Newspaper Representations of Queen Victoria's Agency During the Hastings Scandal and Bedchamber Crisis of 1839




Fidler, Lacy

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In 1839 Queen Victoria twice became the focus of a media maelstrom: In April, the publication of what came to be known as the Hastings Correspondence blamed the Queen for having taken part in the perceived persecution of Lady Flora Hastings. In May, Victoria's refusal to allow Sir Robert Peel to replace certain ladies of her bedchamber engineered Lord Melbourne's return as Prime Minister. Both of these events resulted in an outcry, both in opposition to the Queen and in support of her. Many historical works that deal with these events tend to recount them as either trivial anecdotes or as means to criticize Victoria's early years on the throne. However, some recent works have begun to rethink the condemnation of her actions. This paper reassesses Queen Victoria's role in the Hastings Scandal and the Bedchamber Crisis by examining how she was represented in certain London newspapers during these events. Instead of focusing on whether Victoria was right or wrong in pursuing the courses that she did, the emphasis is placed on how both the Tory newspapers, that opposed her actions, and the Whig newspapers, which supported her actions, sought to reduce the appearance of agency on Victoria's part. Papers of both political affiliations made constant reference to Victoria's youth, gender, and inexperience—all factors which also played into developing ideals regarding the roles of both the monarchy and women in the political process. The Hastings Scandal and the Bedchamber Crisis are placed squarely within the midst of these issues. The possibility of a young, unmarried, and female monarch making decisions independent of male political guidance caused unease among newspaper writers grappling with the early nineteenth century's colliding concepts of political reform and cultural ideals.



Queen Victoria, Nineteenth Century, 1839, Media, Newspapers, Gender