“Victoria’s unusual childhood was the making of her reign”: Lucy Worsley on the queen’s youth

On the 200th anniversary of Queen Victoria’s birth, Lucy Worsley explores the monarch’s youth at Kensington Palace – and finds that it might not have been as unhappy as Victoria herself would have had us believe | Accompanies Lucy Worsley's 10-part series Encounters with Victoria on Radio 4

The coronation of Queen Victoria in June 1838. Despite the many challenges of her childhood, she emerged as a fresh start for the monarchy after the unpopular regime of her uncles, Kings George and William IV. (Image by Bridgeman)

On 24 May 1819, a baby girl was born at Kensington Palace. It was then the least fashionable of the royal palaces, hidden away behind the lime trees of its wide green gardens to the west of London.

The arrival of Alexandrina Victoria, as she was christened, did cause some excitement. A long line of carriages calling for news about the health of the mother, the Duchess of Kent, reached all the way to Hyde Park Corner. But at that point the new baby, King George III’s latest granddaughter, was fairly low down the royal pecking order.

As the years of her childhood passed, however, and as her elder cousins failed to thrive and died, Alexandrina Victoria grew in importance. It gradually emerged that the little girl growing up quietly behind closed doors at Kensington Palace would one day reign over the whole of the British Isles, including Ireland. And, in due course, a quarter of the globe’s landmass.

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