Surprising facts about Queen Victoria


She painted Abdul Karim's portrait
A keen artist, Victoria sketched and painted her homes and family, the places she visited and the people she met. In 1889 she painted a watercolour portrait of her Indian servant.

Her friendship with Abdul Karim nearly caused a constitutional crisis
Her advisors were scandalised that an Indian was treated as equal to white servants, and were put out by the speed of his advancement. They and later the Prince of Wales (Edward VII) asked her to choose between them and Abdul. She chose him.

She thought feminists should be whipped
She had no sympathy with the campaign for women's rights – she thought that voting and owning property were for men. In an 1870 diary entry she wrote: 'feminists ought to get a good whipping.'

Her first language was German and she learnt Hindi
At age three her mother decided she could read but not speak German, and she was taught English. She later added French, some Italian and Latin to her accomplishments, and finally Abdul Karim taught her to write Hindi.

Abdul was given to her as a present from the Viceroy
He arrived with a spice box, along with another Indian servant, Mohammed Buksh, as a gift to Victoria from the Viceroy of India. Abdul started as a waiter, serving Victoria breakfast, but was promoted to the rank of the Queen's 'Munshi' or teacher.

Victoria had several Indian servants who regularly cooked curries for her
She was served chicken curry for lunch every Sunday at Osborne House, prepared by her Indian servants who always had a separate kitchen.

The Empress never visited India, although her son did
Victoria never had the opportunity to visit India, although her son, Edward did from 1875-76, travelling all over the country, meeting princes and hunting tigers.

She survived at least seven assassination attempts
The first attempt took place in June 1840. The Queen was fired at when out driving with Prince Albert. Her would-be assassin was declared insane and sent to Bethlem Hospital. Further attempts took place in May 1842 (the shooter missed), in July the same year (pistol misfired), in 1849 (unloaded pistol) and in 1850 when she was hit over the head with a stick. There was another miss in 1872 (faulty pistol) and a final failed attempt in 1882 in Windsor.

She started the trend for wearing white wedding dresses
It was not unknown to wear a white wedding dress, but Victoria's wedding to Albert in 1840 was widely publicised and copied. It led to a huge increase in the numbers of brides who wore white and lace. White was also a sign of wealth, as the colour and fabric was expensive to buy and difficult to care for. 

Find out more about Queen Victoria's relationship with Abdul Karim in Channel Four's film Queen Victoria's Last Love.

Photo: Queen Victoria in 1887 by Alexander Bassano. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

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