For starters, Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Now, stop being so excited since this blog is all about Irish woe and prejudice which you can later use as an excuse to start a whiskey infused pub brawl in the name of your long forgotten (and in some cases, temporary) Irish heritage! To start off, the Irish have had it pretty rough. First, their Pagan ancestors were invaded by the Catholic English and the persistent Patrick converted much of Ireland to the Catholic faith. He was kind of easy to spot…he was the one with the holy ring over his head during hide and seek. “Hey! There’s Patrick!” Really hard to miss.
Then came the Scots, then came the Protestants, and then came…Victoria? Yes indeed! Queen Victoria hated those little blighters so much that it is said she rejoiced in their potato famine and eventual mass exodus to the young US of A. It was like the new Australia for her…just a place to put the unwanted. There’s not really a pin pointed reason why this is so, but she was the queen…she didn’t need a reason much like politics today! However, as the queen of the Irish she also had some sympathy for the loyal…it was the independent, outspoken “terrorists” she didn’t like. However, I have to break this down since this seems a little unfair in favor of the great monarch.
What she didn’t like was Irish politics and everything that went with it. Not necessarily its people. The London Irish Rifles (a loyal group) were okay in her book. But those devious Fenians (Irish Republican Brotherhood), not a chance. All those assassination attempts were probably their doing after all (I’m being totally sarcastic, please keep up!) so therefore a threat to the crown. At least, that’s what she thought…and was only 3/4 true.
And here is a little propaganda I’d like to correct. During the Potato Famine in the 1845-48 she was asked to donate to the cause. It is rumored she only gave 5 pounds when in reality she gave 2000 pounds of her own money! So even though she might have had a dislike for the Irish…she didn’t try to kill them. She was just secretly hating them and mocking them from her castles in England. You see, Ireland was uprising at the time of Victoria’s first visit in 1849…but she didn’t really know that. She was under the impression that Ireland, all of Ireland, was under her rule. But those crafty Irish nationalists just sat with the lid on the pot until it finally boiled over. Basically…most of Ireland lied!
A significant example was the increase in tenant farmers due to the irreparable decline of the landed gentry who were considered directly responsible for the social causes that made the famine catastrophe even worse; this new and emerging social group was becoming increasingly nationalistic and oppositional to British rule.
Another reason why she could have hated the Irish so much was that Sir John Conroy was an Irish solider which would definitely had some influence. Do any of you know John? Oh! Well, he’s the good man who was in charge of the Kensington System, the system which young Victoria was forced to endure until her ascension to the throne. There is a great movie called The Young Victoria which briefly explains the very strict upbringing of the monarch at the hands of the domineering Sir John and her mother. It is no great secret that the queen utterly despised Conroy and even banned him from her coronation, and her wedding, and her apartments, and from the rest of her natural life.
The System was aimed at rendering the young Princess Victoria weak and dependent, and thus unlikely to adhere to her other relatives in the House of Hanover against her mother and Conroy. Young Victoria was never allowed to be apart from either her mother, her tutor, or her governess, the Duchess of Northumberland. She was kept isolated from other children; her mother and Conroy strictly monitored and recorded her every action and entirely controlled whom she was allowed to meet. When it became clear that Victoria would inherit the throne, they tried to induce Victoria to appoint Conroy her personal secretary and treasurer via a long series of threats and browbeating, to no avail.
Yeah, I would have hated him too.
As I said, since she was both a political figure and a monarch she proudly, at least, tried to get on with her Irish subjects…but Conroy could very well have ruined that good opinion all together!
Next, it was the news that her son had slept with an Irish actress in Ireland which distressed Albert so much that his health deteriorated. At least, that’s what she said. He died of typhoid after returning from some “dreadful business” involving their son and an Irish actress of whom obviously wasn’t that good because there is no name that goes along with her. Just the fact she was an actress..and Irish. That was important to throw in there. Thanks historians. After this the queen became known as the “widow of Windsor” and very rarely made any appearances at all! But this situation could have all be avoided had the Irish floozy had just kept her grabby hands off of her darling bed hopping scoundrel of a son…whom she barely forgave for the incident! At least that’s how she saw it.
Then do we have to mention the many, many Irish revolts and nationalist parties that happened in the years leading up to Irish Independence in 1922? Do we?! If you want to look it up it’s quite a read but there were many and most were about land, religious rights, and self government. I think they’ve done a bang-up job since! Instead of the British worrying about uprisings they are uprising themselves! The IRA (Irish Republican Army) is also a little something worth reading about! Good going guys said me sarcastically!
Basically, to sum up: Queen Victoria might have helped the Irish, she might have accepted them in the young years of her reign, but speaking in her defense I would have hated those potato cropping anti-monarch loving Irish back then as well if they were as revolutionary as they were! She wanted nothing but uniformity and Ireland refused to play ball! Peace is important to any monarch so whatever personal grounds she had for disliking the Irish was justified in her terms. They are a ruthless, stubborn, outspoken but very proud people.
I am of Irish/Scottish/English descent. I am proud of my heritages and the history, good or bad, that comes from it! History is not always pretty and we sometimes believe the fantastic over the reality. Acceptance is the first step to knowing that your relatives use to beat Protestants in the street with clubs and nailed planks just for being Protestant and then burning a doll of Victoria in the town square like a Hindenburg effigy but then you realize…damn that’s Irish! I bet that if Victoria was alive today…she still wouldn’t like them!