QUEEN VICTORIA'S EMPIRE
The Moral Crusade
At the time of Queen Victoria’s birth in 1819, England was an agrarian society. Within a few short decades, this small island nation would be transformed into an industrial superpower, with an empire spanning the globe. QUEEN VICTORIA’S EMPIRE is both the story of this remarkable time and an engaging portrait of a queen who ruled over a fifth of the world’s population. It is the story of influential men who would shape a distinctively British imperialism: Gladstone, Disraeli, Livingstone, Rhodes and Prince Albert, Victoria’s husband. Whether driven by profit, passion or noble deeds, these figures would fuel expansion unequaled in history, forever changing Britain and the lands it controlled. Personal accounts, lush re-enactments and evocative cinematography from former outposts of the Empire, including Africa and India, recount the dramatic clash of personalities and cultures that would drive Victoria’s remarkable 64-year reign.
Engines Of Change: Passage to India
On the same day in May 1856 that Queen Victoria held a review in Hyde Park at which she distributed the first Victoria Crosses, earned in the Crimea, she learned of the likelihood that many more medals were in the offing. Indian troops -- Sepoys -- in the subcontinent had mutinied. The news from India, with the "cruel suspense" (as she put it) of weeks of delay in securing information, as telegraphic communication was incomplete, had come just as she was pressing her prime minister, Viscount Palmerston, and the Army secretary, Lord Panmure, to do something about the "defenseless state" of Britain itself in the aftermath of post-Crimea military retrenchments. Suddenly, penny-pinching to reduce taxes had to be abandoned. The commander-in-chief of forces in India, General George Anson, was reported dead. Palmerston had to rush a replacement, Sir Colin Campbell, who departed the next day, on the long voyage around the Cape to a situation bound to be very different when he arrived from anything he knew as he embarked.
The Scramble for Africa
By 1861, Britain is the wealthiest and most powerful nation on earth. However, the death of Prince Albert weakens Victoria, and many of his political ideals fade from importance. David Livingstone’s explorations of the African interior captivate the British public. Disraeli and Gladstone battle for control of the British government and debate the course of the empire. The purchase of the Suez Canal solidifies British presence in the Middle East, igniting a stampede for the colonization of Africa.
The Suez Canal is threatened by a holy war in the Sudan, and General Charles Gordon, killed by the rebels, becomes an “imperial martyr.” Cecil Rhodes prospects diamond deposits in southern Africa and asserts British control in the region. However, as Victoria celebrates her Diamond Jubilee, the empire is on the verge of its darkest hours. The Boer War leads to devastating losses and a reassessment of British purpose. Finally, in 1901, the death of Queen Victoria marks the end of an extraordinary era.
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