Victoria: Widowhood and Later Years
In 1861, Albert (who had been named prince consort in 1857) died. Victoria's grief was so great that she did not appear in public for three years and did not open Parliament until 1866; her prolonged seclusion damaged her popularity. Her reappearance was largely the work of Benjamin Disraeli, who, together with William Gladstone, dominated the politics of the latter part of Victoria's reign.
Disraeli, adroit in his personal relations with Victoria, became the queen's great favorite. In 1876 he secured for her the title empress of India, which pleased her greatly; she was ardently imperialistic and intensely interested in the welfare of her colonial subjects, particularly the Indians. Victoria's relations with Gladstone, on the other hand, were very stiff; she disliked him personally and disapproved of many of his policies, especially Irish Home Rule.
In her old age, Victoria was enormously popular. Jubilees were held in 1887 and 1897 to celebrate the 50th and 60th years of the longest English reign (until that of Elizabeth II). The queen was not highly intelligent, but her conscientiousness and strict morals helped to restore the prestige of the crown and to establish it as a symbol of public service and imperial unity.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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