More warrior queen than Mrs Brown

June 19, 1998

Recent biographers of Queen Victoria have become so familiar with "the private Victoria" that they have neglected the public figure known to her subjects, says Walter Arnstein, professor of history at the University of Illinois.

While often seen as a symbol of domesticity, matriarchy, respectability and longevity during a period of relative peace in Central and Western Europe, Arnstein argues that Victoria was in fact a warrior queen.

To support this, he cites the pleasure Victoria took in the military career of the Duke of Kent, the father she never knew, and her pride in being "a soldier's child".

She maintained close connections with British military life through her first cousin, the Duke of Cambridge, who was commander-in-chief of the British army from 1856 to 1895, and through her third son, Prince Arthur, a professional soldier.

Arnstein says she was regularly involved, throughout her reign, with army reviews and manoeuvres, army reform and the design of military uniforms and medals. She also took an impassioned day-to-day interest in the conduct of the Crimean war of 1854-56 and became the embodiment of national spirit during the Boer war that began in 1899.

For Arnstein, the final evidence of how central a role the army played in her life was her funeral in 1901 - a full military ceremony.

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