Let’s face it, no one really knows exactly when (or even if) Queen Victoria uttered her famous line. Some say that it was in response to an indelicate joke told to Her Majesty and her ladies-in-waiting by a male equerry; others say that it was her reaction to a performance of Gilbert and Sullivan’s H.M.S. Pinafore. Still others say that Victoria would never have made such a remark (indeed, she is said to have denied it herself), and that she had a robust, earthy sense of humor, and an an infectious giggle and laugh. None of that is obvious in contemporary portraits of the lady (although having one’s photograph taken at the time was a lengthy and–I should think in her case, just based on her outfits–a sweaty and uncomfortable process). But any number of contemporary movies (Mrs. Brown, Victoria and Abdul, The Young Victoria, as well as the recent multi-year ITV/PBS television serialization have shown her more human side. Although sometimes it’s hard to know with this sort of thing where history ends, revisionism begins, and what role marketing and ratings play in the introduction of the occasional bits of tasteful, even if just implied, bodice-ripping.
Alexandrina Victoria was born two hundred two years ago on 24th May, 1819. Like her great-great-granddaughter Elizabeth, Victoria became Queen at a very young age (it was in 1837, and she was eighteen). And until Elizabeth surpassed her as both the longest-reigning and longest-lived British monarch, Victoria held both records.
When Victoria was born, several Founding Fathers of the United States were still alive. And when she died in 1901, Dwight Eisenhower, the man who was President when I was born, was ten years old. Such a young country, this United States.