Victoria insulted, Canada agitated


Queen Victoria in 1887, the “Golden Jubilee” that marked the 50th anniversary of her reign. Harper’s magazine called her “dull, coarse, and illiterate.”


An America magazine has called Queen Victoria and her family “dull, coarse and illiterate.” This is “a gross and indecent attack on Her Majesty” by Harper’s magazine, protests the Nova Scotia Yarmouth Herald, December 16, 1857. It adds that Harper’s has been “expelled from several colonial libraries and reading rooms.”

The incident arose from a minor brouhaha involving a company of amateur actors organized by Charles Dickens and a performance of the Frozen Deep, a play by Dickens’ friend Wilkie Collins.

Queen Victoria “invited them to the Castle to give a performance of the piece,” the Herald states. “But Dickens replied that he and the gentlemen associated with him would comply with her Majesty’s wish with great pleasure, only the ladies who assisted them, not being professional players, he could not take them to the Castle unless the Queen chose to receive them as her guests. This her Majesty could not do because they had never been presented to her in a regular way at a ‘drawing room.’” The protocol problem was eventually resolved when the Queen agreed to accept an invitation to witness the performance at a small public theatre, “and all parties saved their honour.”

The incident, said the Herald, “strangely stirred up the bile of the Harper’s… in the following ungentlemanly strain.

“The Queen of England comes of a family notoriously dull, coarse and illiterate. The Hanoverian court of England has never been renowned for a solitary thrill for what is noblest and best in England. Her present fruitless Majesty frowned to death the Lady Fiona Hastings [a court attendant who died of cancer but who had been rumoured to be pregnant while unwed], tied a garter around the leg of Louis Napoleon—the uncertain son of an uncertain mother—and now declines to receive as gentlemen the men who do more for the glory of England than any other class of Englishmen.”

Unfamiliar Canadian history stories 042

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