Queen Victoria had multiple mother issues. First, she had issues with her own mother. Later she had mother issues with each of her nine children. By all accounts, she was a loving and attentive parent. Official photographs and paintings of the Royal Family created an image of a devoted young husband and wife surrounded by their blissfully happy, obedient, beautiful children. Their Christmas celebrations set a standard we still attempt to meet.
But there was a darker side to Queen Victoria’s mother issues. By today’s supermom standards, she said a few things that would have made her a target among her friends and in the media. Yes, some of the things she said and did were a bit extreme, but she was always honest. Keep in mind; the poor woman was blessed with nine children. She was also widowed in her early forties after only 21 years of marriage. And did we mention she was also a working mom?
Were Queen Victoria’s mother issues more common than people want to admit? Was she merely stating what we sometimes think in secret but dare not say?
Mother Issue #1: She Exiled Her Own Mother
Queen Victoria was the only child of Edward, the duke of Kent and her German-born mother, Victoria Saxe-Sealfield-Coburg. Her father died when she was not yet one. Her single mother raised her, although Sir John Conroy heavily influenced her parenting decisions. He was Victoria’s mother’s advisor and rumored to be her lover.
Conroy convinced Victoria’s mother to raise little Victoria largely in isolation from other children and her father’s family. In our post, Did Cranky Queen Victoria Bring Joy Into Your Home, we discuss how she referred to her own childhood as rather melancholy.
When Victoria became Queen and moved into Buckingham Palace, she exiled her mother to a distant apartment and fired Sir John Conroy. It was not until her mother’s death in 1861 (just a few months before Albert died) that she read her mother’s papers.
In his book Queen Victoria: A Personal History, Christopher Hibbert says that it was only then that she realized her mother loved her deeply.
Mother Issue #2: She Loathed Pregnancy
According to historian Jane Ridley, Queen Victoria hated being pregnant. Despite that, she had nine children. She believed that multiple pregnancies made her more like a “rabbit or a guinea pig and not very nice.”
Pregnancy was difficult for all women in the Victorian Era. It was particularly hard on Queen Victoria’s petite frame. She suffered both physically and emotionally. She frequently endured long bouts of depression and anger after childbirth. The increasing burden of her motherly duties also forced her to increasingly relinquish her royal duties over time to Albert. While she loved her children, her diminished power disturbed her.
With all the downsides of having children, when her doctor suggested that she should stop having children, she would not consider his suggestion. To her, that would mean she could no longer have fun in bed with her beloved Albert.
Mother Issue #3: She Embraced Chloroform
By the time Queen Victoria was having her fourth child on April 7, 1853, she had discovered chloroform. According to the InsideSurgery Medical Information Blog, ether was being used in the United States in the late 1840s in Boston, Massachusetts and Hartford, Connecticut. Its use had become widespread enough that by 1847, British apothecaries were trying to sell it in England.
British physician James Snow had been experimenting with ether and chloroform as a method of reducing pain. Although he was not a highly successful or well known physician, he was summoned to Buckingham Palace in early April of 1853. Albert interviewed him for more than an hour about his relatively new technique and possible complications.
John Snow used chloroform to ease Queen Victoria through the birth of Prince Leopold. Once the accounts of the birth reached the public, John Snow became an overnight sensation in high demand by the social elite of London.
Mother Issue #4: Breastfeeding Disgusted Her
Queen Victoria particularly disliked breastfeeding. She called it animalistic and disgusting. She later discouraged her daughters from partaking in the practice. They disobeyed her and breastfed Queen Victoria’s grandchildren in secret.
Mother Issue #5: Babies Reminded Her Of Frogs
Yes, she said this, while many others only thought it. There was something about the awkward flailing, looseness of limbs and flexibility that reminded her of frogs.
Mother Issue #6: Not All Of Her Children Were Created Equal
She liked some of her children better than others. She was also a highly temperamental, volatile mother. The honor of being the most loved child and the curse of being the least loved often shifted with her moods.
Mother Issue #7: She Liked Bertie Least Of All
It seems that Bertie, Queen Victoria’s eldest son, was her least favorite child. Bertie was a disappointment to her from the very beginning. He never did well in his lessons, so his parents considered him stupid.
Queen Victoria once wrote, “Handsome I cannot think him, with that painfully small and narrow head, those immense features and total want of a chin.”
In her book, The Heir Apparent: A Life Of Edward VII, the Playboy Prince, Jane Ridley says that when Bertie was just 19, he went into training with the army in Ireland. After Albert learned that a prostitute had been smuggled into Bertie’s bed, he travelled to Ireland to discuss the “fall” personally with his son.
Shortly after that visit, Albert fell ill and died three weeks later. Queen Victoria, who went into life-long mourning, blamed Bertie for his father’s death.
Mother Issue #8: The Original Helicopter Mom
Queen Victoria might have been a bully and a maniacal tyrant, but she was not an indifferent mother. Long after her children grew up and left home, she had a nearly pathological need to control them. She created a network of spies – from nannies to neighbors to doctors – to keep her up-to-date on the daily lives of her children.
Mother Issue #9: She Was A Domestic Tyrant
Queen Victoria is dubbed a “domestic tyrant” in BBC TWO’s three-part series, Queen Victoria’s Children. The documentaries are based on actual photos, letters and diaries. “It is a story of manipulation, conflict, intimidation, emotional blackmail and fevered attempts by her children to escape the clutches of their domineering and needy mother.”
If these are not your own mother issues, maybe you have a mother-in-law? Or perhaps a friend or colleague who can relate?
Take A Quiz: I Am A Bad Mom If I Have…
Motherhood is as beautiful and challenging now as it was in the Victorian Era. For fun, check out the BabyCenter blog quiz: Am I a bad mom if I have… Here’s a sampling of the questions asked. We wonder how Queen Victoria would have answered these!
Am I a bad mom if I have…
- had an actual mommy tantrum
- drank wine before 5 o’clock
- counted down the hours until nap time/bedtime
- had a moment where I secretly wished I was still single and out dancing, if only for one night
Racing Nellie Bly
Victorian Secrets From Footnotes In History
Know The Past To Invent The Future