Women Who Ruled: Queen Victoria, part 3

​”I was awoke at six o’clock by Mamma, who told me the Archbishop of Canterbury and Lord Conyngham were here and wished to see me. I got out of bed and went into my sitting-room (only in my dressing gown) and alone, and saw them. Lord Conyngham then acquainted me that my poor Uncle, the King, was no more, and had expired at twelve minutes past two this morning, and consequently that am Queen.”

Queen Victoria’s coronation at Westminster Abbey on June 28, 1838 drew over 400,000 people to London. As a young unmarried woman, social convention required her to live with her mother still. She banished Sir Conroy from her presence, although he remained in her mother’s household. Advisors reminded her marriage was an alternative, but she did not want to squash her budding romance to Prince Albert with early matrimony. 

In 1839 the popular monarch was faced with her first court scandal, when her mother’s lady-in-waiting Lady Flora Hastings developed an abdominal bulge. The ever proper Victoria believed widely circulated rumors that Lady Flora was pregnant with the bastard child of Sir Conroy. Hating both of them for their role in her isolated childhood, Victoria pressed the issue. Lady Flora relented to demands for an invasive nude medical exam, which concluded she was a virgin. She died a few months later and an autopsy revealed a large abdominal tumor was the cause of her death. 

Lady Flora’s family, Conroy, and the opposition party the Tories collaborated on a press campaign against the monarch for spreading slanders and lies about her mother’s lady. They also accused her of improper relations with her advisor, Prime Minister Melbourne of the Whig Party. Based on their letters, her diary entries, and his statements about her, it seems much more likely their relationship was closer to a father and daughter than between two lovers. 

Prince Albert and Queen Victoria met for the second time when he visited her at Windsor in October, 1839. Only five days after his arrival, the Queen of England proposed to him. He gladly accepted and the two were wed in the Chapel Royal of St. James’s Palace in London, on February 10, 1840. Victoria positively gushed about their wedding night in her diary the next evening. 

“I NEVER, NEVER spent such an evening!!! MY DEAREST DEAREST DEAR Albert… his excessive love and affection gave me feelings of heavenly love & happiness I never could have hoped to have felt before! He clasped me in his arms & we kissed each other again & again! His beauty, his sweetness and gentleness — really how can I ever be thankful enough to have such a Husband! …to be called by names of tenderness, I have never yet heard used to me before — was bliss beyond belief! Oh! This was the happiest day of my life!”

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