snobbery, default and flattery

As for prudery it seemed as acceptable to the middle classes as to Queen Victoria herself. Her beloved Albert had a great success in cleaning up the court, and Lord Shaftesbury, a strict evangelical churchman and champion of progressive family acts, told the queen her model family life was universally approved. When she was in her fifties, customs began to relax again among the upper classes, but the queen stuck resolutely to a prudish line: ” the animal side of our nature is to me- too dreadful” …

---Queen Victoria's family in 1846 by Franz Xaver Winterhalter left to right: Prince Alfred and the Prince of Wales; the Queen and Prince Albert; Princesses Alice, Helena and Victoria--- Read More:

William Corbett, the pre-Victorian radical writer, once said that he would not consider delicacy to have increased in England until the streets ceased to swarm with prostitutes and the mansions of the aristocracy with bastards. It was particularly the raging incidence of Victorian prostitution that convinced so many realists that the great age of middle-class morality was, in effect, a paradise for hypocrites. Despite her adoration for Albert, the Queen took the typical Victorian view that man was basically a monster:

“It is indeed too hard and dreadful what we have to go through and men ought to have an adoration for one, and indeed to do everything to make up, for what after all they alone are the cause of! I must say it is a bad arrangement.”…

---The Queen with Two Heads John Tenniel Punch (1 April 1876): 124 Another Tenniel editorial carton opposing Disraeli's pet project of making Queen Victoria the Empress of India, which to many seemed to sully England and the British throne. Starting with the fact that many pubs have names something like "The Queens Head," Tenniel portrays the Priome Minister as a mere sign painter who's efforts are making a good thing into a grotesque abomination. Meanwhile, John Bull, who stands for all Englishmen, stands below, shouting, "No, no, Benjamin, it will never do. You can't improve on the old 'Queens Head'!"--- Read More:

…”We poor creatures are born for man’s pleasure and amusement, and destined to go through endless sufferings and trials…” What is worse, she adds, is that men do not even appreciate the sacrifices made by a wife “dear Papa even is not quite exempt though he would not admit it — but he laughs and sneers constantly at many of them and at our unavoidable inconvenience [pregnancies].” Read More:

How far did the queen wallow in her sex’s degradation rather than strive to liberate it? There seems to have been a touch of masochism somewhere, for when women’s rights movements developed, they were almost always met by a glare from the throne. The idea of women entering professions appalled her. Nursing was the exception and she opposed medical degrees for women. As for Lady Amberly, Bertrand Russell’s mother, who wanted to get women the vote, she needed a whipping.


( see link at end) : …Because of this, men’s sexual escapades were tolerated as inevitable; those of women were never tolerated. All of this amounted to a double standard. Women were expected to live a life of utter purity, yet young ladies at finishing school were taught to flirt and manipulate the men in their lives. The Victorians elevated gender defined roles to the status of universal truths, at least for middle class women. Many respectable women aspired to the ideal of domesticity expressed by one book of advice to young wives:

Where want of congeniality impairs domestic comfort, the fault is generally chargeable on the female side. it is for woman, not for man, to make the sacrifice. She must be plastic herself, to mold others. There is, indeed, something unfeminine in independence. It is contrary to nature, and therefore it offends. A really sensible woman feels her dependence. She does what she can; but she is conscious of inferiority, and therefore grateful for support. She knows that she is the weaker vessel, and that as such she should receive honor. (Spielvogel)

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Many middle class wives were caught in a no win situation. For the sake of her husband’s career, she was expected to maintain her public image as the idle wife, freed from demeaning physical labor and able to pass her time in ornamental pursuits. In many ways, the great symbol of all this was Queen Victoria herself. Read More:

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