As the righteous grow powerful, people rejoice; but when the wicked rule, people groan.
— Proverbs 29:2 (ISV)
The Meaning behind the Holiday
May 23, 2016, marks Victoria Day in Canada. It is a legal holiday celebrated on the Monday preceding May 25 in every province and territory in the country. (In Quebec, this holiday is called “National Patriotes Day” or Journée nationale des patriotes). The holiday commemorates the birth of Britain’s Queen Victoria. (Her actual birthdate was May 24, 1819.) Victoria’s birthday was made an official holiday in 1901, after her death. Parliament wanted to recognize her contributions to the country over her nearly 64-year reign. Canada has honored the monarch in other ways as well. According to Garry Toffoli, vice chair and executive director of the Canadian Royal Heritage Trust:
Victoria, British Columbia is named after her. She named British Columbia. Regina in Saskatchewan is named after her. Alberta is named after her daughter, Princess Louise Alberta, who is named after her husband Prince Albert. In Ontario, we have Ottawa, which was named by Queen Victoria. Prince Edward Island is named after her father, Prince Edward, the one who lived in Canada for a decade.
(The Victoria Cross was introduced in 1856 to reward acts of valor during the Crimean War, and it remains the highest British, Canadian, Australian, and New Zealand award for bravery.)
Victoria Day is a recognition of her contributions to Canada, and also Queen Elizabeth II’s, said Toffoli. However, it is about more than that, he thinks. “It’s a recognition of who we are as a people.”
If it were not for the Crown, there would not be a Canada. We would be part of the United States.
Many people have heard of Queen Victoria, but few know much about her.
The Grandmother of Europe
Victoria was the daughter of Prince Edward, the fourth son of King George III. She inherited the throne at aged 18, after her father’s three elder brothers had all died, leaving no surviving legitimate children. Her reign of 63 years and seven months was the longest of any British monarch (until today’s Queen Elizabeth II) and is known as the Victorian Era. It was a period of industrial, cultural, political, scientific, and military change within the United Kingdom, and was marked by a great expansion of the British Empire. Her reign is also remembered for bringing integrity back to the British monarchy after being tarnished by her uncles.
Victoria married her first cousin, Prince Albert, in 1840. Their nine children married into royal and noble families across the continent, tying them together and earning her the moniker “the grandmother of Europe.” (It turned into a sad state of affairs when her grandchildren went to war with one another as the heads of Russia, Britain, and Germany during World War I.)
A Woman of Faith
While Victoria reigned during a time when Britain was a worldly power, the Queen herself was also a woman of faith. Stories survive of how she lived a life of Christian virtue.
According to John Wilber Chapman:
When Queen Victoria had just ascended her throne, she went, as is the custom of Royalty, to hear “The Messiah” rendered. She had been instructed as to her conduct by those who knew and was told that she must not rise when the others stood at the singing of the Hallelujah Chorus. When that magnificent chorus was being sung, and the singers were shouting “Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth,” she sat with great difficulty.
It seemed as if she would rise in spite of the custom of kings and queens, but finally when they came to that part of the chorus where with a shout they proclaim Him King of Kings suddenly the young queen rose and stood with bowed head, as if she would take her own crown from off her head and cast it at His feet.
Frederic Ferrar, a cleric of the Church of England and friend to Queen Victoria told the story of how Victoria, after hearing one of her chaplains preach at Windsor on the second coming of Christ, spoke to the Dean about it and said, “Oh, how I wish that the Lord would come during my lifetime.” “Why does your Majesty feel this very earnest desire?” asked Ferrar. The Queen’s face lit up and she replied, “Because I should so love to lay my crown at His feet.”
For 64 years this 18-year-old girl, who was known to the world as Queen Victoria, reigned over the British Empire. England never made greater progress than during her reign. A prince of India asked her what was the secret of England’s power, and in reply, she picked up a Book from a nearby table. “This is the secret,” she said.
That Book was the Bible.
- Queen Victoria – Biography
- Queen Victoria: The Woman who Redefined Britain’s Monarchy
- Cousins at War
- The Victorian Era
— University of Nevada, Las Vegas
- Overview of the Victorian Era
— University of London