Victoria Day – The Queen’s Birthday in Canada

victoria day

Queen Victoria Day, Mother of Confederation

On Monday, May 18th, Queen Victoria reins again when we honour her contributions and influence on our country. Victoria Day is a federal holiday that Canadians celebrate each year on the Monday preceding the 25th May. Our Commonwealth sister countries do not join us. They instead celebrate our current Queen’s birthday in June.

The Canadian Victoria Day holiday weekend is always the weekend before the American Memorial Day event. For non-Canadian’s it is important to note that Canada has never been the same country as the United States.  We are proudly unique and separate. We also have a REAL Royal Family – and one that has grown this year, thanks to the little Princess of Cambridge, Charlotte Elizabeth Diana.

NOTE: it was not until 1953 that the monarch’s title was made official, with Elizabeth II being the first monarch to be separately proclaimed as Queen of Canada, as per the Royal Style and Titles Act.

Victoria, Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and Empress of India

Queen_Victoria_by_BassanoVictoria became Queen just 26 days after her 18th birthday in 1837. Her sixty-three year reign (second only to King Louis XIV) is longer than that of any other British monarch and the longest of any female monarch in history. On 9 September 2015, Elizabeth II will, if still reigning, surpass the reign of her great-great grandmother.

Many Canadians do not realize that Queen Victoria’s father, the Duke of Kent, lived in Quebec and the Maritimes for approximately ten years during her grandfather, King George III’s reign. King George acknowledged Canadians as a separate people and Queen Victoria is recognized for proclaiming the Confederation of the first four provinces of Canada.

Queen Victoria chose Ottawa as our nation’s capital, first in 1857 in the Province of Canada and then again in 1867 for the Dominion of Canada. She named British Columbia in 1858 and the City of New Westminster in 1859. She also assigned the coats of arms of the provinces of Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick in 1868. Regina and Victoria were named in the Queen’s honour, and the Province of Alberta was named after her fourth daughter Princess Louise Alberta.

In Canada there is no individual that has been more honoured than Queen Victoria in the names of public buildings, streets, populated places and physical features. Victoria College in Toronto, Royal Victoria Hospital in Montréal, Victoria General Hospital in both Halifax and Winnipeg are among the notable public institutions named for her. Manitoba has a rural municipality and a lake named Victoria. Ontario has at least 47 distinct features with her name: one county, one township, 14 populated places and 31 physical features. The Atlantic provinces have 29 places and features with the name Victoria. Among Canada’s 280 postal divisions, more than half have at least one thoroughfare identified by the name Victoria.

The Age of Victoria

1280px-Imperial_FedBritish_Empire_in_1886_(levelled)Queen Victoria is associated with Britain’s great age of industrial expansion and economic progress. This was a period of peace, prosperity and refined sensibilities that included cultural, political, scientific, and military change within the United Kingdom. Communication channels grew and under the Queen there were railways and the London Underground was built.

Victoria’s reign is recognized for the expansion of the British Empire, where she reigned over 450 million people, one quarter of the world’s population, and approximately one quarter of the work’s landmass. The empire stretched from Canada to the Caribbean, Africa, India, Australia, New Zealand, large parts of Africa (and the Jewel in the Crown – India. During this period direct political power moved away from the sovereign and the modern idea of the constitutional monarch began to evolve. It was at this time that Britain could claim to be the world’s superpower.

The Victorian era was a time of immense industrial, political, trade, scientific and military progress for Great Britain. In her early years she was dependent on her Prime Minister Lord Melbourne and her uncle, King Leopold of Belgium for advice, but increasingly her husband Albert became her main advisor. He was involved in organizing the Great Exhibition in 1851, and persuaded her to take a more constitutional role in leaving the rule of the nation and Empire to Parliament. She was strong willed and her relations with her prime ministers ranged from the affectionate (Melbourne and Disraeli) to the stormy (Peel, Palmerston, and Gladstone).

The film, Young Victoria, written and produced by Downton Abbey writer, Julian Fellows, and starring Emily Blunt, was released in 2009.

In 1996 the film, Mrs. Brown starring Dame Judi Dench was released. The story focused on her life after the death of her husband.

Little Known Facts about Queen Victoria

  • Queen Victoria was born Princess Alexandrina Victoria. As a little girl she was known by her nickname, Drina.
  • The Princess  was eight months old when her father died. She was raised by a single mother and later became a single mother herself.
  • Victoria’s mother spoke German at home and although she ruled England for almost 64 years, Victoria never learned to speak perfect English.
  • The Princess was a fine water-colourist, a hobby she indulged throughout her adulthood.
  • As a child, holly was put under Victoria’s collar to irritate and train her to keep her chin up.
  • Queen Victoria was the last teenager to rule England.
  • Queen Victoria was barely five feet tall, had a very outspoken nature and imposing reputation.
  • The Queen was the first known carrier of hemophilia, an affliction that would become known as the “Royal disease”.
  • Victoria first met her future husband (and cousin), Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, when she was 16. When she was 20, she proposed to him, not vice versa.
  • It’s said it was Victoria started the tradition of a bride wearing white. Before her wedding a woman would simply wear her best dress, no matter what colour it was.
  • Queen Victoria produced nine children – four sons and five daughters.
  • The Queen always took a special and personal interest in Canadian affairs, eventually sending all four of her sons and one of her daughters to visit, live in and work in Canada.
  • Victoria became a grandmother at 39 and a great-grandmother of twenty years later. She had a total of 42 grandchildren and tragically, outlived three of her own children.
  • Queen Victoria’s husband died in 1861.  She went into seclusion and a perpetual state of mourning. She only dressed in black and never wore any other colour.
  • There were at least six serious assassination attempts, some say seven, made against Victoria during her reign — most of which, while she was riding in her carriage.
  • The earliest postage stamps in the world (first used on May 6, 1840) were the Penny Black of the United Kingdom and had the head of Queen Victoria on them.
  • It is said the Queen liked to drink a concoction called Vin Mariani. One of its main ingredients? Cocaine.
  • Although Victoria Day is a Canadian tradition, it is celebrated in parts of Scotland, especially Edinburgh, where it remains an official holiday.
  • During her lifetime, she published her Letters, “Leaves from the Journal of our Life in the Highlands” and “More Leaves”.
  • Victoria was the only British monarch in modern music history to be honoured, by name, in the title of a rock and roll song. “Victoria”, by the Kinks, reached number 62 on the Billboard charts in 1970.

Canada to India
Australia to Cornwall
Singapore to Hong Kong
From the West to the East
From the rich to the poor
Victoria loved them all
~Songwriters – Davies, Raymond Douglas

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