Early one June morning in 1837, a few weeks after her 18th birthday, Princess Victoria was awoken by her mother to greet the Archbishop of Canterbury, who delivered the news that King William IV had just died. Victoria, still in her nightdress, had become queen. That night she wrote in her journal: “Very few have more real good will and more real desire to do what is fit and right than I have.”
Victoria’s accession marked a significant change. Gone were the old men who had ruled for half a century, replaced by a young queen soon to have her own family. As the future British prime minister Benjamin Disraeli told the House of Commons in a speech in 1861: “She who reigns over us has elected amid all the splendor of empire, to establish her life on the principle of domestic love.” The royal family represented youth, morality, and domesticity now.
Changed, too, were the regalia worn by monarchies past. A teenage queen who stood at less than five feet tall needed better-proportioned displays of royal authority. A new coronation ring was made for Victoria, and the shafts of the scepters were altered to enable her to hold them comfortably.