Historical Grudge Match: Elizabeth I vs.Queen Victoria

Elizabeth painted in 1560
Elizabeth painted in 1560

The Rules

I love history and have always had a fascination for historical characters, particularly royalty. Of course, there is no grudge between Elizabeth I and Victoria, they lived centuries apart and this is intended as just a piece of tongue in cheek humour. If you pick up a few facts along the way, all the better, but mainly I hope that you take it for what it is, a bit of silly fun.

I have evaluated the two queens in five different categories:

  • family life - in the best royal tradition, the more dysfunctional the better
  • dynasty - did they do their regal duty and produce worthy heirs?
  • intelligence - a successful monarch needs to be clever, or clever enough to appear dim, as the situation dictates
  • popularity - both contemporary and lasting
  • achievements - not only their own, but those of the people they patronised.

I have given my personal view, but the final verdict is all yours - vote for the winner in this historic grudge match.

Elizabeth I's Dysfunctional Family

Elizabeth's father famously married six times; Elizabeth barely knew her own mother, but did have a succession of step-mothers, one of whom was her mother's cousin. Find out which of Henry's wives was the coolest and which poor unfortunate wife is now haunting Hampton Court Palace.

Elizabeth I

Vital Statistics:

Born: 7 September 1533 at Greenwich Palace

Reigned: 17 November 1558- 24 March 1603

Was she a:

Domineering, whey-faced, fright-wigged professional virgin suffering from oral hygiene issues, with a fortunate flair for public relations

or

Intelligent, enigmatic flame-haired beauty and patron of the arts, feared by her enemies but beloved by her people.

You decide!

Family Life:

Father (Henry VIII) had a taste for Boleyn women; having slept with Mary Boleyn, he took her sister Anne Boleyn as his second wife.   He had Anne executed in 1536 for adultery, including a charge of incest with her brother George. Elizabeth was declared illegitimate.

Half-sister Mary hated Elizabeth because her mother, Katherine of Aragon, had been divorced to make way for Anne.

Henry later executed step-mother No. 3 (Katherine Howard), who was also Elizabeth's distant cousin. Prior to this, Stepmother No. 1 (Jane Seymour) died and Stepmother No. 2 (Anne of Cleves) was divorced, becoming her father's "beloved sister".

Half-brother's (Edward VI) uncle (Thomas Seymour) attempted to seduce Elizabeth when she was 13 and went on to marry Stepmother No. 4 (Katherine Parr) once Henry VIII died.

Half-sister (Mary I) held the threat of execution over Elizabeth's head throughout her reign and publicly cast doubt over Elizabeth's paternity. On Mary's death, her widower (Philip II of Spain) made a play for Elizabeth's hand in marriage.

Cousin Mary, Queen of Scot's plotted to take Elizabeth's throne, and spent 19 years as Elizabeth's prisoner, culminating in her execution in 1587.

Elizabeth's complicated and dysfunctional family earn her: 10/10

Dynasty

Elizabeth famously did not marry. It has been suggested that she was put off the idea of marriage by her father's treatment of her mother and his other wives, or that she was devastated when her looks were marred by smallpox in 1562. It may be that was shrewd enough to realise that she could not rule the country in her own way with a husband, and that any husband she chose would be unpopular with some elements of her people and so cause division in the country.

She was however flirtatious and liked to have admirers; Robert Dudley, Walter Raleigh and Robert Devereux being amongst her favourites.

With no husband and no children Elizabeth did not fulfil one of the primary duties of a monarch: to carry on the dynasty  0/10

Intelligence

Elizabeth was extremely well-educated and her father provided some of the finest scholars to teach her. She was fluent in six languages, composing letters in Greek at an early age. Her early life at Court was fraught with danger and she managed to survive through the reigns of her staunchly Protestant brother and fanatically Catholic sister with only one stay in the Tower.

Once she was queen she surrounded herself with brilliant advisors and tried to steer the country away from pulling itself apart over religious differences (she refused to "make windows into men's souls" - she just asked people to conform outwardly, as she had done to save herself during her sister's reign.)

Elizabeth was shrewd, cunning and intelligent: 10/10

Popularity

Elizabeth had a small blip in popularity at the beginning of her reign, hinging around her religious reforms and dithering about marriage. However, she went on to be highly popular, helped in part by her savvy control of her brand, which she marketed well - no other monarch before had travelled so widely throughout the realm.

Popular with sailors, adventurers, wig makers, portrait painters and middle of the road religious types.

Unpopular with Catholics, Calvinists, the Spanish, eligible royal bachelors.

9/10

Achievements

Elizabeth's reign is described as a "Golden Age" for England. English explorers voyaged around the world, great country houses were built, poets and playwrights flourished. Perhaps Elizabeth's finest hour came in 1588 when her former brother-in-law Philip of Spain sent his Armada to invade England. It was probably the weather as much as anything that helped secure victory for the small English fleet, but Elizabeth gave a rousing speech at Tilbury, which still sounds fantastic.

Elizabeth's encouraged brilliance in others, as well as herself: 10/10

Total Score:  39/50


Victoria in 1887
Victoria in 1887

Victoria

Vital Statistics

Born: 24 May 1819 at Kensington Palace

Reigned: 1837 - 22 January 1901

Was she a:

Poe-faced, prudish and portly granny in a big black frock and lace cap

or

Loyal and devoted wife and matriarch, faithful and steady guardian of an empire.


Family Life

Victoria was the granddaughter of King George III, who was famously mad - indeed so mad that they made a film about his madness. Both her grandfather and her father, Prince Edward, Duke of Kent, died in 1820. Her uncle, George IV, did not get on with his queen, Charlotte, spending his wedding night drunk and banning her from his coronation. George had previously contracted an illegal wedding with an actress, Mrs Fitzherbert.

George was succeeded by his brother William. William IV had a large family, sadly all of them illegitimate. He did marry, but unfortunately he and his wife had no children, hence the throne went to his younger brother's child, Victoria.

Victoria's mother (whose brother had been married to George IV's daughter until her untimely death), the Duchess of Kent, was strict and domineering. Victoria had to sleep in her mother's room every night and was prevented from meeting her father's family. The Duchess and her advisor, Sir John Conroy (who may or may not have been the Duchess' lover) tried to make Victoria weak and dependent. Victoria escaped her mother's thrall when she married; her husband, Albert, was her first cousin.

After Albert's early death Victoria sank into a deep melancholy and withdrew from public life for many years. She formed a notorious attachment to a servant, John Brown, prompting much speculation about the relationship.

Victoria had an emotionally difficult upbringing and her extended family were decidedly unhinged; however they did could not match the Tudors for intrigue and bloodlust: 6/10

Dynasty

Victoria and Albert had nine children, most of whom married into the Royal families of Europe, including Germany, Prussia, Schleswig-Holstein, Hesse and Russia. The present Queen Elizabeth II is Victoria's great-great-grandaughter.

Victoria's direct descendants have held the British throne for over a century. Her grandson Kaiser Wilhelm III and her grandson-in-law Tsar Nicholas II (who was also her son's cousin on his mother's side) both spectacularly lost theirs.

For her large family and keeping the British throne in the family: 9/10

Intelligence

Victoria's first language was German, but she began to speak English when she was around three. She also learnt Italian. Victoria seems to have been overshadowed by Albert who threw himself into his role of Consort, perhaps because Victoria was so often incapacitated by her pregnancies. I couldn't find any examples of great speeches or quotes given by Victoria, except the "We are not amused" one.

Not an outstanding intellectual: 5/10

Popularity

Victoria suffered two periods of unpopularity. Early in her reign she chose to believe, and perhaps support, a rumour that one of her unmarried ladies-in-waiting was pregnant. The father was supposed to be Victoria's mother's comptroller Sir John Conroy, whom Victoria detested, so perhaps that is why she chose to believe the rumours and had the unfortunate lady dismissed. The lady subsequently died of the disease that caused the symptoms giving rise to the rumour and Victoria was vilified for her unkind treatment.

Later in her reign, the public tired of Victoria's self-imposed seclusion following Albert's death and there was an increase in republicanism. Fortunately, Victoria outlived her own unpopularity and by dint of living a long life managed to regain the public's favour.

Loved more for managing to live a long life and for being a figure-head than for herself: 6/10

Achievements

The Victorian era was one of unprecedented progress. The British also managed to amass a huge empire - not bad for a little island, but how much of it was down to her little queen? Personally, I think that Victoria was along for the ride, not driving the (newly invented) train.

However, she did achieve one thing: pain relief in childbirth. Victoria wasn't one for enduring a natural birth and made it acceptable for woman to accept relief in labour. 5/10

Total Score: 31/50

Queen Victoria footage by Monty Python

The Verdict

My verdict has Elizabeth ahead of Victoria - but if I am honest, I've always been biased.  What do you think - take the poll or leave a comment to disagree.

Your Vote

Who should win this historical grudge match?

  • Elizabeth I
  • Queen Victoria
See results without voting

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Comments 29 comments

epigramman profile image

epigramman 5 years ago

.....this is a very inventive way of teaching history and your hub lesson was enlightening, educational and entertaining .......so I must post another great one by you to my Facebook page with a direct link back here ......I would really love to have more people read your hubs too, in particular this one because it's so well researched and put together on a world class level.

Please check out some of my hub buddies, if you're so inclined, who write similar hubs and would appreciate this one:

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PARADISE 7

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SUNNIE DAY

THE BLUE STAR

SLIGOBAY

MARTIE COETSER

lake erie time ontario canada 7:05am


Judi Bee profile image

Judi Bee 5 years ago from UK Author

Hi Epigramman - I am so glad you enjoyed this hub, it's my favourite. I wrote it mainly for my own amusement, but hoped that someone else might appreciate it too - delighted that you did! I will certainly check out the hubbers you suggest - I already follow Paradise7, but the others are new on me. Thanks for the suggestions :-)


Lord De Cross profile image

Lord De Cross 5 years ago

Hi Judi,

Excellent hub! scores and comparisons are there laid out for the general public to read and draw their own conclusion. They might be 300 year apart but their influence is felt up to today. Thanks for the info and well researched hub!

LORD


Judi Bee profile image

Judi Bee 5 years ago from UK Author

Hi Lord, good to hear from you! Thank you so much for commenting, glad you found my hub interesting. You are right, whichever woman you prefer, they both have an enduring influence and appeal.


epigramman profile image

epigramman 5 years ago

...and oh yeah Miss Bee, the LORD is a good buddy of mine too, lol, THE LORD DE CROSS , lake erie time 12:19pm


Judi Bee profile image

Judi Bee 5 years ago from UK Author

Epigramman, you know the nicest people!


Just History profile image

Just History 5 years ago from England

HI Judi- I make no apology in voting for Victoria- the absolute reason was her dynastic role. By producing 9 children she ensured the continuation of the monarchy. I have no doubt that should she have not had issue the monarchy would not be in place today in the United Kingdom, especially with the start of anti german feeling shortly after her death. With Queen Elizabeth it was different as the country knew nothing other than a ruler and the king still had an element of divine power. Well that's my penny worth and I am sure that loads of people would agree/disagree with me. Voted this hub up and everything else up!!


Judi Bee profile image

Judi Bee 5 years ago from UK Author

Just History, after reading your Queen Victoria's children hub earlier today, I would expect nothing less from you! I agree that Victoria did her duty (and then some!) in producing an heir and several spares, but I just can't warm to her. I am, and will remain, a lifelong Elizabeth fan.

Thanks for reading and commenting :-)


ishwaryaa22 profile image

ishwaryaa22 4 years ago from Chennai, India

I am fascinated with royalty like you and read a lot of historical fiction. This hub of yours is very interesting and the way you compared these two famous queens is very engrossing! Vote up.


Judi Bee profile image

Judi Bee 4 years ago from UK Author

Hi ishwaryaa - thanks for your kind comment, I am so glad you enjoyed reading this hub :-)


MartieCoetser profile image

MartieCoetser 4 years ago from South Africa

Judi Bee, I found this hub of yours fascinating. There was a time I devoured more than a hundred biographies of British monarchs - I wanted to follow the line from King Arthur to present with the aim to understand the complicated connections with the monarchs of other countries. I really enjoyed the journeys through history.

Was Queen Victoria not also the first royalty who was suckled by her own mother instead of by a wet-nurse?

I am pimping this hub of yours not only because I have found it extremely interesting, but also because it is your birthday today (3 March 2012). I hope you have a lovely day and only the best ahead.


SanneL profile image

SanneL 4 years ago from Sweden

How in the world did I miss this one?? Thank you Martie for sharing this wonderful hub! A Royalty grudge is something I always enjoyed. Lol! Reading about these two enduring women was fascinating. Great history lesson as well. Thanks Judi Bee and Happy birthday again!


Judi Bee profile image

Judi Bee 4 years ago from UK Author

HI Martie - delighted you enjoyed this hub. I didn't know that Queen Victoria was suckled by her own mother - clearly didn't help them to bond, they had a bad relationship!

Thanks for your lovely comments, your birthday wishes and for sharing - truly lovely of you :-)


Judi Bee profile image

Judi Bee 4 years ago from UK Author

Hi Sannel - they are a fascinating pair of women but I doubt they would have liked each other at all. So pleased you enjoyed it!

Once again, thanks for your kind birthday wishes and support - it's fantastic! :-)


Alecia Murphy profile image

Alecia Murphy 4 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina

I think if they had merged to become the ultimate royal, that would have been super awesome but it's obvious that Elizabeth was definitely a better royal strategist while Victoria actually fulfilled her duties in leaving a legacy by procreating. Very cool take on some terrific history! Great hub :)!


Judi Bee profile image

Judi Bee 4 years ago from UK Author

Hi Alecia - oh my word, Victoribeth or Elizaboria the ultimate Queen! What a scary thought! I agree totally, they both fulfilled different aspects of their duties. Elizabeth still has the edge though, IMHO.

Always a pleasure to hear from you, thanks for your comments :-)


Jools99 profile image

Jools99 4 years ago from North-East UK

For me, Elizabeth wins by a long way - if historians have been honest with us! Victoria did have the honour of being 'Empress' of India and the Empire was still in its period of greatness but Victoria was not in Elizabeth's class IMHO.


Judi Bee profile image

Judi Bee 4 years ago from UK Author

Hi Jools - I agree! I tend to think that Victoria had the good fortune to be Queen-Empress during a period of British greatness, but Elizabeth actively made England great during her reign.

Thanks for your comments and support, always appreciated :-)


DeborahNeyens profile image

DeborahNeyens 4 years ago from Iowa

I agree. Elizabeth I for the win! Great hub.


Judi Bee profile image

Judi Bee 4 years ago from UK Author

Hi Deb - not much of a contest in my view!

Thanks for commenting, appreciated as always!


MarieAlice profile image

MarieAlice 4 years ago from Peru

very interesting Hub. I share with you my passion for History and historical characters. Even when they were raised centuries apart we can compare their reigns and what they did for England. I personaly prefer Elizabeth I, I don´t know why but that particular time in History is really interesting for me (even whe these times were really cruel)


Judi Bee profile image

Judi Bee 4 years ago from UK Author

Hi MarieAlice - glad that you are another Elizabeth fan. You are right, the Tudor era was incredibly cruel in many ways, but nonetheless utterly fascinating.

Thanks for taking the time to comment, I appreciate it :-)


Thelma Alberts profile image

Thelma Alberts 4 years ago from Germany

What an interesting history hub! I enjoyed reading it. I find it fascinating reading about English royalties and about their lives. I prefer the Elizabethan era than Victorian era. Reading the biography of Queen Elizabeth 1, a few years ago, made me cry more than reading Queen Victorias life story. That´s maybe because I felt pity and sad about Queen Elizabeth´s scary life knowing how his father beheaded his mother. Well, the King father ordered his subject to behead her mother, Anne Bolyn.

Thanks for sharing. British Royal stories fascinates me always.


Thelma Alberts profile image

Thelma Alberts 4 years ago from Germany

What an interesting history hub! I prefer the Elizabethan era. I find it fascinating reading about British Royal families. I have read the biography of Queen Elizabeth 1 a few years ago and I felt pity and sad for her. I cried while reading the story about her more than reading about the life of Queen Victoria. I´m so sentimental, lol. Maybe because Queen Elizabeth 1 had a scary life knowing that her King father ordered his subject to behead her mother, Anne Boleyn. She did not know whom she can trust to.

Thanks for sharing. British Royal stories always fascinates me.


Judi Bee profile image

Judi Bee 4 years ago from UK Author

Hi Thelma - happy to hear you found this interesting! Yes, I agree that Elizabeth had a very traumatic childhood, more so than Victoria.

Thanks so much for commenting, much appreciated!


joanveronica profile image

joanveronica 4 years ago from Concepcion, Chile

What a fantastic competition you have created here! A thoroughly enjoyable read, great fun! Especially with two such formidable female figures involved in the competition!

Congratulations for an original, well written Hub! Voted up, etc.


Judi Bee profile image

Judi Bee 4 years ago from UK Author

Hi joanveronica - this was one of the first hubs I wrote here and I really enjoyed writing it, although in fairness the winner was, in my opinion, never in doubt!

Great to see you again, loving your comments - thanks so much!


Kathleen Cochran profile image

Kathleen Cochran 9 months ago from Atlanta, Georgia

I voted for Victoria because of the far-reaching impact the marriages of her children had on the world. She also took the throne younger than EII after a more dysfunctional childhood and was widowed at 40. EII has certainly had her share of challenges and I've always admired her, but since I had to choose . . .


Judi Bee profile image

Judi Bee 9 months ago from UK Author

Hi Kathleen - great points, but Elizabeth has always fascinated me far more than Victoria. Thanks for commenting.

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