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In 1837, the young Victoria ascended to the throne and became the Queen of the most powerful Empire in the world : the British Empire. In the long ago days when Britannia ruled the waves, it also ruled much of the globe. Naïve and inexperienced, she reached out to the then prime minister, Lord Melbourne – who became her most trusted ally and advisor.

However, one thing that is certain. Queen Victoria was no “slave owner”, “murderer”, “rapist”, whore”, “slag”,  or “racist” .

Under her reign, slavery ended. Workers rights were established. Education for the masses was created.

so why this? Are these people so uneducated?

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When Victoria married Albert, in 1840, it soon became apparent that Victoria would have a new trusted man beside her and, when Melbourne lost the election in 1841, it was Albert who would take his place as Queen Victoria’s most trusted advisor and ally.

It comes as little surprise that when a new State in Australia was formed in 1851, it was named after the Queen and its capital city after the man who had played such an enormous role in her early reign. Melbourne.

Turning the clock back, however, to 1833, 4 years prior to her ascension to the throne, there was a growing movement to end slavery in the British territories. In 1838, a petition – signed by almost half a million women, was sent to the young Queen. It called for the abolition of slavery.

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It is true that, a bill known as The Emancipation Bill of 1833 had specified that freed slaves in British territories should become ‘apprenticed’ labour in a transition period. This transition period was seen as a cop out and that all that it really meant was a change in terminology, not an end to slavery itself.

Slavery within the British territories continued under the guise of “ Apprenticeships” and petered out mostly due to economic reasons rather an altruistic ones. The British had paid out massive reparations to slave owners  and, much like the current renewable energy subsidies, when the dosh ran out ( in the case of the plantations ) so did the lust for slave labour. The minute the plantation owners had to pay wages to the workers, the gravy train ran out of steam.

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But, back to Prince Albert. 3 months after the marriage, Albert made his first public speech. It was at a meeting for the Society for the Extinction of the Slave Trade and for the Civilization of Africa.

It was a turning point for the abolition movement. In it Albert said

 ‘I deeply regret that the benevolent and persevering exertions of England to abolish that atrocious traffic in human beings (at once the desolation of Africa and the blackest stain upon civilized Europe) have not as yet led to any satisfactory conclusion. But I sincerely trust that this great country will not relax in its efforts until it has finally, and for ever, put an end to a state of things so repugnant to the spirit of Christianity, and the best feelings of our nature’

It marked the beginning of a passionate involvement from Prince Albert in matters relating to anti slavery and the rights of the poorer working class of Britain in general.

As mentioned in my earlier article about Abraham Lincoln’s involvement in garnering support from the British cotton mill workers in Manchester, the slave trade may have died out in the British territories, but it was alive, well and thriving in America’s south.

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It is fair to say that Victoria herself was perhaps less passionate about the aboliton of slavery and poverty than her husband was. Britain was no longer actively involved in the slave trade, but Britain did still process cotton that had been sown and reaped on the back of American slave labour. It should be remembered that Britain also had a thriving child slave labour market.

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Queen Victoria ruled over one of the most pivotal periods in modern history: including the creation of Australia and New Zealand as Nations.

Our Nations celebrate her reign in the names of our cities, towns and streets. Our States and our parks.

I believe, personally, that much of her more philanthropic and humanitarian work was done either by her husband Albert – or – in memory of him.

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During her 63-year reign, a length surpassed only by our current Queen, Victoria presided over the social and industrial transformation of Great Britain.

From a Dickensian hell hole, her reign saw prison reformation, reformation of the treatment of the mentally ill, the abolition of child slave labour, free and compulsory education….

Her statues commemorate a period of great industrial, economic and social growth.

Something to be celebrated, not torn down.

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