Foreign Policy Magazine


An oppressive era and the demands of motherhood never kept Queen Victoria from embracing public power and enjoying private satisfaction.

AT the age of 4, Princess Alexandrina Victoria refused to speak to her mother, the duchess of Kent, in German, the duchess’s native tongue. The little girl who would become the most famous woman in the world seemed to know even then that a foreign accent was undesirable in a British ruler. She always had an astute sense of her own brand, to use a modern term.

When she came to the throne in 1837, at age 18, she didn’t adopt a “royal” name, such as Elizabeth, Mary, or Anne, but instead chose her middle name,

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