While she reigned sixty-three years, the legacy and image of Queen Victoria are predominantly tied to the last twenty years of her reign. Victoria was able to become a mythic projection of Empire through assuming the title of Empress of India which unified the monarchy with the Second British Empire. Even though by 1876 she had reigned for nearly forty years, the Royal Titles Act created a spike in her popularity and unified the complex British Empire under one Crown. Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli proposed the bill to continue his imperialistic campaign of British exceptionalism as well as bolster the public image of the widowed, grieving absentee queen. Her ceremonial title of Empress gave her an incentive to return to public life, becoming the mother of Empire. Upon her death twenty-five years after the Titles Act, Victoria was the most prominent English monarch to date. Lord Salisbury of the House of Lords stated after her death, “She had an extraordinary knowledge of what her people would think. It was extraordinary because it could not come from any personal intercourse. I have said for years that I had always felt that when I knew what the Queen thought, I knew pretty certainly what views her subjects would take, and especially the middle class of her subjects” . Through her unity with the imagination of Empire, the institution of the monarchy accrued value as a public relations medium between the government and the people. Under a constitutional monarchy, she had no direct political power, but she swayed public approval. Through Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli’s Royal Titles Act of 1876, Queen Victoria transformed into the unifying matriarch of the British Empire, regained popularity lost during public reclusion, and fulfilled Britain’s need for tradition and hierarchy.
When Victoria ascended to the throne in 1837, public interest in the British monarchy increased. She was eighteen, young, and presented a fresh start in contrast to the short reigns of the middle-aged scandalous kings that preceded her. She quickly got married and had a large family who subsequently married other European royal houses. As a mother of nine children, Victoria became known as a doting mother and a loving wife. Her status as a mother of a large brood gave the impression of a monarch who deserved and demanded the love and respect of her subjects. The royal family was enjoying a renewal of interest in their private and public lives. The major satirist magazine, Punch was established three years after her coronation and made Victoria the subject of the majority of its political cartoons for her entire reign. The magazine revolutionized the political cartoon and became the voice for the British middle class. Punch, while criticizing contemporary events surrounding the Queen, portrayed Victoria often in a favorable light, while lampooning others such as her husband, the prime minister, or her children. In the early years of her reign, Victoria was drawn as a maternal figure, the “Bess of forty-one”, alluding to the famous Queen Elizabeth I. Just like Elizabeth, Victoria came to the throne at a young age, ready to mature along with the country. She had become Queen at a pivotal time, as she was the first photographed monarch of Britain. The publishing and photography industries were booming as a result of the Industrial Revolution. Pictures and stories of the royal family were printed by popular demand. These prints further familiarized the British people with their monarch, creating a royalty culture market amongst the British media.
This image of Victoria as a mother of her children and her subjects began to translate into a mother of the Empire. In the nineteenth century, English society only understood and respected feminine authority in terms of motherhood. Victoria was not a mighty king with a military background but a young woman with a growing family. The British subjects did not see their loyalty as allegiance to a woman but the dutiful love and respect to a mother. Photos of her family allowed the British psyche to register her as a powerful female leader worthy of being heard. Victoria took an active role in foreign politics, making her viewpoints very known. She was quite conservative and believed in the importance of the Empire and British exceptionalism. Britain was experiencing the first half of its famed imperial century. Victoria, almost prophetically, had been born just after Napoleon’s defeat, an event that set the stage for Britain to rise economically without any international competitors. Britain had increased its hold over India by indirectly ruling through the East India Trading Company, building up the Company’s army, and implementing a Governor-General. The Industrial Revolution was changing the landscape of Britain and its imperial possessions with railroads and factories. A booming middle class was emerging in England due to the standard of living increasing from new technological innovations. An imperial mindset and pride emerged as Britain became the premier world power. Charles Dickens, the famed Victorian writer, urged Victoria in 1851 to rise to her full potential as the mother of most of the world. He wrote, “Think of it, Great Queen, and become the Royal Mother of them all!” . Victoria had the hearts of her people, and their love grew exponentially. The Sun often referred to her as “the Queen of Hearts” . By the 1850’s, Victoria had become a public relations medium between Empire and the British people. Twenty years into Victoria’s reign, however, two events shook the British psyche.
The first shock not only changed the way Britain organized the Empire but demonstrated how British society needed a figurehead in imperial affairs. In 1857, the Indian sepoys revolted against the British Company leading to the deaths of thousands of Indian rebels and citizens. The Sepoy Rebellion went on for a year until the British were able to quell the mutiny and come to an amnesty agreement. The Great Mutiny of 1857 led to the Parliament ending the Company’s charter and implementing the direct control of the Crown over India with the 1858 Government of India Act . Parliament reorganized the military and directly chose the Viceroy, formerly known as the Governor-General of India. The British Raj emerged from the rebellion. At home, the British public was horrified and angered by violence, demanding retribution. During the revolt, Charles Dickens wrote, “I wish I were a Commander in Chief in India, I should do my best to exterminate the race upon whom the late cruelties rested”. Punch published a series of magazines dedicated to the Mutiny including a cartoon showing the British lion enacting revenge on the Bengal tiger and a letter written supposedly by a present English lady depicting the horrors: “We heard the doors broken in, and many, many shots, and at the moment my servant said they had been to bring away Mrs. Chambers, but had found her dead on the ground, cut horribly, and she on the eve of her confinement! Oh! night of horrors!” . The British public was particularly shocked by this notion of feminine rape and murder. British newspapers lamented stories of white English ladies and their infants killed and raped by Indian rebels, which were greatly exaggerated with racist undertones. When future Conservative Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli publically stated that the reasons behind rebellion might have been valid, Punch depicted him as a sepoy in that week’s cartoon . Meanwhile Punch simultaneously published a drawing where a devastated and gracious Victoria is comforting her fellow women and their children . The press saw her as a pacifist, a mother who would restore peace to her empire. To her subjects, she was the model white English woman who deserved justice. Punch published another cartoon depicting her looking sternly down at an Indian subject . Many of Victoria’s public concerns about the Mutiny translated into laws in the Government of India Act, specifically in regards to the military. She was declared superior to the Indian princes, though, not given a clear title over India. The Great Mutiny of 1857 was a surprise to Britain who truly believed their anglicization was welcome in India. While the British public’s tension and racial fear never subdued, their approach to India transformed. They were not going to try to anglicize the Indian population, but re-address the contrast in British-Indian hierarchy. It became clear that if they were going to admit their imperial ventures, they needed Victoria’s image to bolster British patriotism along the way.
Unfortunately, Queen Victoria would shy away from this emerging public identity of Empire shortly after the Mutiny. In 1861, Prince Albert, the Queen’s beloved husband, died prematurely at the age of forty-two. The Queen was devastated and receded into a life of reclusion. While Prince Albert had not been as widely popular as his wife, the nation mourned the loss of the consort and felt empathy for their Queen. Victoria, who married Albert two years after becoming Queen, realized how much Albert assisted her in her Queenly duties and lapsed into depression and loneliness. The two had frequently toured Britain together, attending ceremonies and exhibitions. As a widow, Victoria neglected all public appearances. In a letter to her daughter, she wrote: “What is to become of us all? Of the unhappy country, of Europe, of all?” . To the Prime Minister, Lord Palmerston, she refused to return to Westminster, “Business she can as yet hardly think of, for her whole soul, bruised and crushed as it is,” . As a year past, the nation grew restless with the Queen’s absence. While Parliament urged the Queen to attend functions, she declined every time, citing her poor nerves and health. In her mourning, Victoria refused to go to Westminster to open Parliament, opting to stay in her secluded residences, Osborne House and Balmoral Castle. She hesitantly opened Parliament in 1866, and rushed home soon after, declaring it had adverse effects on her nerves. Criticism of the Queen slowly started to trickle into the British press by the third year of her seclusion from public life. By 1863, she returned to her private duties as Queen but did not resume her public appearances. However, that did not appease the press and her subjects who had grown to expect Victoria’s public image in their day-to-day life.
While the Queen was aware of her growing unpopularity, she did not emerge to rectify the decaying public image. Instead, she adamantly defended herself and her status as a widow, writing to Lord Palmerston:
“She has no wish to shut herself up from her loyal people, and has and will at any time seize any occasion which might offer to appeal amongst them (painful as it ever is now), provided she could do so without the fatigue or exertion of any State ceremony entailing full dress.”
While Victoria cared a great deal about her image, she did not understand the British public’s need for pomp and circumstance. The theatrical and romantic presentation of the monarchy was tied to the British identity, an identity built upon hierarchy and tradition. When the Queen and her family were present at lavish celebrations and ceremonial functions, they fulfilled their subject’s concept of Britain. Ceremonies without the Queen were considerably less ostentatious, less appropriate for a prominent world power. While photographs of the Queen filled the newspapers before Albert’s death, there were rarely new photographs of the Queen released during her mourning. The Palace would only release photographs of her family members and older photographs of the Queen with Albert in memoriam. As a constitutional monarchy, Britain needed its symbolic head of state to promote patriotism, filling glamor in the space between the people and their politics. Victoria’s absence contrasted against the superiority of the Second British Empire at the time, and her subjects uncomfortably resented it.
As Victoria’s synonymity with Empire diminished due to her absence, the public questioned the need for a monarchy. Victoria’s years of mourning had an effect on political ideology in Britain considering republicanism, and radical liberalism grew popular during the 1860’s. Republicans such as Sir Charles Dilke criticized her disappearance and argued for a peaceful abolishment of the monarchy, stating it had no practical place in the British Constitution. The British witnessed France becoming a Republic again, perpetuating a British “royalty question” . Some politicians asked what purpose Victoria served if she was not visible. The dowdy widow in black was not a reflection of the mighty British Empire. The media, who previously had portrayed her as an ethereal and immortal mother, treated Victoria with criticism. She had become oddly human to the press, no longer a celebrity but a woman who made mistakes. Nobody wanted a weak and diminished Queen. The London Review, a Republican publication subtly echoed this sentiment in 1864 stating, “If her Majesty is unable to accept the counsel of her advisers, but convinced by their honest earnestness, she should retire from a position which her private feelings made intolerable.” . In 1868, Victoria wrote to a friend, “She read the Article in the Globe tonight criticising the Queen’s continuing isolation, and her great anxiety therefore that similar Articles appearing in The Times and Daily Telegraph” . However, her excuses were not enough for the media anymore. Even Punch, the conservative satirical magazine which had never outwardly critiqued the Queen herself, published a cartoon, frustrated with her absence. In the 1865 drawing, the Lady Britannia urges the widowed Queen “It is time! Descend, be stone no more!”. Punch additionally added the rhyme, “Tis not that Punch as leal as wise/ Loves less his Queen by closer ties / Though she but rarely glads his eyes,” . Some newspapers were not as kind such as the Tomahawk, a Republican satirical magazine established during her self-induced exile. One cartoon from the publication portrayed the Queen having an affair with one of her servants while away from the public eye . In 1864, The Manchester Examiner perpetuated a rumor that a man hung signs on the Buckingham Palace gates stating, “These commanding premises to be let or sold, in consequence of the late occupant declining business” . This particular criticism of the Queen that resonated with the British public. The most famous attack at the Queen came in the form of a pamphlet titled, “What Does She Do With It?” referring to the money she receives in return for her duties as the monarch . Since Victoria did not display wealth or spend money on travel, Republicans and certain Liberals did not feel she deserved her allowance. The pamphlet declared the Queen was exploiting grief and illness to pocket large sums of wealth. Republican rallies took place in Hyde Park, and public criticism sounded whenever one of Victoria’s various children or grandchildren needed a dowry from Parliament . It appeared as if the Empire had declared Victoria was no longer imperial, questioning if it were best if Victoria lost her marriage to Parliament as well as Albert.
Despite the sharp rise of republican ideology, the sentiment was revealed just to be frustration mixed with a yearning for the earlier years of Victoria’s reign. Criticism receded when the Prince of Wales contracted typhoid fever ten years after his father had died of the same illness. While he recovered, the Queen received a flood of sympathetic letters from her people, the first time in ten years. Once again, Victoria was commended for being a mother. It was apparent that the majority of Britain did not want to get rid of their Queen, but rather, impatiently anticipated her return. Her absence had only made her previous role as the mother of the Empire more essential and demanded.
If anybody understood the importance of the mythical monarchy, it was Prime Minister Benjamin “Dizzy” Disraeli. The Prime Minister shared Victoria’s conservative views and held similar stances on foreign affairs. Disraeli believed the monarchy had a crucial role in the story of British exceptionalism. To the Prime Minister, the Queen possessed a duality of both leading her people as the Crown in public opinion and knowing prematurely the emotions of the nation. The press’s climb to a place of power during the Industrial Revolution had not gone unnoticed by him, especially considering the rise of republican and liberal ideology, which came at odds with his own party. He was the Prime Minister, an empire builder who would not settle for an empire but The Empire. That Empire needed an apt figurehead. In 1872, his speech at the Crystal Palace was determined to keep Empire as the center focus of British government, emphasizing the importance of imperial maintenance: “I find a rising opinion in the country sympathising with our tenets, and the people are prepared, I believe, if the opportunity offers, to uphold them until they prevail” . He claimed that his conservative party stood by British exceptionalism and imperial destiny. While he would command the political aspects of imperialism, Victoria’s presence would strengthen the social constructs of Empire as it had before 1861. Elected briefly in 1868 then again in 1874, the imperialist Disraeli knew how important it was to gain the Queen’s favor if he wanted to renew her icon status to that before Albert’s death.
Disraeli first employed flattery to rebuild the Queen’s confidence. When he became Prime Minister in 1874 Victoria wrote in her diary, “He knelt down and kissed hands, saying: ‘I plight my troth to the kindest of Mistresses’” . The gesture was rewarding considering she sent flowers to the Downing Street residence upon his victory. He was known for referring to her as a Fairy Queen, evoking the Shakespearean myths of Queen Elizabeth I. He thought of himself as the Walter Raleigh to Victoria’s Queen Elizabeth, creating an age of English royal excellence. Disraeli also made an effort to not only be her Prime Minister but her friend. The two bonded over the deaths of their spouses and the imperial destiny of Britain. Victoria was known for writing her Prime Ministers several times a day and urging them to travel from London to see her regularly. Disraeli happily visited the Queen and rarely rejected her. His habit of sending letters directly to her, rather than to her secretary, won the affection of the Queen. Benjamin Disraeli embraced the assertive Queen’s needs and became a close confidante of hers. Once Disraeli had the Queen’s trust and respect, he was able to repair her image.
Disraeli was careful in his public representation of the Queen, flattering her as if there was no separation between Victoria the person and Victoria the Imperial Mother. In his first years as Prime Minister, he was able to bring her into conversations on Empire. When Disraeli bought a stake in the Suez Canal to increase a British monopoly on Indian trade the following year, he announced, “It is settled, you have it, Madam” . Disraeli made sure Victoria was portrayed as the recipient of the Suez Canal. At Disraeli’s advice and with Victoria’s permission, the Prince of Wales went on a tour of the Suez as well as India, causing a media frenzy for photographs. He was able to convince Victoria to travel to London more than she had in the previous decade. As years went by, the Queen not only attended Buckingham Palace at Disraeli’s invitation but would stay longer in London. She began to surface in public more, no longer only reachable by correspondence. She even traveled to visit Disraeli, something she would rarely do for her extended family. People were beginning to notice the Widow leaving Windsor.
While he had used flattery to gain trust, Disraeli actually loved his Queen and was in awe of stature. He did not mind the Republicans and Liberals who mocked his flowery treatment of the Queen. He believed that adoration was the way royalty should be treated, to maintain that glossy layer of glamor and imagination for the betterment of one’s country. In the 1850’s, a young Disraeli had written The Young England trilogy, a romantic commentary on the importance of traditional aristocracy and the English monarch . In a way, the Queen’s persona of Empire inspired Disraeli’s aggressive foreign policy, especially with Indian affairs. Both the Prime Minister and the Queen were fascinated by India, the Jewel of the British Empire. Victoria loved reading about India from her son’s tours of the territory and even added a room to Osborne House dedicated to Indian art sent from the subcontinent . She was particularly struck by Albert’s account of seeing a sign in the Indian crowd proclaiming, “Welcome to our Future Emperor” . To Victoria, this confirmed her belief that India was not just British, but distinctly hers.
In 1876, Victoria shifted from absent queen due to a bill, crafted by Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli. This bill would ultimately bring Victoria back into the identity of British foreign policy. The bill was the Royal Titles Act of 1876, which would grant Victoria the title of “Empress of India” in addition to her standard title of “Queen of United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland” . This bill would position Victoria in front of the public eye and make her synonymous with Empire once more. It was an empty gesture since Britain already had control over India directly since the Great Mutiny of 1857. The title was a ceremonious attempt to tie the Crown to its imperial reaches as well as to rejuvenate an image the Queen herself had noticed was diminishing. Her eldest daughter, Vicky was marrying Emperor Frederick III and would claim the title of Empress. Victoria loathed the thought of being outranked by her daughter. She also noticed the national celebrations across the globe, such as the centennial commemoration of the United States and felt as if she deserved a celebration. The Queen, for years, had always thought of herself as Empress, often signing letters to her children with “Empress” as her title . The question of elevating Victoria’s title to Empress had been discussed, and dismissed due to the negative connotation attached to the title used by the French Empire and the German Empire. In 1876, Victoria was insistent, and Disraeli took the issue to Parliament. Disraeli, however, urged Victoria to settle for “Empress of India”, knowing there would be some backlash if she abandoned the title of “Queen” altogether. Disraeli saw the supplemental title as a natural progression since the Great Mutiny of 1857. It would neatly tie his conservative party to the Queen and Empire. Above all, it would declare to the world that British rule of India and the Queen’s magnificence were indisputable .
In 1876, Victoria, to the shock of politicians, went into Parliament and gave a speech in which she suggested the title of “Empress of India”, citing the lack of a distinct title since 1857 as well as the importance of her son’s trip to the British Raj . Disraeli argued that the title would act in accord to the contemporary system of the British Empire, and increase loyalty to the Queen in India, especially amongst the Indian princes they sought to unify under the Crown. It would place Victoria distinctly within Indian class structure as a replacement for a Mughal emperor. The Act would also be a clear message to other countries, such as Russia, to not encroach on Asia. He assured that it was only in name, and would be beneficial to both subjects in England and subjects in India. He defended, “Let the people of India feel that there is a sympathetic chord between us and them, and do not let Europe suppose for a moment that there are any in this House who are not deeply conscious of the importance of our Indian Empire” . Disraeli said to one cabinet member, “The Empress-Queen demands her Imperial Crown” . In his speech he proudly declared, “I am empowered, therefore, to say that the title would be ‘Empress,’and that Her Majesty would be ‘Victoria, by the Grace of God, of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, Queen, Defender of the Faith, and Empress of India” . Disraeli’s speech, as well as her own, elevated the Widow of Windsor, determined to give her back her imperial identity.
Naturally, there was loud opposition to the Royal Titles Act of 1876 considering the rise of republicanism and the Liberal Party in the past decade. The Empress title was seen by some in Parliament as a step towards despotism, moving backward against progress. The Liberal Party argued that the title would confuse the recent evolution of the constitutional monarchy, where the Queen had little to no power. The question of elevating Victoria’s title to Empress had been discussed before and dismissed due to the negative connotation attached to the title used by the French Empire and the German Empire. The demise of the Roman Empire especially had given the title of “Emperor” a bitter aftertaste. Others in the House of Commons argued there was no point considering Britain’s might was already well known. In the media, there was conflict as well over the bill. While Punch was delighted with Victoria’s resurface to public life, the satirical magazine criticized the Royal Titles Bill. They published “The Queen With Two Heads”, in which Disraeli was portrayed as a pub owner adding a second head to the Queen’s portrait above the bar. Punch was shown below crying, “No, No, Benjamin, It will never do; You can’t improve on the old!” . A second cartoon was published, depicting Disraeli as an Indian prince offering a new Indian crown to the Queen for her English crown . As always, Punch did not portray Victoria in a negative way, opting to blame Disraeli even though Victoria wanted the title more than Disraeli. Victoria was confused and frustrated by the opposition to the Royal Titles Bill, writing in her diary: “There was no difference whatever except officially adding after Queen of Great Britain, Empress of India, the name which is best understood in the East, but which Great Britain never has acknowledged to be higher than Queen!” . It seemed as if the Queen and Disraeli were facing the consequences of her long and resented absence.
However, Disraeli was correct in that imperialists would welcome the Royal Titles Bill. Members of Prime Minister Disraeli’s Conservative party agreed with his argument for a more unified British Raj, noting it would be a figurative way to bring India closer to Britain, without the perilous anglicization which had led to the Great Mutiny of 1857. The empty gesture had the duality of localization and expansion. British editorials echoed the conservative party’s points such as The Spectator. Their editorial noted the favorable response from Englishmen abroad in India, stating, “The Queen would be Empress of India BECAUSE she was Queen of England” . Public approval began to increase over the bill because of these editorials.
The Bill passed on April 27th, 1876 after much debate both in Parliament and in the press. It was passed on the understanding that Victoria would be Queen of Britain and then Empress of India. Victoria did not care about the semantics of the title, signing her diary and letters as “Victoria Regina & Imperatrix” . In gratitude, she awarded Benjamin Disraeli the title of Earl of Beaconsfield as well as a portrait of his Fairy Empress. While the Royal Titles Act affected his popularity and subsequent election, Benjamin Disraeli had done what no other Prime Minister had done: the restoration of Victoria’s public identity.
If the British missed the public spectacles of their royalty during Victoria’s mourning, the Proclamation held in Delhi did not disappoint on New Year’s Day 1877. The Spectator reported that Lord Lytton arrived in Delhi on a giant elephant followed by a parade of all the members of the British Raj government office as well as 15,000 troops . All Indian princes were invited to attend, while some Indian princes received honors and compensation at the event . With the help of Disraeli, Lord Lytton carefully styled the event to evoke memories of a Mughal Emperor in terms of decadence and location. The Court of Delhi was the traditional medieval meeting place for the ruler and the people, ultimately transposing the absence of an Indian king with Victoria. While the Queen was not in attendance, thousands of Indian subjects came to hear her telegram . It was so successful that it spurned a new British tradition, subsequent monarchs held royal proclamations in Delhi, similar in style. In Windsor, Victoria held a banquet to celebrate the Proclamation at Delhi, wearing Indian jewels and the finest garments, as “Dizzy” Disraeli toasted his “Imperial Majesty” . Victoria was no longer the absentee queen, but the mighty Queen of Great Britain and Ireland, Defender of Faith, Empress of India. There was no line separating her from Empire in England and across the world.
The Queen, at fifty-eight years old, was gaining back her people’s popularity as she emerged as the voice and face of the Empire. For example, her criticism of the Liberal Party often resonated with the liberal public, such as her reproach of Gladstone over the death of the national hero, General Charles Gordon at Khartoum in 1885 . Photographs in the press started to show an elderly Victoria with her many grandchildren, symbolizing her role as the Mother of not only Europe but the world. As she was becoming more beloved, Disraeli lost his re-election in 1880 to the Liberal Gladstone and passed away the following year. The Queen was devastated by the passing of Disraeli, but surprisingly did not return to private life. The Queen selected the funeral flowers based on Disraeli’s romantic notions of the Faery Queen and A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream. Victoria then traveled to his grave, leaving another wreath of primroses, leading to a public increase in primrose sales . Disraeli would have been pleased that even in death, he was portraying the Queen in a favorable way.
As Empress of India, Victoria moved from a public imagination to geographical spaces in all corners of the Empire. The Royal Titles Act of 1876 instructed the minting of new coins throughout the Empire that included the imperial title . Her image and her name were everywhere. Landmarks, towns, buildings, and monuments were named after the Queen constantly. During her reign, the Empire saw the introduction of the six lakes, two capes, a harbor, a portion of the Nile, a bridge, an Australian colony, a Canadian city, and numerous villages in South Africa all named after Victoria . Streets were named for the Queen in all the major cities of the Empire from London to Sydney. The number of monuments erected in the Queen’s likeness goes well into the hundreds. The Queen’s birthday was celebrated throughout the world as an imperial holiday. British subjects could not escape the Queen’s influence even if they tried.
If the Royal Titles Act had catapulted Victoria back to divine status, her subsequent 1887 Golden Jubilee and 1897 Diamond Jubilee cemented it. The latter was not only one of the first public events to be filmed but the first time a monarch had reached a sixty year reign . In 1887, Victoria, in a royal carriage followed by a procession, toured London to the massive applause and adoration of her people. The attendance of her entire extended family highlighted how Victoria had become the “Mother of Europe”. Still thinking of Albert, the Queen chose a black gown, but it hardly mattered to the people anymore. The largest advertising campaigns ever seen in nineteenth century England were for the Jubilees, exciting the British population for weeks for the upcoming festivities. The Times had columns dedicated to figuring out the best place to stand during the procession . Department stores sold Jubilee souvenirs and products displaying the Queen’s likeness. Manufacturers would advertise their products, stating their goods were used by the Queen herself . Vanity Fair estimated an average of two million people lined the London street route for a glimpse to see their Queen . Celebrations were not confined to London, as the rest of the Empire held festivities in their respective cities. In 1897, Victoria sent a telegram around the world to all her imperial subjects, “From my heart I thank my beloved people. God bless them!” . It was evident from the worldwide celebration that Victoria’s image had created homogeneity in a vast and complicated Empire.
Queen Victoria died in 1901, considerably more beloved than she was even at her coronation. The publication, Advocate For Peace, wrote:
“Because of her long reign, her pure and noble womanhood, her power for righteousness in English and general public life, the wonderful progress of the world during her lifetime, and her influence for peace amongst nations, Queen Victoria’s death has made an impression upon the world such as that of no other sovereign has ever produced, or is likely to produce.”
The magazine, Punch, who had followed the Queen throughout her whole reign, published a solemn tribute upon her death. The cartoon depicts Lady Britannia holding a rose in mourning for the Queen . Victoria, at the time, was the longest reigning monarch Britain had ever seen. The Queen’s Empire had transformed in the sixty three years she had been its role model from a blossoming empire to the premiere world power, stretching from Africa to Canada.
The Royal Titles Act of 1876 demonstrated the necessity of the imperialization of the monarchy in order to keep the monarchy alive as well as to reinforce the imperial agenda for the people. When Prince Albert was alive, the British Empire was still growing, still very much in the periphery of the British psyche. After the Royal Titles Act, the Empire was considerably more cohesive, linked by tradition and hierarchy. Prior to Victoria, the monarchy was a dusty tradition, one that had lost its power as each generation passed. By Victoria’s death, the monarchy was considerably more important, more glamorous, and more imperial. The ceremonies and traditions set by Queen Victoria during her reign, specifically the second half, became the standard for her successors, not only in Britain, but the rest of Europe. The Empire, a complex entity connecting people, economy, and land, may have been ruled by Parliament but it was maintained through the marketing of a fashionable and patriotic authority figure. Victoria, through embodying Empire, connected the British Empire as a realm. Benjamin Disraeli had known the power behind her image as the built-in public relations for imperial pursuits. After all, the monarchy was the most recognizable feature of English culture and history. Modernity, which had taken away the monarchy’s governmental control, offered a new form of power to the Queen through the new media industry. Without Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli, it could be argued that the monarchy would have been discarded through republican discourse. However, it could also be argued that the British Empire then would have lacked the sole element that gave it any semblance of congruity, potentially leading to instability. To the people, Victoria justified every British citizen, government office, and military service scattered across the globe. She was their role model, their mother, and their archetype of British excellence. The British projected English royal structure on the world, pining Victoria the Empress of India to the top of the hierarchy, reaffirming their international superiority.