

Also in the Burial Ground is the cenotaph of Queen Maria of Yugoslavia, a great-granddaughter of Queen Victoria and wife of King Aleksandar I of Yugoslavia.
There is also an 'Indian Kiosk' commemorating the end of the Indian Mutiny (1858).
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2014

to be continued

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