Women Who Ruled: Queen Victoria, part 11

Queen Victoria had long objected the Foreign Secretary Lord Palmerston, because he would release official decrees or make statements to foreign leaders without seeking prior approval from her or Parliament. In 1851 he was removed for announcing unmitigated United Kingdom support for the successful coup of Napoleon Bonaparte. The following year he was named Emperor Napoleon III. 

The 1853-1856 Crimean War saw the two nations as allies. They joined the fray in 1854 to prevent Russia from gaining territory in the crumbling Ottoman Empire. Popular support for the war was initially high but waned as the war dragged on. In 1855 Parliament voted to investigate mismanagement of the war and the Prime Minister at the time, Earl of Aberdeen, resigned as he felt it was a vote of no confidence. 

The sacked foreign secretary she’d hated Lord Palmerston became Queen Victoria’s sixth Prime Minister. At the conclusion of the fight, at the Treaty of Paris in 1856, the monarch instituted the Victoria Cross, a military award for those who’d shown great valor in the Crimean War. Today it is still the highest honor for bravery in England, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada. 

The very next year saw rebellion in India against the British East India Company. Queen Victoria condemned actions on both sides. The Company was dissolved and the lands it had ruled were officially included in the British Empire. Victoria was stylized the Empress of India. British trade to the region increased and a kind of colonial fascination with Indian customs excited the noble class. High caste Indian scholars were sought after as private tutors. 

Reception in India to the new ruler was mixed. The British East India Company had offended devout Muslims and Hindus, while Victoria promised greater religious tolerance, inserting language to that effect in an official decree. The Company had also stripped adopted sons of their titles and inheritance, in defiance of Indian custom. The Raj, or British rule in India, restored some of those titles. Upper caste Hindu Indians were more accepting of Victoria as a result. 

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