13 May 2015

Victoria Day: Who Was Queen Victoria, Anyway?

0 Comment

Victoria Day is national Canadian holiday celebrated at the end of May in honor of Queen Victoria, ruler at the time of Canada’s independence on July 1, 1867. Queen Victoria ruled the monarchy of the United Kingdom and Ireland from 1837 until her death in 1901 – the longest reign of any British monarch, and any female royal, in history. She was a controversial figure, and her period of leadership, known as the Victorian era, is rife with  paradoxical descriptions.

When we think of “Victorian,” we think of prude and proper on the societal level. On a national level, Queen Victoria is known for strength of character and patriotism. On the level of family, her attitudes showed contempt for marriage, aversion for new babies, that “children should be seen and not heard” (although that quote is not hers originally), and disdain for women’s rights movements.

To get an idea of what people know of Queen Victoria, here are a few quotes attributed to her:

The important thing is not what they think of me, but what I think of them.

We are not interested in the possibilities of defeat. They do not exist.

Great events make me quiet and calm; it is only trifles that irritate my nerves.

For a man to strike any women is most brutal, and I, as well as everyone else, think this far worse than any attempt to shoot, which, wicked as it is, is at least more comprehensible and more courageous.

I feel sure that no girl would go to the altar if she knew all.

An ugly baby is a very nasty object – and the prettiest is frightful.

A marriage is no amusement but a solemn act, and generally a sad one.

Being pregnant is an occupational hazard of being a wife.

Queen Victoria’s sardonic, sarcastic, tongue-in-cheek quips are striking in today’s world, but we can’t compare:  We’re post women’s suffrage, post sexual revolution, and imbibed with psychology as key to understanding human behavior.  On the other hand, for the pillar of society to squash marriage, pregnancy, and babies as the ideal for women seems to be in line with the struggles of feminist debate.

Queen Victoria, by and large, was a role questioner. She was ahead of her time on ideas posed about women’s role in the family; she took nothing for granted and aired what many women probably thought, but could not voice. She took monarchy’s license to say anything because, well, she was the queen.  But in the mid-Enlightenment era, she didn’t exist in a vacuum. Rather, Queen Victoria was representative of a fast-changing, cultural-structure upheaval society. For example, she stood along with Charles Dickens on the literary front, and the move from personal, long-term apprenticeships to capitalistic, industrialized employment.

Even though she questioned societal roles, Queen Victoria did not question the role of her country as world leader. She fully catapulted Britain’s expanding colonialism into Africa, allowing its reach to increase even further than it already had during the two centuries prior.

The reason we think of the “Victorian era” as societally proper, is that in the end, Queen Victoria thought it best to honor her husband, King Albert’s wishes, especially after his premature death in 1861. For the next forty years until her own death, Queen Victoria acted in the proper, “lady-like,” manner per the initial expectations of her role. And yet, it was her husband’s guidance that encouraged her to participate in the government, a trend still championed by today’s Queen Elizabeth.  The dichotomy of Queen Victoria makes sense in her era – the decorum versus the bold – a balance with which many women struggle still today. During Victoria’s reign, the times, they were a-changin’, and in many ways she led the way.

Only Canadians celebrate Victoria Day, and we at Rockaway Care Center are happy to celebrate with our Canadian residents, with all honor due to the queen.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *