The Victorian Period 1837 - 1901

Find out more about the Victorian Period in Britain by using a combination of the timeline and synopsis below as well as our posts. Find new intriguing connections using our themed history pages. Explore the world of science, the arts, church, government or law. Discover more about this dynamic and complicated period as Britain struggled to balance poverty and social injustice with industrial growth and trade and the wealth it generated. 

Period: Victorian Period 1837-1901

1837 - 1901Victoria daughter of George III's 4th son Duke of Kent succeeds William IV, she was just 18.
1835 - 1841Whig Government led the Queen's friend Viscount Melbourne, William Lamb as Prime Minister.
1838 - 1839Chartist meetings.
1839 - 1842First Afghan War.
1840Victoria married Prince Albert on 10 February 1840 at the Chapel Royal, St James’s Palace
1840 - 1901Princess Victoria Adelaide Mary Louisa was born 21 November 1840. She would become was German Empress and Queen of Prussia by marriage to German Emperor Frederick III.
1841 - 1846Conservative Government led by Sir Robert Peel as Prime Minister.
1846 - 1859No single party commanded an overall majority enabling Victoria and Albert to exert their influence beyond transient political parties during this period.
1846 - 1852Whig Government led by Lord John Russell as Prime Minister.
1841Prince Edward was born to Victoria and Albert on 9 Nov 1841 at Buckingham Palace. He was their 1s born child and son.
1842Cession of Hong Kong
1843Princess Alice Maud Mary was born to Victoria and Albert their 2nd daughter of many children.
1844 - 1900Prince Alfred Ernest Albert is born to Victoria and Albert 6 August 1844.
1845 - 1849The Sikh wars.
1847Mary Anning English fossil collector, dealer and scientist died.
1848The end of Chartism
1849Sir Aston Webb was born. An English architect who designed the front facade of Buckingham Palace , the Queen Victoria Memorial and Admiralty Arch.
1850David Copperfield by Charles Dickens was published. This novel was practically an autobiography, his characters presenting us with a perhaps overblown version of life in Victorian Britain still draw for us the Victorian English scene.
1851Victoria involved in composition of several ministries succeeds in dismissal of Foreign Secretary Palmerston.
1852Conservative Government Feb- Dec only led by Edward Smith Stanley, the Earl of Derby.
1852Death of the Duke of Wellington.
1852 - 1855Peelite Government led by George Hamilton Gordon, the Earl of Aberdeen.
1853 - 1856Crimean War.
1854 - 1855Siege of Sebastopol.
1854 - 1856Florence Nightingale 1820 - 1910 worked as a nurse in Crimea. English social reformer and statistician, and the founder of modern nursing.
1855 - 1858Whig Government led by Henry John Temple, Viscount Palmerston
1856William Buckland, who described the first dinosaur and who was also geologist, paleontologist, zoologist, priest, lecturer, died.
1857The Indian Mutiny. The immediate cause was the protest of a cavalry regiment in favour of colleagues who had been imprisoned for refusing to use newly issued cartridges coated with grease made of a mixture of pork and beef fat, which resulted in both Muslims and Hindus being insulted. The sepoys murdered their officers and marched on Delhi.
1858 - 1859Conservative Government Feb- Dec only led by Edward Smith Stanley, the Earl of Derby for the 2nd term.
1859 - 1865Liberal Government led by Henry John Temple, Viscount Palmerston his 2nd term but this time having changed party.
1861Albert died from Typhoid Fever in December, the Queen stricken with grief effectively withdraws from public life.
1863 Prince Edward aged 21 married Princess Alexandra of Denmark at St George's Chapel, Windsor Castle, on 10 March 1863, Alexandra was 18.
1865 - 1866Liberal Government now led John Russell as Prime Minister and Earl Russell in his 2nd term again having changed party to become a Liberal.
1866 - 1868Conservative Government led in now his 3rd term by the Earl of Derby, Edward Stanley Smith.
1867Representation of the People Act. Also known as the second reform act.
1868 - 1868Conservative Government led by Benjamin Disraeli in his 1st term as Prime Minister which was to be short Feb - Dec only of that same year. He would be back.
1868 - 1874Liberal Government led by William Ewart Gladstone in his 1st term as Prime Minister
1869Sir Edwin Landseer Lutyens was born. An English architect who designed many English country houses, war memorials and public buildings.
1870Charles Dickens died.
1871Charles Babbage, mathematician, philosopher, inventor and mechanical engineer, Babbage originated the concept of a digital programmable computer, died.
1874 - 1880Conservative Government led by Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli in his 2nd term.
1877 - 1901Empress of India, this title was bestowed by the Queen's greatest political and personal friend Benjamin Disraeli with whom she had natural and effective rapport.
1880 - 1885Liberals were back in Government with William Gladstone as Prime Minister in his 2nd term. The Queen least liked Gladstone and frequently opposed his policies. In particular she opposed him on Irish Home Rule.
1885Lord Shaftsbury died.
1885-1886First Salisbury Ministry.
1886Gold discovered in Transvaal
1886Third Gladstone Ministry. Home Rule Bill
1886 - 1892Second Salisbury Ministry.
1887Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee, restored to public life her popularity reawakened, the largely ceremonial function of the British Monarchy was now firmly established.
1888Matthew Arnold died.
1889Robert Browning died.
1889London County Council was founded.
1890Edwin Chadwick died. He was a social reformer who is noted for his leadership in reforming the Poor Laws in England and instituting major reforms in urban sanitation and public health.
1892Lord Tennyson died. He was poet laureate for two thirds of Queen Victoria's reign and was the only man to be given a peerage solely for his poetry.
1892 - 1901Edward Prince of Wales was denied access o State Papers and involvement in affairs of state until 1892. Finally from here on in he is copied in and consulted on matters requiring the involvement of the monarchy it its role supporting the government of the Day.
1893Second Home Rule Bill. Independent Labour Party.
1894Gladstone retires.
1894Tower Bridge London opened, building started on the bridge in 1886.
1897Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria
1897Building of the Boundary St Estate in London. This venture into a new era of social housing replaced the old Nichol slum. It was opened in 1900.
1899 - 1902Boer War
1900Zeppelins Relief of Mafeking
1900Labour Party formed.
1901Queen Victoria died on 22 Jan 1901 at Osborne House her family home with Albert. She had become the Matriarch of European Monarchy and Britain now had the largest Empire on earth which the Queen as Monarch was the obvious link across her dominions. One person in four was her subject. What a burden for her son, so long the King in waiting.

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

Queen Victoria

Alexandra Feodorovna

Queen Victoria with Alexandra as a child.

The Victorians, a new rule

Queen Victoria was the only British Monarch to have a period in history named after a single King or Queen, Queen Elizabeth I and the Elizabethans were still under the mantle of the Tudors. Queen Victoria would reign for longer than any monarch previously had and have established an Empire at its peak when she died. The British Empire was the largest Empire ever and one in four inhabitants would be her subjects. This was a period in history which would see much change including the full bloom of the industrial revolution.

Victorian wealth

The wealth was still within the hands of a limited few, although the 'merchant classes' were now establishing themselves as business people and becoming the new magnates.  The new barons, or what we might call the 'nouveau riche' were  joining the hereditary landowners and aristocracy. The Victorians had inherited a magnificent country from the Georgians. They would still leave the poor behind, with only the punitive Workhouse System to provide some form of shelter when in dire need. Equality and equal rights were still evading the common man, never mind woman. In a period of such progress and imperial expansion, almost unbelievable that there was no more social progress at the same time. There would be pockets of philanthropic kindness but British Society still had much to learn and improve upon as the Queen died.

Victorian industrial might

When Victoria came to the throne, Britain produced two thirds of the world's coal, half it's iron, two thirds of it's steel production and an enormous half of the world's entire output of cotton textile. A huge number of goods were traded in and out of British ports and over 40% of them were manufactured in Britain. The Victorians enforced open trade between nations, even using military force when it seemed such trade might be restricted, such as in China and Japan. From such a height there could only be one direction in which to move and by the end of Victoria's reign the downward slide had begun.

Victorian Age of Reform

The Victorian period is often called the 'Age of Reform'. Reform swept through many areas, there were social reform bills, political and constitutional reform as well as economic reform. In fact, life was changing so rapidly in Britain that it was difficult for government to keep apace with the acts that needed to be drawn. Many of these reform acts were associated with the growth of population and the growth of industry. Health and factory acts were needed to protect workers including the hours and condition of factory children and women. The repeal of the Corn Laws was probably the most far reaching of the reform acts and affected everyone.



Queen Victoria with King George V

Queen Victoria at Osborne House her favourite residence with the futre King George V and family

There are many strands to our Victorian Period, but we will link all the key elements for this period here as we progress. You might also like to take a look at our 19th Century and Agricultural and Industrial Revolution or Social Change and Reform collections as well.