The Victorian era is easy to calculate as it is when Queen Victoria was on the throne of Britain, from 1837 to 1901. She came to the throne at the end of the Industrial revolution, where Britain saw some turmoil in wars and armed conflict. The Victorian era brought with it political change, as well as many cultural transformations. It also was a period of massive expansion for the British Empire, and the middle classes came to make their own with new rigid social structures.
The Expansion of the British Empire
Queen Victoria saw great expansion of her empire for over sixty years. The United Kingdom under her reign expanded its borders, and at one point nearly a quarter of the world was colonized under British rule. Through all of this Britain’s influence and political might was quite awesome. Britain was at the center for many things, and influenced fashion, religion, cultural and social behavior not only in Europe but in America too. The envoys and representatives of Victorian Britain were groomed how to behave and represent their home country. And the social structure of Britain started to be replicate in far flung regions of the world.
Modesty and Restraint Ruled Supreme
The reign of King William IV that preceded Victoria coming to the throne was one of excessiveness, and this was driven by the public behavior of the king himself. King William never actually married but still managed to father three illegitimate children, and did not try to deny the fact. He was called in many conservative quarters the Rogue King, and Britain was prepared for change. When Victoria came to the throne things were immediately different to what had gone on before. Victoria was determined to eradicate what William had left as his legacy, she wanted to lead her subjects by example and so acted and dressed far more conservatively.
The Queen’s clothing and demeanor were modest, and certain topics of conversation were not actually banned but were frowned upon. Talking about sex and physical love in public was now taboo. Sally Mitchell a social historian at the time commented; Most middle and upper-class newlyweds were virgins and had no concept of physical sex.
Conservative Britain was growing, and these rather strict attitudes also spread into other parts of the world the British Empire expanded into. The social and behavioral attitudes in a modern and sophisticated Britain were adopted by peoples from all walks of life in rather undeveloped colonies. It seemed that Queen Victoria wished to extend her modest and restrained way of life to all four corners of The Empire, she wished her Empire to have an educated and modern way of thinking, just like back home in Britain. To some extent she was successful in this but mostly among the upper-classes of these places.
In part two of our blog on the importance of Victorian culture we look at the importance of proper etiquette and also of how the different classes were divided in Victorian Britain.