by J. Woods, 1837
I have always been fascinated by the history of the British Monarchy. Love them or hate them, they have been an interesting cast of characters on the world's stage. The inclination in the 21st Century is to do away with the Monarchy and move towards a Republic. That may evolve naturally, as these things often seem to do. But in any case, if the Monarchy didn't exist, we would invent them. Somehow it seems to be part of the human condition. I wonder if we would invent as interesting a bunch of people as we have now. Oh, they seem dull, but trust me -- they're not. Even with the unfortunate, beleaguered Diana gone, the Royals still never fail to entertain. Three of my favorite Royals were the longest-reigning Queens -- Elizabeth I, Victoria, and Elizabeth II. These were not women who sat back and allowed themselves to be pampered. Well, okay, maybe they were pampered, and they lived in unimaginable wealth and privilege. But they were also the CEOs of an enormous world-wide organization. It is said of Queen Elizabeth II that she is one of the most politically astute, savvy and knowledgeable people in the world today when it comes to politics and current affairs. Queen Elizabeth I and Queen Victoria were no dummies either. When each of these three interesting women became Queen, they were all much younger than
Queen Elizabeth I was 25 years old when she ascended the throne, and she remained Queen for 45 years until her death in 1603. Her reign was called The Golden Age, and for me it is one of the most fascinating periods in history. When Elizabeth first came to power, England was an insignificant country, and when she died England had become a major power, both nationally and internationally. One of the most fascinating aspects of the Elizabethan period was the cooking. Many amazing recipes were created in Queen Elizabeth I's day. New foods such as tomatoes and potatoes were introduced from the New World, along with exotic spices from the Orient. An Elizabethan home would employ dozens of servants, each with a specific task. Dairy maids were used to shape butter into equisite shapes such as swans and various fruit. Sugar was the equivalent of $300 a pound, and because of this only the mistress of the household was permitted to work with sugar. But wonderful desserts were created during the Elizabethan Age and they are still used today.
Queen Victoria was 18 years old when she ascended the throne -- a teenager. She was younger than most people are today when they first leave home. Her reign as the Queen lasted 63 years and 7 months, longer than that of any other British monarch before or since, and her reign is the longest of any female monarch in history. The time of her reign is known as the Victorian era, a period of great industrial, political, and scientific progress. Queen Victoria was married to her first cousin Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, and had nine children. Prince Albert died of typoid fever in 1861, and it was rumored that Queen Victoria married for a second time -- to a household servant by the name of John Brown. When Queen Victoria died, two items were placed in her coffin. One was Prince Albert's dressing gown, and the other was a lock of John Brown's hair. On her finger she wore the wedding ring of John Brown's mother.
Queen Elizabeth II was 25 years old when she ascended the throne, and as of today is the eldest ever reigning monarch in British history. She will have to reign until September 9, 2015 when she will be 89 years old to better her great-great-grandmother Queen Victoria. During Queen Elizabeth II's reign there have been 11 different Prime Ministers of the United Kingdom, and numerous Prime Ministers in the Commonwealth Realms of which she is (or was) also Head of State. She has known a total of 138 Prime Ministers and 12 U.S. Presidents during her reign. Both her mother and her Aunt Alice lived to be 102, and the Queen is healthy so she could very well live another 20 years. If that is the case, her heir to the throne -- Prince Charles -- will be 81 years old when he becomes King, and his son and heir -- Prince William -- will be 46. The British Monarchy may possibly fade into the sunset along with the British Empire after the death of Queen Elizabeth II. Many people feel it is becoming irrelevant in the 21st Century. Only time will tell.
No matter what happens to the British Monarchy, these three women will continue to be fascinating chapters in world history.