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The Victorian era was an extraordinary time in British history. Check out these facts about the Victorians to find out more about this fascinating period in British history.
The Victorians were the people who lived during the Victorian era. They are called Victorians because they lived during the reign of Queen Victoria.
The Victorian era lasted for the time Victoria was queen of Great Britain. Queen Victoria became queen on 20th June 1837 and remained queen until her death on 22nd January 1901, meaning her reign lasted for 64 years. Queen Victoria was Britain’s longest reigning monarch up until she was surpassed by her great-great-grandaughter, Queen Elizabeth II on 9th September 2015.
Queen Victoria lived an eventful life. She married Prince Albert in February 1840 and together they had nine children and 42 grandchildren. Despite her small size (she was barely five feet tall), she was known as being fierce, candid, determined, outspoken and stubborn. She had a very imposing reputation!
“The important thing is not what they think of me, but what I think of them.” Queen Victoria
A young Queen Victoria in 1842
Queen Victoria with her daughter, Beatrice
The Victorian period was a time of great change in Britain and the Victorians are famous for causing big changes in society, industry and empire:
Workers in a paper factory in the 19th century
Teachers: if you want to explore the (often bizarre!) rules of Victorian society further with your class, check out this lesson from The Changing Role of Women.
What you wore if you lived in Victorian times depended on how wealthy you were. Poor Victorians wore simple clothes that would last a long time. Clothes were often mended and passed down through families.
Women wore dresses and shawls while men wore trousers, shirts and jackets. Women would wear a cap or bonnet and men wore a hat. These were not just to be respectable but also to keep dirt and lice away, and to keep hair out of the way of factory machines.
Poor people wore simple clothes that had to last a long time
Rich Victorians would wear much more elaborate clothes. Women wore dresses with corsets underneath. At the start of the Victorian era, it was fashionable to wear a crinoline under a skirt. A crinoline was made of hoops and petticoats, and was designed to make the skirt as wide as possible.
Wealthy men wore suits, often with waistcoats underneath. The type of suit a man wore depended on which activity they were doing. For example, they would wear different suits if they were hunting than if they were attending a ball or other social event. Men often wore top hats, bow ties and had pocket watches. Both rich men and women would often gloves when in public.
Victorian fashion in 1951
Victorian diets were very different for rich and poor Victorians. Poor people existed mainly on a diet of bread, dripping (fat that has dripped from roasted meat) and vegetables. The very poorest Victorians living in towns and cities ate things like potato peelings, rotten vegetables and anything else they could get their hands on.
Poorer Victorians who lived in the countryside would have had better access to meat, milk and other dairy products, and therefore had much healthier diets than poor people living in towns and cities.
While finding enough food was a constant battle for poor Victorians, rich Victorians had an abundance of meats, dairy foods, fruits and vegetables. Meats like mutton, beef, goose, ham and turkey were regularly eaten in wealthy Victorian homes. Expensive spices imported from around the world were also used a lot to flavour foods, as well as to display wealth.
It was during the Victorian period that cooked breakfasts became popular in Britain, and it was Queen Victoria who made famous meals that had two or three courses that were served in sequence. Before this, rich people would often have up to fifteen dishes served at once.
Britain was a Christian country during the Victorian era and many Victorians believed whole-heartedly in the teachings of the Bible. It was unusual not to go to Church on a Sunday – it was just an expected part of life. However, the 19th century was also a time of lots of scientific discoveries. New ideas were being put forward, such as Darwin’s theory of evolution, which challenged traditional beliefs. Despite this, Christianity remained the dominant religion throughout the Victorian era.
“That Book, the Bible, accounts for the supremacy of England. England has become great and happy by the knowledge of the true God through Jesus Christ.” Queen Victoria
Teachers: if you’re looking for more in-depth learning about the Victorians, check out the lessons in our Victorians cross-curricular topic.
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