Victorians Facts for Children and Teachers
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.
Victorians Facts for Children and Teachers
Who were the Victorians?
The Victorians were the people who lived during the Victorian era. They are called Victorians because they lived during the reign of Queen Victoria.
When was the Victorian era?
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.
What was Queen Victoria like?
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
Ten fun facts about Queen Victoria:
- She was only 18 years old when she became queen.
- She could speak fluent English and German, and also learnt languages like French, Italian, Latin and even Hindustani.
- There were at least six assassination attempts on her life during her reign as queen.
- She mourned the death of her husband for 40 years and only ever wore black after his death.
- Queen Victoria’s husband, Prince Albert, was also her cousin.
- It has been reported that Victoria and Albert often spoke German when they were at home together.
- Queen Victoria has a very unhappy childhood. She once said that she “didn’t know what a happy domestic life was.”
- Her first name wasn’t actually Victoria. Her real name was Alexandrina Victoria but she preferred to be called Victoria or the nickname Drina.
- It was Queen Victoria’s white lace wedding dress, and her insistence that no one else at her wedding wear white, that started the trend for brides wearing white at their wedding. Before this, wedding gowns had been a variety of different colours.
- Queen Victoria proposed to Prince Albert, not the other way around. This was extremely unusual during the Victorian period and went against all social conventions.
Queen Victoria with her daughter, Beatrice
What are the Victorians famous for?
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
- There was a great deal of social reform during the Victorian era, such as putting laws in place to protect child workers and to abolish the slave trade.
- There was an explosion of industry in Britain in the Victorian period. The Industrial Revolution meant that there were more factories so mass-production of clothes, furniture and other goods was possible for the first time. This meant that these items were cheaper and more widely available than ever before.
- The Victorian period marked a shift in the way people lived in Britain. At the start of the Victorian period, most people lived in the countryside and made their living off the land. By 1900, most people lived in towns and cities.
- The introduction of passenger steam trains meant that Victorians could travel further and more quickly than ever before.
- During the Victorian era, Britain became the largest empire the world had ever seen. At its peak, the British Empire ruled over nearly a quarter of all the people in the world in countries as far afield as India, Egypt, the Caribbean, Australia and Canada.
- It was during the Victorian era that the middle class began to emerge in Britain. People born without wealth or titles could work their way up to live wealthy lifestyles. You no longer had to be born rich to become rich.
- The Victorians are remembered for having very strict rules of social etiquette, particularly in the upper classes of society. For example, women were not supposed to look behind them when they were out walking!
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 did people wear in Victorian times?
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
What did people eat in the Victorian period?
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.
What did the Victorians believe in?
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
Fascinating Victorians facts:
- It was during the Victorian era that the tradition of having a Sunday roast became popular in Britain. Working people usually only had Sundays off and, for poorer people, it was the one day a week they ate meat, accompanied by potatoes and vegetables.
- Apart from the poorest people, all families had servants to help with the running of the house. Many people had at least one servant and a cook, and richer people would have many staff to take care of the family, including a nanny to take care of the children.
- Victorian children were taught to ‘be seen and not heard’.
- It was during the Victorian era that seaside holidays became popular in Britain. This was because people had more free time than ever before and could quickly and cheaply on steam trains.
- The Victorians were obsessed with death. They had elaborate mourning rituals, including wearing black and not engaging in any social activities for up to two years after someone’s death. They even took photos of dead relatives propped up to look as though they were still alive.
Teachers: if you’re looking for more in-depth learning about the Victorians, check out the lessons in our Victorians cross-curricular topic.