Victoria the warrior queen

Queen Victoria's reign witnessed a massive expansion of the British empire. Saul David explains how such huge growth was accompanied by a constant series of wars of conquest.

English cavalry attacking the Sikh at the Battle of Aliwal

This article was first published in the May 2006 issue of BBC History Magazine 

Kensington Palace, London, six in the morning. Princess Victoria is woken by her mother and told that two men are there to see her. She rises quickly, throws a dressing-gown over her nightdress and, with her fair hair still loose about her shoulders, receives the two visitors in her sitting-room. She recognises them as Lord Conyngham, the portly lord chamberlain, and Dr William Howley, the septuagenarian archbishop of Canterbury. They have come from Windsor Castle and their presence can only mean one thing: her uncle, King William IV, is dead. The king “had expired at 12 minutes past 2 this morning”, she records later in her journal, “and consequently I am Queen”.

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