This coming Saturday (the 24th) will be Queen Victoria's 189th birthday. Pretty appropriate for Memorial Day weekend, isn't it? I'll be thinking of her as I plant my vegetable garden and herb pots.
Victoria took her birthdays very seriously and always discussed her personal goals for the coming year in her journals:
(on her 18th birsthday in 1837): "Today is my 18th birthday! How old! and yet how far I am from being what I should be. I shall from this day take the firm resolution to study with renewed assiduity, to keep my attention always well fixed on whatever I am about, and to strive to become every day less trifling and more fit for what, if Heaven wills it, I'm someday to be!..."
No mention of presents in this entry, but for her 16th Victoria certainly got a fair amount of loot:
"I awoke at 1/2 past 6. Mamma got up soon after and gave me a lovely brooch made of her own hair, a letter from herself, one from dearest Feodore [Vic's half sister] with a nosegay, and a drawing and a pair of slippers done by her...Dear Lehzen gave me a lovely little leather box with knives, pencils, &c. in it, two small dictionaries and a very pretty print of Mdlle. Taglioni [one of Victoria's favorite dancers]...At 9 we breakfasted. I then received my table. From my DEAR Mamma I received a lovely enamel bracelet with her hair, a pair of fine china vases, a lovely shawl and some English and Italian books. From dearest Feodore a lovely enamel bracelet with hers and the children's hair; from Charles [Victoria's half brother] some pretty prints; from Spath [one of her ladies] a very pretty case for hankerchiefs embroidered in silver; from Sir Robert and Lady Gardiner a very pretty sort of china vase; from Sir J. Conroy a writing case; from the whole Conroy family some prints; and from Mr. George Hayter a beautiful drawing done by him. I quite forgot to say that I received a beautiful pair of sapphire and diamond earrings from the King and a beautiful prayer-book and very kind letter from the Queen...."
Not a bad haul, I think, though the jewelry made from various people's hair is a tad eerie. On the other hand, the earrings sound pretty good.
Once Victoria became queen, she no longer had to submit her journals for her mother to read. So let's hear the report on Victoria's 19th birthday:
"...At 25 m. past 10 I went with the whole Royal Family into the other Ball-room through the Saloon [not what you're thinking--"saloon" was just another word for large receiving room] which was full of people....We then went into the other room, and danced a regular old English country dance of 72 couple, which lasted 1 hour, from 3 till 4!...It was the merriest, most delightful thing possible. I left the Ball room at 10 m. past 4, and was in bed at 5--broad daylight. It was a delightful Ball, and the pleasantest birthday I've spent for many years!..."
Not so different from a teen birthday today, really.
Happy Birthday, Vic!