So, What Is Victoria Day, Anyway?

ProQuest Research Topic page, via eLibrary

ProQuest Research Topic page, via eLibrary

On May 18, 2015, Canadians will celebrate Victoria Day, which commemorates the birthday of the popular British queen who gave permission for the creation of the Dominion of Canada, the result of  Canadian Confederation. Prior to this, it was just a collection of colonies of the British Empire.

Everyone would gather
On the twenty-fourth of May
Sitting in the sand
To watch the fireworks display

As referred to in this nostalgic lyric from the Canadian band Rush’s Lakeside Park, Victoria’s actual birthday is May 24. (Yes, that was an obviously desperate effort to get Rush into a blog entry.) Even back in the early days of Victoria’s reign, her birthday had been celebrated, and in 1845, the United Province of Canada (one of the colonies) passed the first legislation declaring May 24 to be a holiday. It wasn’t until 1952 that Canada made it so that it would always occur on the Monday before May 25. That was the year that Elizabeth II ascended to the British throne and the holiday was also declared to be the official celebration of the current queen’s birthday. In recent years, some have pushed for another change in the holiday to also honor the country’s First Nations.

So, why does Canada still celebrate the birthdays of British queens? Because it is a constitutional monarchy that, as part of the Commonwealth of Nations, recognizes the British monarch as its own, a system that has its supporters and detractors. But, that is a blog for a different day.

What about Victoria herself? She became queen in 1837 at the age of 18, and a couple of years later married her cousin, Prince Albert. They had nine children, who eventually married into royal families all around continent, providing Victoria with the nickname “Grandmother of Europe.” When Albert died of typhoid in 1861, she remained in mourning for the rest of her life. As queen, she reigned over and became a symbol of an expanding empire, and despite her gloominess, earned the devotion of her country. Among the landmarks that bear her name are Lake VictoriaVictoria Falls and Victoria, British Columbia.

There is much, much more in eLibrary on Victoria, her influence on culture and the events that occurred during her time as Britain’s longest-reigning member of the British Monarchy. For a start, see our Queen Victoria Research Topic page and the resources about her at the Victorian Web site, which is accessible through eLibrary.



Jim Zelli

Jim Zelli has been with ProQuest since 1989 and with eLibrary since 2004.

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