seamus dubhghaill

Promoting Irish Culture and History from Little Rock, Arkansas, USA


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Death of Queen Victoria

queen-victoriaQueen Victoria dies at Osborne House, Isle of Wight on January 22, 1901, ending an era in which most of her British subjects know no other monarch.

With a reign of 63 years, seven months and two days, she is the longest-reigning British monarch and the longest-reigning queen regnant in world history until her great-great-granddaughter Elizabeth II surpasses her on September 9, 2015. She restores dignity to the English monarchy and ensures its survival as a ceremonial political institution. Edward VII accedes to the throne upon her death.

Born on May 24, 1819 in Kensington Palace, London, Victoria comes 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 describes her “as one whose extreme obstinacy was constantly at war with her good nature.” Her first prime minister, William Lamb, 2nd Viscount Melbourne, becomes her close friend and adviser, and she succeeds in blocking his replacement by Tory leader Sir Robert Peel in 1839. Two years later, however, an election results in a Tory majority in the House of Commons, and she is compelled to accept Peel as prime minister. Never again does she interfere so directly in the politics of democratic Britain.

In 1839, her first cousin Albert, a German prince, comes to visit the English court at Windsor, and Victoria proposes to him five days after his arrival. Prince Albert accepts and they are married in February 1840. He soon becomes the dominant influence in her life and serves as her private secretary. Among his greatest achievements as Prince Consort is his organization of The Great Exhibition of 1851, the first world’s fair, in the Crystal Palace in London. He also steers her support away from the Whigs to the conservative Tories. She later is a vocal supporter of Benjamin Disraeli, leader of the Conservative Party.

Victoria and Albert build royal residences at Osborne House on the Isle of Wight and at Balmoral Castle in Scotland and become increasingly detached from London. They have nine children, including Victoria, later the empress of Germany, and the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII. In 1861, Albert dies and Victoria’s grief is such that she does not appear in public for three years. She never entirely gets over the loss and, until the end of her life, has 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 coaxes Victoria out of seclusion, and she is impressed by his efforts to strengthen and expand the British Empire. In 1876, he has her made “empress of India,” a title which pleases her and makes her a symbol of imperial unity. During the last few decades of her life, her popularity, which had suffered during her long public absence, increases greatly. She never embraces the social and technological advances of the 19th century but accepts the changes and works hard to fulfill her ceremonial duties as head of state.

Following a custom she maintains throughout her widowhood, Victoria spends the Christmas of 1900 at Osborne House on the Isle of Wight. Rheumatism in her legs has rendered her lame and her eyesight is clouded by cataracts. Through early January, she feels weak and unwell, and by mid-January she is drowsy, dazed and confused. She dies in the early evening of Tuesday, January 22, 1901, at the age of 81. Her son and successor King Edward VII, and her eldest grandson, Emperor Wilhelm II of Germany, are at her deathbed. Her favourite pet Pomeranian, Turi, is laid upon her deathbed as a last request.

Victoria’s funeral is held on Saturday, February 2, in St. George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle, and after two days of lying-in-state, she is interred beside Prince Albert in Frogmore Mausoleum at Windsor Great Park. When she dies, she has 37 surviving great-grandchildren, and their marriages with other monarchies give her the name “grandmother of Europe.”


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Death of Daniel O’Connell in Genoa, Italy

daniel-oconnellDaniel O’Connell, lawyer who becomes the first great 19th-century Irish nationalist leader and is known as “The Liberator,” dies in Genoa, Italy on May 15, 1847. Throughout his life, he campaigns for Catholic emancipation, including the right for Catholics to sit in the Westminster Parliament and the repeal of the Act of Union which combines Great Britain and Ireland.

Compelled to leave the Roman Catholic college at Douai, France, when the French Revolution breaks out, O’Connell goes to London to study law, and in 1798 he is called to the Irish bar. His forensic skill enables him to use the courts as nationalist forums. Although he has joined the Society of United Irishmen, a revolutionary society, as early as 1797, he refuses to participate in the Irish Rebellion of the following year. When the Act of Union takes effect on January 1, 1801 and abolishes the Irish Parliament, he insists that the British Parliament repeal the anti-Catholic laws in order to justify its claim to represent the people of Ireland. From 1813 he opposes various Catholic relief proposals because the government, with the acquiescence of the papacy, has the right to veto nominations to Catholic bishoprics in Great Britain and Ireland. Although permanent political organizations of Catholics are illegal, O’Connell sets up a nationwide series of mass meetings to petition for Catholic emancipation.

On May 12, 1823, O’Connell and Richard Lalor Sheil found the Catholic Association, which quickly attracts the support of the Irish priesthood and of lawyers and other educated Catholic laymen and which eventually comprises so many members that the government can not suppress it. In 1826, when it is reorganized as the New Catholic Association, it causes the defeat of several parliamentary candidates sponsored by large landowners. In County Clare in July 1828, O’Connell himself, although as a Catholic ineligible to sit in the House of Commons, defeats a man who tries to support both the British government and Catholic emancipation. This result impresses on the British prime minister, Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, the need for making a major concession to the Irish Catholics. Following the passage of the Catholic Emancipation Act of 1829, O’Connell, after going through the formality of an uncontested reelection, takes his seat at Westminster.

In April 1835, he helps to overthrow Sir Robert Peel’s Conservative ministry. In the same year, he enters into the “Lichfield House compact,” whereby he promises the Whig Party leaders a period of “perfect calm” in Ireland while the government enacts reform measures. O’Connell and his Irish adherents, known collectively as “O’Connell’s tail,” then aid in keeping the weak Whig administration of William Lamb, 2nd Viscount Melbourne, in office from 1835 to 1841. By 1839, however, O’Connell realizes that the Whigs will do little more than the Conservatives for Ireland, and in 1840 he founds the Repeal Association to dissolve the Anglo-Irish legislative union. A series of mass meetings in all parts of Ireland culminate in O’Connell’s arrest for seditious conspiracy, but he is released on appeal in September 1844 after three months’ imprisonment. Afterward his health fails rapidly and the nationalist leadership falls to the radical Young Ireland group.

O’Connell dies at the age of 71 of cerebral softening in 1847 in Genoa, Italy, while on a pilgrimage to Rome. His time in prison has seriously weakened him, and the appallingly cold weather he has to endure on his journey is probably the final blow. According to his dying wish, his heart is buried at Sant’Agata dei Goti, then the chapel of the Irish College, in Rome and the remainder of his body in Glasnevin Cemetery in Dublin, beneath a round tower.