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Alexandrina Victoria of the House of Hanover was born at Kensington Palace in 1816. On the death of her uncle in 1837 a month after her 18th birthday she became Queen Victoria. Her name was to become synonymous with Britain's great age of industrial growth, economic progress and territorial expansion.

In 1840 she married her first cousin, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. They had nine children, all of whom married into royal and noble families across the continent, uniting the dynasties and earning her the nickname "the grandmother of Europe".

She died at Osborne House on the Isle of Wight, on 22 January 1901 after a reign which lasted 63 years, to date the longest in British history. At her death, it was said, Britain had a worldwide empire on which the sun never set.

Kate Williams has a BA from Somerville College, Oxford, an MA from Queen Mary, University of London and a DPhil from Oxford. She teaches at Royal Holloway. Kate has written books on Emma Hamilton, Queen Victoria and Josephine Bonaparte. She is a regular guest on TV and radio programmes including Newsnight, the Today Programme and Woman’s Hour.

Time Out London