monarchy. After his father's long illness, George resumed royal visits; he

visited Hanover in 1821 (it had not been visited by its ruler since the

1750s), and Ireland and Scotland over the next couple of years.

Beset by debts, George was in a weak position in relation to his Cabinet

of ministers. His concern for royal prerogative was sporadic; when the

Prime Minister Lord Liverpool fell ill in 1827, George at one stage

suggested that ministers should choose Liverpool's successor. In 1829,

George IV was forced by his ministers, much against his will and his

interpretation of his coronation oath, to agree to Catholic Emancipation.

By reducing religious discrimination, this emancipation enabled the

monarchy to play a more national role.

George's profligacy and marriage difficulties meant that he never

regained much popularity, and he spent his final years in seclusion at

Windsor, dying at the age of 67.

WILLIAM IV (1830-37)

At the age of 13, William became a midshipman and began a career in the

Royal Navy. In 1789, he was made duke of Clarence. He retired from the Navy

in 1790. Between 1791 and 1811 he lived with his mistress, the actress Mrs

Jordan, and the growing family of their children known as the

Fitzclarences. William married Princess Adelaide of Saxe-Meiningen in 1818,

but their children died in infancy. The third son of George III, William

became heir apparent at the age of 62 when his older brother died.

William's reign (reigned 1830-37) was dominated by the Reform crisis,

beginning almost immediately when Wellington's Tory government (which

William supported) lost the general election in August 1830. Pledged to

parliamentary reform, Grey's Whig government won a further election which

William had to call in 1831 and then pushed through a reform bill against

the opposition of the Tories and the House of Lords, using the threat of

the creation of 50 or more peers to do so. The failure of the Tories to

form an alternative government in 1832 meant that William had to sign the

Great Reform Bill. Control of peerages had been used as a party weapon, and

the royal prerogative had been damaged.

The Reform Bill abolished some of the worst abuses of the electoral

system (for example, representation for so called 'rotten boroughs', which

had long ceased to be of any importance, was stopped, and new industrial

towns obtained representation). The Reform Act also introduced standardised

rules for the franchise (different boroughs had previously had varying

franchise rules) and, by extending the franchise to the middle classes,

greatly increased the role of public opinion in the political process.

William understood the theory of the more limited monarchy, once saying

'I have my view of things, and I tell them to my ministers. If they do not

adopt them, I cannot help it. I have done my duty.' William died a month

after Victoria had come of age, thus avoiding another regency.

VICTORIA (1837-1901)

Victoria was born at Kensington Palace, London, on 24 May 1819. She was

the only daughter of Edward, Duke of Kent, fourth son of George III. Her

father died shortly after her birth and she became heir to the throne

because the three uncles who were ahead of her in succession - George IV,

Frederick Duke of York, and William IV - had no legitimate children who

survived. Warmhearted and lively, Victoria had a gift for drawing and

painting; educated by a governess at home, she was a natural diarist and

kept a regular journal throughout her life. On William IV's death in 1837,

she became Queen at the age of 18.

Queen Victoria is associated with Britain's great age of industrial

expansion, economic progress and - especially - empire. At her death, it

was said, Britain had a worldwide empire on which the sun never set.

In the early part of her reign, she was influenced by two men: her first

Prime Minister, Lord Melbourne, and her husband, Prince Albert, whom she

married in 1840. Both men taught her much about how to be a ruler in a

'constitutional monarchy' where the monarch had very few powers but could

use much influence. Albert took an active interest in the arts, science,

trade and industry; the project for which he is best remembered was the

Great Exhibition of 1851, the profits from which helped to establish the

South Kensington museums complex in London.

Her marriage to Prince Albert brought nine children between 1840 and

1857. Most of her children married into other royal families of Europe:

Edward VII (born 1841, married Alexandra, daughter of Christian IX of

Denmark); Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh and of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha (born

1844, married Marie of Russia); Arthur, Duke of Connaught (born 1850,

married Louise Margaret of Prussia); Leopold, Duke of Albany (born 1853,

married Helen of Waldeck-Pyrmont); Victoria, Princess Royal (born 1840,

married Friedrich III, German Emperor); Alice (born 1843, married Ludwig

IV, Grand Duke of Hesse and by Rhine); Helena (born 1846, married Christian

of Schleswig-Holstein); Louise (born 1848, married John Campbell, 9th Duke

of Argyll); Beatrice (born 1857, married Henry of Battenberg). Victoria

bought Osborne House (later presented to the nation by Edward VII) on the

Isle of Wight as a family home in 1845, and Albert bought Balmoral in 1852.

Victoria was deeply attached to her husband and she sank into depression

after he died, aged 42, in 1861. She had lost a devoted husband and her

principal trusted adviser in affairs of state. For the rest of her reign

she wore black. Until the late 1860s she rarely appeared in public;

although she never neglected her official Correspondence, and continued to

give audiences to her ministers and official visitors, she was reluctant to

resume a full public life. She was persuaded to open Parliament in person

in 1866 and 1867, but she was widely criticised for living in seclusion and

quite a strong republican movement developed. (Seven attempts were made on

Victoria's life, between 1840 and 1882 - her courageous attitude towards

these attacks greatly strengthened her popularity.) With time, the private

urgings of her family and the flattering attention of Benjamin Disraeli,

Prime Minister in 1868 and from 1874 to 1880, the Queen gradually resumed

her public duties.

In foreign policy, the Queen's influence during the middle years of her

reign was generally used to support peace and reconciliation. In 1864,

Victoria pressed her ministers not to intervene in the Prussia-Austria-

Denmark war, and her letter to the German Emperor (whose son had married

her daughter) in 1875 helped to avert a second Franco-German war. On the

Eastern Question in the 1870s - the issue of Britain's policy towards the

declining Turkish Empire in Europe - Victoria (unlike Gladstone) believed

that Britain, while pressing for necessary reforms, ought to uphold Turkish

hegemony as a bulwark of stability against Russia, and maintain bi-

partisanship at a time when Britain could be involved in war.

Victoria's popularity grew with the increasing imperial sentiment from

the 1870s onwards. After the Indian Mutiny of 1857, the government of India

was transferred from the East India Company to the Crown with the position

of Governor General upgraded to Viceroy, and in 1877 Victoria became

Empress of India under the Royal Titles Act passed by Disraeli's


During Victoria's long reign, direct political power moved away from the

sovereign. A series of Acts broadened the social and economic base of the

electorate. These acts included the Second Reform Act of 1867; the

introduction of the secret ballot in 1872, which made it impossible to

pressurise voters by bribery or intimidation; and the Representation of the

Peoples Act of 1884 - all householders and lodgers in accommodation worth

at least Ј10 a year, and occupiers of land worth Ј10 a year, were entitled

to vote.

Despite this decline in the Sovereign's power, Victoria showed that a

monarch who had a high level of prestige and who was prepared to master the

details of political life could exert an important influence. This was

demonstrated by her mediation between the Commons and the Lords, during the

acrimonious passing of the Irish Church Disestablishment Act of 1869 and

the 1884 Reform Act. It was during Victoria's reign that the modern idea of

the constitutional monarch, whose role was to remain above political

parties, began to evolve. But Victoria herself was not always non-partisan

and she took the opportunity to give her opinions - sometimes very

forcefully - in private.

After the Second Reform Act of 1867, and the growth of the two-party

(Liberal and Conservative) system, the Queen's room for manoeuvre

decreased. Her freedom to choose which individual should occupy the

premiership was increasingly restricted. In 1880, she tried,

unsuccessfully, to stop William Gladstone - whom she disliked as much as

she admired Disraeli and whose policies she distrusted - from becoming

Prime Minister. She much preferred the Marquess of Hartington, another

statesman from the Liberal party which had just won the general election.

She did not get her way. She was a very strong supporter of Empire, which

brought her closer both to Disraeli and to the Marquess of Salisbury, her

last Prime Minister. Although conservative in some respects - like many at

the time she opposed giving women the vote - on social issues, she tended

to favour measures to improve the lot of the poor, such as the Royal

Commission on housing. She also supported many charities involved in

education, hospitals and other areas.

Victoria and her family travelled and were seen on an unprecedented

scale, thanks to transport improvements and other technical changes such as

the spread of newspapers and the invention of photography. Victoria was the

first reigning monarch to use trains - she made her first train journey in


In her later years, she almost became the symbol of the British Empire.

Both the Golden (1887) and the Diamond (1897) Jubilees, held to celebrate

the 50th and 60th anniversaries of the queen's accession, were marked with

great displays and public ceremonies. On both occasions, Colonial

Conferences attended by the Prime Ministers of the self-governing colonies

were held.

Despite her advanced age, Victoria continued her duties to the end -

including an official visit to Dublin in 1900. The Boer War in South Africa

overshadowed the end of her reign. As in the Crimean War nearly half a

century earlier, Victoria reviewed her troops and visited hospitals; she

remained undaunted by British reverses during the campaign: 'We are not

interested in the possibilities of defeat; they do not exist.'

Victoria died at Osborne House on the Isle of Wight, on 22 January 1901

after a reign which lasted almost 64 years, the longest in British history.

She was buried at Windsor beside Prince Albert, in the Frogmore Royal

Mausoleum, which she had built for their final resting place. Above the

Mausoleum door are inscribed Victoria's words: 'farewell best beloved, here

at last I shall rest with thee, with thee in Christ I shall rise again'.


The name Saxe-Coburg-Gotha came to the British Royal Family in 1840 with

the marriage of Queen Victoria to Prince Albert, son of Ernst, Duke of

Saxe-Coburg & Gotha. Queen Victoria herself remained a member of the House

of Hanover.

The only British monarch of the House of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha was King

Edward VII, who reigned for nine years at the beginning of the modern age

in the early years of the 20th century. King George V replaced the German-

sounding title with that of Windsor during the First World War. The name

Saxe-Coburg-Gotha survived in other European monarchies, including the

current Belgian Royal Family and the former monarchies of Portugal and



1837 - 1917



VICTORIA = m. Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg &


(1837-1910) (Prince Consort)

EDWARD VII = m. Princess Alexandra, dau.

of CHRISTIAN IX, King of

(1910 – 1936) Denmark


GEORGE VI = m. Lady Elizabeth


1936-1952 Bowes-Lyon, dau. of Earl of

(abdicated 1936)

Strathmore and





Queen Mother)


(1952 – present day)

EDWARD VII (1901-10)

Edward VII, born November 9, 1841, was the eldest son of Queen Victoria.

He took the family name of his father, Prince Consort Albert, hence the

change in lineage, although he was still Hanoverian on his mother's side.

He married Princess Alexandra of Denmark in 1863, who bore him three sons

and three daughters. Edward died on May 6, 1910, after a series of heart


Victoria, true to the Hanoverian name, saw the worst in Edward. She and

Albert imposed a strict regime upon Edward, who proved resistant and

resentful throughout his youth. His marriage at age twenty-two to Alexandra

afforded him some relief from his mother's domination, but even after

Albert's death in 1863, Victoria consistently denied her son any official

governmental role. Edward rebelled by completely indulging himself in

women, food, drink, gambling, sport and travel. Alexandra turned a blind

eye to his extramarital activities, which continued well into his sixties

and found him implicated in several divorce cases.

Edward succeeded the throne upon Victoria's death; despite his risquй

reputation, Edward threw himself into his role of king with vitality. His

extensive European travels gave him a solid foundation as an ambassador in

foreign relations. Quite a few of the royal houses of Europe were his

relatives, allowing him to actively assist in foreign policy negotiations.

He also maintained an active social life, and his penchant for flamboyant

accouterments set trends among the fashionable. Victoria's fears proved

wrong: Edward's forays into foreign policy had direct bearing on the

alliances between Great Britain and both France and Russia, and aside from

his sexual indiscretions, his manner and style endeared him to the English


Social legislation was the focus of Parliament during Edward's reign. The

1902 Education Act provided subsidized secondary education, and the Liberal

government passed a series of acts benefiting children after 1906; old age

pensions were established in 1908. The 1909 Labour Exchanges Act laid the

groundwork for national health insurance, which led to a constitutional

crisis over the means of budgeting such social legislation. The budget set

forth by David Lloyd-George proposed major tax increases on wealthy

landowners and was defeated in Parliament. Prime Minister Asquith appealed

to Edward to create several new peerages to swing the vote, but Edward

steadfastly refused. Edward died amidst the budgetary crisis at age sixty-

eight, which was resolved the following year by the Liberal government's

passage of the act.

Despite Edward's colorful personal life and Victoria's perceptions of him

as profligate, Edward ruled peacefully (aside from the Boer War of 1899-

1902) and successfully during his short reign, which is remarkable

considering the shifts in European power that occurred in the first decade

of the twentieth century.


The House of Windsor came into being in 1917, when the name was adopted

as the British Royal Family's official name by a proclamation of King

George V, replacing the historic name of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. It remains the

family name of the current Royal Family.

During the twentieth century, kings and queens of the United Kingdom have

fulfilled the varied duties of constitutional monarchy. One of their most

important roles was national figureheads lifting public morale during the

devastating world wars of 1914-18 and 1939-45.

The period saw the modernization of the monarchy in tandem with the many

social changes which have taken place over the past 80 years. One such

modernization has been the use of mass communication technologies to make

the Royal Family accessible to a broader public the world over. George V

adopted the new relatively new medium of radio to broadcast across the

Empire at Christmas; the Coronation ceremony was broadcast on television

for the first time in 1953, at The Queen's insistence; and the World Wide

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