Commencement of the Present Reign
QUEEN VICTORIA began to reign June 20, 1837, having just completed her eighteenth year; was crowned on the 28th of June in the following year; and was married to her cousin, Prince Albert of Coburg and Gotha, February 10, 1840. In the autumns of 1842, '44, '47, and '48, her majesty visited Scotland, but on each occasion more in a private than in a state capacity; residing at the mansions of the nobility that lay in her route to the Highlands, where the Prince Consort enjoyed the invigorating sports of grouse-shooting and deer-stalking. In 1843 she paid a visit, entirely divested of state formalities, to the late royal family of France; and shortly after made another to her uncle, the king of the Belgians. In 1845, besides making the tour of the English midland counties, the royal pair visited the family of Prince Albert at Coburg and Gotha; receiving the attentions of the various German powers that lay on their outward and homeward route. Her majesty has received in turn the friendly visits of several crowned heads, among whom have been the ex-king of the French, Leopold of Belgium, the king of Saxony, and the emperor of Russia. Such interchanges and attentions are not without their importance; at all events they are characteristic of a new era in the international history of Europe.
The Whig ministry and measures, which had for some time been on the decline, were set aside by a vote of 'no confidence' in the summer of 1841; a dissolution of Parliament was the consequence; and after the new elections, the Opposition was found to be so far in the ascendancy, that Viscount Melbourne tendered his resignation, and retired from public life, leaving Sir Robert Peel again to take the helm of affairs. The Parliament of 1841, under the direction of the Peel ministry, was in many respects one of the most important during the reigning dynasty. Besides passing several measures of benefit to the internal management of the country, it established, by the abolition of the corn-laws and other restrictive duties, the principles of free trade, and in that course Britain has since been followed by other nations; it gave, by the imposition of a property and income tax, a preference to the doctrine of direct taxation; it countenanced in all its diplomatic negotiations the duties and advantages of a peace policy; and engaged less with political theories than with practical and business-like arrangements for the commerce, health, and education of the country. In consequence of ministerial differences, Sir Robert Peel tendered his resignation as premier in June 1846, and was succeeded in office by Lord John Russell, to whom was assigned the further task of carrying out the principles of free trade, of legislating for Ireland in a time of dearth and famine (caused by successive failures of the potato crop), and of adopting some plan of national education - a subject which has been too long neglected in this otherwise great and prosperous empire.
Since the accession of her majesty, Britain has been on the most friendly terms with the other nations of Europe cooperating with them in the extension and liberation of commerce, the continuance of peace, the suppression of slavery, and the advancement of other measures of importance to civilization. The disputed boundaries between British America and the United States have been determined by friendly negotiation; thus giving permanency in the new world as well as in the old to the spirit of peace and national brotherhood.