Women Who Ruled: Queen Victoria, part 12

Queen Victoria inherited an empire which sprawled from Australia to the Caribbean. Under her reign it expanded even farther. She thought of herself as a benign and civilizing influence, protecting weak nations from more aggressive alternatives. “It is not in our custom to annexe countries, unless we are obliged & forced to do so.”While this can at least be argued in the case of the Indian subcontinent, her “jewel of the realm”, it was most certainly not the case for Africa. 

Charles Darwin’s a-hole half cousin Sir Francis Galton used Origin of Species to support his existing biases against disabled and poor people. He theorized that human altruism in the form of compassion and aid to these groups coddled and preserved genes nature would weed out; thus weakening the human gene pool overall. He built on the work of earlier quackish disciplines based in bigotry, like phrenology and “scientific racism”. 

Victoria, Albert, and most of England accepted eugenics as legitimate science, and used it to justify the annexation of much of the African continent. Over the course of her rule England invaded and ruled over lands in the modern day nations of Yemen, Botswana, Kenya, Somaliland, The Gambia, Kuwait, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Tanzania, and the United Arab Emirates. Queen Victoria favored prime ministers with expansionist policies. 

The British Army that fought in the Crimean and East India Company wars was comprised largely of upper class nobles who’d purchased their rank. This led to poor discipline, untrained men in charge, and many abandoned the battle field. Lifelong or 21-year enlistments were common, and the ranks were filled with veterans but few newer recruits. 

Between those wars and the many invasions of Africa (and South America and Asia) a non-war with France helped change the composition of the British military. A French immigrant living in England attempted to assassinate Napoleon III. English middle and lower class families feared war with France and wanted to restore the defunct militia. They formed volunteer rifle brigades, which Parliament officially recognized and organized with the Volunteer Act of 1863. 

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