Inspiration is the key!
Just a hundred and twelve years ago she was still on the throne. Head of a global empire where the sun never sets, Queen Victoria was and still is one of the major key figures of British culture. Today, her great-great-granddaughter is about to celebrate her Diamond Jubilee, marking 60 years on the throne since her accession in 1952 and becoming the other longest reigning monarch in British history. But is that all these two female leaders have in common? I think not. There’s much more Victoria and Elizabeth have in common. Let’s see what.
First, they were both heiresses presumptive, meaning that none of them were expected to become queen. Victoria was the daughter of Prince Edward Duke of Kent and Strathearn (fourth child of King George III), who died shortly after her birth. All of King George III’s sons either became Kings and died no issues, died as heirs or could not access the throne. She was fifth in line of succession at her birth, whereas Elizabeth was third. Just like her great-great-grandmother, Princess Elizabeth was born daughter of a Duke (the future King George VI, Duke of York) and was not expected to become queen as, at the time of her birth, her uncle ‘David’ (King Edward VIII), Prince of Wales, was expected to marry and have children. His abdication changed everything, and in 1936 Elizabeth was next in line after her father George VI.
There’s always a sort of heroic aura surrounding female monarchs, as they often face criticism for being women who lead. One could say in the XIX Century things were really different, which would explain people’s reaction to the country being led by such a young unexperienced girl like Queen Victoria, who was almost 20. Elizabeth was a bit older than that, and lived in a completely different era, in a country that had just faced the horrors of World War II, but she was not immune to criticism during her first years as a ruler.
Both Queens celebrated (or is about to celebrate in the case of Queen Elizabeth) Silver, Golden and Diamond jubilees marking their years as monarchs of the United Kingdom.
As a result of their long reigns, they both were mothers of grown-up Princes of Wales. When Edward VII became king he was 60 and his reign was not longer than a decade. Surely, were Charles to inherit the throne he would already be older than Edward at the time of his accession. Both Princes were source of worries for their mothers, leading controversial lives and always at the edges of scandals and rumours. On the other hand, both can be seen as ambassadors for messages of peace (Edward tried to act as peacemaker before World War I broke out) or environmental issues, like Prince Charles.
Names are also another common element. Given the recurrance of names in Royal families, this does not sound as much as a coincidence but the name William hasn’t been featured in line of succession to the British throne since Queen Victoria’s predecessor, her uncle William IV. Elizabeth II also has a close relative with the same name and he happens to be second in line of succession. Charles and Diana’s older son will likely take the name William V once he becomes King. Another striking coincidence (or maybe not, as it probably has to do with tradition) is that both Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth II had the same names as their own mothers. Queen Victoria was the daughter of Princess Victoria of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld, whereas Queen Elizabeth was the daughter of Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon.
Surely, the Victorian era was important for many reasons, but will we ever speak of a “New Elizabethan Era” when we refer to the reign of the current monarch? Will Queen Elizabeth leave such a strong mark in the toponymy of London and other places, like her ancestor? Only recently, the proposal to name the famous landmark we all refer to as “Big Ben” as “The Elizabeth Tower” instead of “The Clock Tower” has been presented. Only time will tell if there’s more comparisons to be drawn.