Queen Victoria was born at Kensington Palace, London, on 24 May 1819. She was the only daughter of Edward, Duke of Kent, fourth son of George III. Warmhearted and lively, Victoria had a gift for drawing and painting; educated by a governess at home, she was a natural diarist and kept a regular journal throughout her life. On William IV's death in 1837, she became Queen at the age of 18.
In the early part of her reign, she was influenced by two men: her first Prime Minister, Lord Melbourne, and her husband, Prince Albert, whom she married in 1840. Both men taught her much about how to be a ruler in a 'constitutional monarchy' where the monarch had very few powers but could use much influence. Albert took an active interest in the arts, science, trade and industry; the project for which he is best remembered was the Great Exhibition of 1851, the profits from which helped to establish the South Kensington museums complex in London.
Her marriage to Prince Albert brought nine children between 1840 and 1857. Most of their children married into other Royal families of Europe. Victoria was deeply attached to her husband and she sank into depression after he died, aged 42, in 1861. She had lost a devoted husband and her principal trusted adviser in affairs of state. For the rest of her reign she wore black.
Under the rule of Queen Victoria, the British people enjoyed a long period of prosperity. Profits gained from the overseas British Empire, as well as from industrial improvements at home, allowed a large, educated middle class to develop. The period is often characterized as a long period of peace, known as Pax Britannica, and economic, colonial, and industrial consolidation, but the price was that Britain was at war during most of Victoria's reign.
Despite her advancing age, Victoria continued her duties to the end - including an official visit to Dublin in 1900. The Boer War in South Africa overshadowed the end of her reign. As in the Crimean War nearly half a century earlier, Victoria reviewed her troops and visited hospitals; she remained undaunted by British reverses during the campaign: "We are not interested in the possibilities of defeat; they do not exist."
Queen Victoria is associated with Britain's great age of industrial expansion, economic progress and, especially, empire. At her death on January 22, 1901, it was said, Britain had a worldwide empire on which the sun never set. She was buried at Windsor Palace beside Prince Albert, in the Frogmore Royal Mausoleum, which she had built for their final resting place.