The outspoken Queen Victoria

Queen Victoria was such a strong figurehead, her name defined an entire era of Britain. Here are some of her most memorable and outspoken quotes (and a bit of context).

 

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

Queen Victoria reigned over Britain from May 1837–January 1901, which made her the longest reigning British monarch, until Queen Elizabeth II took that title in September.

Queen Victoria's 50th anniversary
The 50th anniversary of Queen Victoria's coronation 

In spite of this lengthy reign, Victoria’s popularity waxed and waned. She did much to strengthen the monarchy and the British Empire but by the end of her reign she was less of a direct power in government and more of a figurehead.

 

 

“A marriage is no amusement but a solemn act, and generally a sad one.”

To hear such a statement today—in a time where 42% of marriages end in divorce—might not be so unusual. But this was 19th century Britain—and it said by a woman. No doubt it would have made a few tongues wag at the time.

Domestic Bliss? Queen Victoria and Prince Albert

On the surface, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert had achieved domestic bliss, but their relationship was much more complicated than that. It was very much an equal relationship, in terms of sharing royal duties, but it was a constant power.

The Queen began to resent her numerous pregnancies, as it met she had to hand over her royal obligations to Albert. This led to jealousy and tantrums.

To say it was an unhappy marriage would be a lie. It was certainly impassioned, fueled with both rows, and sexual infatuation but they truely admired each other.  

When Albert died in 1861, Victoria would spend the next 40 years (until she herself died) in mourning. After that day she only ever appeared in black.

 

 

“An ugly baby is a very nasty object—and the prettiest is frightful.”

Unlike the many faceless predecessors (with the exception of Henry VIII and Elizabeth I, how readily and accurately visualise past monarchs?) her image is enduring, thanks in part to the invention of photography.

Queen Victoria is not amused
Contrary to popular belief Queen Victoria never said "we are not amused", in fact the grumpy perception of the Queen is entirely inaccurate.

But it isn’t just her image that will endure. Far from the above statement being somewhat grumpy, the Queen had a wicked sense of humour, which has gone down in history.

 

 

“We are not interested in the possibilities of defeat; they do not exist.”

Right up until her death in 1901, Queen Victoria fought to strengthen the British Empire. The above was said in relation to the Boer War. But one can’t help relate the sentiment to her reign, which would come to an end just one year later. 

Queen Victoria, glum after losing the title of longest reigning monarch

Many views from the Victorian era, particularly those regarding the British Empire, are out-dated. Fortunately, Queen Elizabeth II has overseen decolonisation and has brought Britain into a modern era, of which its residents can be proud.

Read more about Queen Elizabeth II and Queen Victoria

Buy, The Queen's Speech, a study the queen's life told through her speeches

Browse films about the Queen at the Reader's Digest shop