With a different tone to our first long weekend, why not change the theme to a retro birthday celebration: “The British queen was born on May 24, 1819. She was a reigning monarch (Queen) for 63 years, seven months and two days. Victoria Day was declared a Canadian holiday by the government in 1845. At that time, it was celebrated with picnics, parades, sporting tournaments, fireworks and cannon salutes. When Queen Victoria died in 1901, Canada’s parliament officially named the holiday Victoria Day.”
If you follow the royal family, you know that Queen Elizabeth II, recently surpassed Queen Victoria (her great-great grandmother) as the longest reigning British monarch, however Queen Victoria is noted with being the “Mother of Confederation” who encouraged Canadian unity and self-government and selected Ottawa as “the Westminster of the wilderness.” Here are some digital books and other resources to take you on a "deep dive" into the life of Victoria.
To go along with tea and scones, download a biographical look at Queen Victoria’s life:
Queen Victoria by Elizabeth Longford – “Queen Victoria is the longest-reigning monarch in British history. In this concise biography, Lady Longford, long recognised as an authority on the subject, gives a full account of Queen Victoria's life and provides her unique assessment of the monarch. Victoria ascended the throne in 1837 on the death of her uncle William IV. In 1840, she married her first cousin, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, and for the next twenty years they were inseperable. Their descendants were to succeed to most of the thrones of Europe. When Albert died in 1861, Victoria's overwhelming grief meant that she virtually withdrew from public life. This perceived dereliction of her duty, coupled with rumours about her relationship with her Scottish ghillie John Brown, led to increasing criticism. Coaxed back into the public eye by Disraeli, she resumed her former enthusiasm for political and constitutional matters with vigour until her death in 1901.”
An Audience with Queen Victoria by Ian Lloyd – “One of Britain's most famous and longest serving rulers, Queen Victoria saw widespread change across her empire. During her sixty-three-year reign, in which she became one of the most powerful and influential people in the world, Victoria met everyone from Florence Nightingale to 'Buffalo Bill', as well as royalty from around the world with whom she exchanged truly unique gifts. After meeting the exalted monarch her subjects often recorded their impressions of her, sometimes favourable and sometimes not, and she wasn't shy with her opinion either. The records range from her less than enamoured assessment of 'Greatest Showman' P.T. Barnum and her opinions about Jack the Ripper, to how much she enjoyed Jane Eyre and the affection she held for her family. An Audience with Queen Victoria examines the meetings and letters exchanged between the Queen and a veritable 'who's who' of her time. Through brand-new archival research, newspapers and interviews with descendants, sit right alongside Victoria and, for the first time, experience queenship from her perspective.”
If you are looking for a more jovial approach, celebrate with cake, and some fun fiction picks featuring her royal highness:
The Royal Assassin by Kate Parker – “When the Duke of Blackford enters her bookstore, Georgia knows the Archivist Society is in need of her services. The Tsar of Russia and his family are visiting Queen Victoria on the auspices of the engagement of the Russian princess Kira to the son of the Queen's cousin. When Kira's bodyguard is found dead on a train returning from Scotland, the Queen calls on Blackford to discreetly protect the princess and prevent an international incident. The Russian royalty refuses help in finding the murderer, suspecting anarchists and demanding every extremist in London be hanged. But that is far from the English way. To get the job done, Georgia must go undercover as Kira's English secretary. She soon discovers that anarchy isn't the only motive in the case—and that someone is determined to turn royal wedding bells into a funeral dirge.”
Halfhyde for the Queen by Philip McCutchan – “In Andalusia, Lieutenant St Vincent Halfhyde is sent by the unpredictable Captain Watkiss on a secret mission ashore: to aid the Queen's Messenger who is being pursued by nefarious Spanish agents. But when Halfhyde discovers a plot to kill Queen Victoria herself, the stakes are raised. Now he and the rest of his flotilla must face down the Spanish Navy and get the Messenger back to Britain with vital information.”
Victoria & Abdul by Shabrani Basu - "History's most unlikely friendship—this is the astonishing story of Queen Victoria and her dearest companion, the young Indian Munshi Abdul Karim. In the twilight years of her reign, after the devastating deaths of her two great loves—Prince Albert and John Brown—Queen Victoria meets tall and handsome Abdul Karim, a humble servant from Agra waiting tables at her Golden Jubilee. The two form an unlikely bond and within a year Abdul becomes a powerful figure at court, the Queen's teacher, her counsel on Urdu and Indian affairs, and a friend close to her heart. This marked the beginning of the most scandalous decade in Queen Victoria's long reign. As the royal household roiled with resentment, Victoria and Abdul's devotion grew in defiance. Drawn from secrets closely guarded for more than a century, Victoria & Abdul is an extraordinary and intimate history of the last years of the nineteenth-century English court and an unforgettable view onto the passions of an aging Queen."
Reading with the kids?
The Mouse with the Question Mark Tail by Richard Peck - "The smallest mouse in London's Royal Mews is such a little mystery that he hasn't even a name. And who were his parents? His Aunt Marigold, Head Needlemouse, sews him a uniform and sends him off to be educated at the Royal Mews Mouse Academy. There he's called "Mouse Minor" (though it's not quite a name), and he doesn't make a success of school. Soon he's running for his life, looking high and low through the grand precincts of Buckingham Palace to find out who he is and who he might become. Queen Victoria ought to be able to help him, if she can communicate with mice. She is all-seeing, after all, and her powers are unexplainable. But from her, Mouse Minor learns only that you do not get all your answers from the first asking. And so his voyage of self-discovery takes him onward, to strange and wonderful places."
Or grab the popcorn, and select these titles from Hoopla Television:
Victoria and Albert’s Highland Fling – Tony Robinson tells the very personal tale of Victoria and Albert’s love of the Scottish mountains. This is also a story of the complete image makeover of an entire nation. Tony heads for Blair Castle, the location of Victoria and Albert’s first visit to the Highlands in 1844. The royal couple were soon besotted. The area reminded Albert of his green and mountainous homeland. Tony ends his walk on the shore of Loch Muick where Victoria built a lodge house after Albert’s death. The 'widow’s house' was also the house her husband had always wanted. Sbs.com
Victoria and Albert: The Wedding - Lucy Worsley re-stages the wedding of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. Aided by a team of experts, Lucy recreates the most important elements of the ceremony and the celebrations, scouring history books, archives, newspapers, and Queen Victoria's diaries for the details. She'll reveal how every moment was brilliantly stage-managed for maximum effect. Like every good marriage celebration, the series is a heady mix of fine food, fabulous clothes, music, emotion, gossip, and intrigue. From the white dress to the tiered white cake, from the music to the moment rings were exchanged, each element will be carefully researched and remade for a grand staging of the big day itself. Woven into the recreation of the wedding day is the story of Victoria and Albert's courtship and engagement. Lucy unpacks and explores the hidden iconography and symbolism of this hugely significant wedding, and reveals how this one extraordinary event helped to invent modern marriage. PBS.org
Happy Victoria Day!