Queen Victoria father had died when she was eight months old so her upbringing was presided over by her uncle, the future Leopold I of Belgium, and her mother, Maria Louisa Victoria of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld, the Duchess of Kent.
Another important early influence was Victoria’s Hanoverian governess, Louise Lehzen. German was the language Victoria spoke as a child and, indeed, she never spoke English perfectly.
It was generally observed that the young Victoria was a slow learner. Though small – she never grew to be more than five feet tall – she was slim and pretty and the Duke of Wellington for one considered her delightful.
She exhibited a frivolous nature and was fond of animals: the most famous of her pets was a King Charles spaniel called Dash, but she also kept horses, two Blue Persian cats and another dog, called Lootie, who was the first Pekinese brought to the West.
Things she didn’t like included bishops, because of ‘their wigs and aprons’, and this was a phobia she never really conquered.