Britain achieves its peak period of political and commercial dominance, as portrayed by the Great Exhibition of 1851 and the political influence of Lord Palmerston, but the Irish Potato famine is a warning of future problems.
When Princess Victoria came to the throne as a girl of eighteen, nobody could have imagined that the rest of the century would come to be known as her personal era. Her mother had planned that her advisor Sir John Conroy would manage the practical affairs of the monarchy, but right from the beginning the slight little figure of Victoria exhibited the stubbornness which was a defining mark of her character thereafter. Her prime minister Lord Melbourne became a father figure: acting as her mentor and private secretary, he educating her in the operation of a constitutional monarchy. His influence was not always for the best; he encouraged her to make a serious error in blighting the last days of Lady Flora Hastings, one of her mother’s ladies in waiting.
1837 Queen Victoria succeeds her uncle William IV on the throne of the United Kingdom, but the royal family’s ancestral home of Hanover passes by Salic law to her father’s younger brother the Duke of Cumberland (1771-1851).
~ The Whig Prime Minister Lord Melbourne (1779-1848) is adopted as her political and constitutional mentor by the queen.
~ Buckingham Palace becomes the London home of the British monarch.
~ Republican revolts break out in Upper and Lower Canada.
~ Charles Wheatstone (1802-75) and William F. Cooke (1806-79) patent the first electric telegraph system.
~ The National Gallery opens.
~ Whilst finishing the final instalments of his humorous novel Pickwick Papers, Charles Dickens (1812-70) publishes Oliver Twist, also in serial form, his earliest attempt to portray the social evils of nineteenth century Britain.
~ John Constable, the pre-eminent British landscape painter, dies.
~ Death of Sir John Soane (born 1753), architect and founder of the museum of the same name in Lincoln’s Inn fields.