The Victorian Age

1837 to 1901

Queen Victoria succeeded her Uncle William IV at the age of 18 in June 1837. She was to rule as sovereign for 63 years and 7 months, during which time the wealth, influence and extent of the British Empire reached its peak. In 1840 the Queen married Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, an enlightened, liberal and cultured prince, who shared and fostered the Queen's interests in architecture, music and the arts. It was Prince Albert who promoted the Great Exhibition at the Crystal Palace in London in 1851, and encouraged its sequel in Dublin two years later. His death in 1861 left Victoria isolated and alone.

The Victorian age in Ireland is characterised by improvements of the infrastructure of the country: harbours and ports, lighthouses, bridges and roads. It saw the creation of an extensive railway system; the growth of banking throughout the country; the founding of the University Colleges in Belfast, Cork and Galway; the building of hospitals and schools and the creation of large and increasingly ambitious Catholic churches throughout the country.

This history of improvement is overshadowed by the horror of the great Famine of 1845 to 47, by the need to erect Poor Law Union Workhouses throughout the county, by the Encumbered Estates where landlords lacked the income to help the poor, and by the poverty that forced emigration on over 2 million people.

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