You never apologized… You don’t think I would have preferred to grow up out of the spotlight, away from court? Away from the scrutiny and the visibility? A simpler life, happier life, as a wife, mother… an ordinary English countrywoman?
Queen Victoria came to power, at the end of her strange and uncomfortable childhood, during an era of great monarchic unrest across Europe. During her reign she would experience her own share of republican aggression — but the monarchy of Britain was never severely threatened. Rather, it continued - sometimes against her majesty’s will - on its long evolution to being a institution of national influence rather than control. Queen Victoria in particular established the monarchy as an important (maybe even nationally essential) pillar of social influence. Through her, they became the Family Monarchy. She valued conservative ideals, propriety and social order - and she encouraged those ideals in her children, grandchildren and country.
Behind the scenes, of course, she was more than just the matriarch of Europe. Through the “mere” formalities of her role in government, she was able to exert considerable influence in politics. While certainly conservative and anti-republican in her own country, she saw the importance of creating a less autocratic Europe (though her attempts at familial diplomacy were often overbearing or misdirected). Despite being anti-feminist in her rhetoric and opinions on women’s suffrage, she felt deeply the inequalities of marriage and parenthood, and never fully reconciled herself with either concept. As a widow she had an intense relationship with her husband’s manservant and largely eschewed the public life expected of her. Yet, still, for almost every day until her death she wrote approximately 2,000 words - many were in detailed journals but she also wrote letters of state and business in addition to endless letters to her relatives in positions of power all across Europe.
She could not do much to stabilize the monarchies of the continent, but she managed to maintain her own. She created and maintained an aura of dignity and security around the British royal family — and when she faltered there, all it took was a survived assassination attempt (or two) to get her popularity back on track.