Year
1901
Month Day
January 22

Queen Victoria dies

The death of Queen Victoria on January 22, 1901, ends an era in which most of her British subjects know no other monarch. Her 63-year reign saw the growth of an empire on which the sun never set. Victoria restored dignity to the English monarchy and ensured its survival as a ceremonial political institution.

Born in 1819, she came to the throne after the death of her uncle, King William IV, in 1837. As a young woman ascending to the throne, her future husband described her “as one whose extreme obstinacy was constantly at war with her good nature.” Her first prime minister, Lord Melbourne, became her close friend and adviser, and she succeeded in blocking his replacement by Tory leader Sir Robert Peel in 1839. Two years later, however, an election resulted in a Tory majority in the House of Commons, and Victoria was compelled to accept Peel as prime minister. Never again would she interfere so directly in the politics of democratic Britain.

In 1839, her first cousin Albert, a German prince, came to visit the English court at Windsor, and Victoria proposed to him five days after his arrival. Prince Albert accepted, and in February 1840 they were married. He soon became the dominant influence in her life and served as her private secretary. Among his greatest achievements as royal consort was his organization of the Great Exhibition of 1851, the first world’s fair, in the Crystal Palace in London. He also steered her support away from the Whigs to the conservative Tories; she later was a vocal supporter of Benjamin Disraeli, leader of the Conservative Party.

Victoria and Albert built royal residences at Osborne House on the Isle of Wight and at Balmoral Castle in Scotland and became increasingly detached from London. They had nine children, including Victoria, later the empress of Germany, and the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII. In 1861, Albert died, and Victoria’s grief was such that she did not appear in public for three years. She never entirely got over the loss, and until the end of her life she had her maids nightly lay out Albert’s clothes for the next day and in the morning replace the water in the basin in his room.

Disraeli coaxed her out of seclusion, and she was impressed by his efforts to strengthen and expand the British Empire. In 1876, he had her made “empress of India,” a title which pleased her and made her a symbol of imperial unity. During the last few decades of her life, her popularity, which had suffered during her long public absence, increased greatly. She never embraced the social and technological advances of the 19th century but accepted the changes and worked hard to fulfill her ceremonial duties as head of state. When she died, she had 37 surviving great-grandchildren, and their marriages with other monarchies gave her the name the “grandmother of Europe.”

READ MORE: 5 Things You May Not Know About Queen Victoria

FACT CHECK: We strive for accuracy and fairness. But if you see something that doesn't look right, click here to contact us! HISTORY reviews and updates its content regularly to ensure it is complete and accurate.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Apple’s iconic “1984” commercial airs during Super Bowl XVIII

During a break in the action of Super Bowl XVIII on January 22nd, 1984, audiences first see a commercial that is now widely agreed to be one of the most powerful and effective of all time. Apple's "1984" spot, featuring a young woman throwing a sledgehammer through a screen on ...read more

Hispanics are officially declared the largest minority group in the U.S.

On January 22, 2003, the U.S. Census Bureau releases detailed statistics on race and ethnicity, the first time such numbers had been released since the 2000 census. The numbers showed that the Hispanic population of the United States had increased by 4.7 percent since the last ...read more

Ted Kaczynski pleads guilty to bombings

In a Sacramento, California, courtroom, Theodore J. Kaczynski pleads guilty to all federal charges against him, acknowledging his responsibility for a 17-year campaign of package bombings attributed to the “Unabomber.” Born in 1942, Kaczynski attended Harvard University and ...read more

Soviet dissident Andrei Sakharov arrested in Moscow

In Moscow, Andrei Dmitriyevich Sakharov, the Soviet physicist who helped build the USSR’s first hydrogen bomb, is arrested after criticizing the Soviet military intervention in Afghanistan. He was subsequently stripped of his numerous scientific honors and banished to remote ...read more

British colonists reach New Zealand

Under the leadership of British statesman Edward G. Wakefield, the first British colonists to New Zealand arrive at Port Nicholson on Auckland Island. In 1642, Dutch navigator Abel Tasman became the first European to discover the South Pacific island group that later became known ...read more

Lyndon Baines Johnson dies in Texas

On January 22, 1973, former President Lyndon Baines Johnson dies in Johnson City, Texas, at the age of 64. After leaving the White House in 1968, L.B.J. returned to his beloved home state, Texas, with his wife, Lady Bird Johnson, and immersed himself in the activity dearest to ...read more

Chief Dull Knife makes last fight for freedom

Cheyenne chief Dull Knife and his people are defeated by Anglo-Americans soldiers. In doing so, the so-called Dull Knife Outbreak came to an end.  A leading chief of the Northern Cheyenne, Dull Knife (sometimes called Morning Star) had long urged peace with the powerful ...read more

Final portrait of John and Yoko appears on the cover of “Rolling Stone”

After the shocking assassination of John Lennon, thousands of mourners gathered spontaneously outside his and Yoko Ono’s Central Park West apartment building, the Dakota. Tens of thousands more gathered six days later in New York, Liverpool and other world cities to honor Yoko’s ...read more

English poet Lord Byron is born

Romantic poet George Gordon, Lord Byron, is born this day in Aberdeen, Scotland. Despite his later fortune and title, Byron grew up in poverty and was burdened by a clubfoot. At age 10, he inherited his great uncle’s title and became Lord Byron. He attended Harrow, then Trinity ...read more

Heath Ledger dies of accidental prescription drug overdose

On January 22, 2008, Hollywood mourns a talented young actor’s life cut tragically short, after the body of 28-year-old Heath Ledger is found by his masseuse and housekeeper on the floor of his rented apartment in the SoHo neighborhood of New York City. Best known for his Academy ...read more

Roe v. Wade is decided

Roe v. Wade, the landmark Supreme Court decision that established a woman’s legal right to an abortion, is decided on January 22, 1973. The Court ruled, in a 7-2 decision, that a woman’s right to choose an abortion was protected by the privacy rights guaranteed by the Fourteenth ...read more

Claudius Smith, “Cowboy of the Ramapos,” hangs

Famed Tory outlaw Claudius Smith meets his end on the gallows on January 22, 1779 in Goshen, New York. In the wake of his death, Patriot civilians hope for relief from guerilla warfare in upstate New York. Born in Brookhaven, New York, in 1736, Smith moved with his family to ...read more

Bloody Sunday Massacre in Russia

Well on its way to losing a war against Japan in the Far East, czarist Russia is wracked with internal discontent that finally explodes into violence in St. Petersburg in what will become known as the Bloody Sunday Massacre. Under the weak-willed Romanov Czar Nicholas II, who ...read more