Canuck of the Day: Queen Victoria (even though she was British!)

Consider for a moment that for most of human history, everyone was homeschooled – including the royals! Queen Victoria was one such homeschooled royal – however she cannot be said to have enjoyed the experience. The young princess was raised in near total isolation with only the company of a few adults around her throughout her youth. She made no bones about how dreadful she found her upbringing once she was an adult and free to express herself – but she overcame her sorrows and lived to marry a man she loved and raise 9 children of her own, relishing family life and relationships.

Today’s Canuck of the Day is an example of one of many people’s worst fears about homeschool: that it isolates a child and keeps them from spreading their wings and developing properly, or happily. But Her Royal Highness is also an example of a homeschooled person who Did Well – she may not have enjoyed her youth, but she remained ‘intact’ enough to rebel constructively as soon as she was able, and to pursue and achieve her own goals. She proved to be an intelligent and capable leader as an adult. And before you protest that she was not Canadian, which is true (though wouldn’t the monarch of a country automatically have citizenship??!), she is known as the ‘Mother of Confederation’. She contributed greatly to Canada’s development as a tolerant nation. A nation in which we are free to homeschool, or not, as we see fit! In fact, there is no room here to list the many ways in which Queen Victoria contributed to Canada – please do read this interesting article to learn more.

There are so many different ways in which a child might be homeschooled, just as there are so many different circumstances under which a child might go to school. Who can say definitively what is best and what is worst, for each individual? Perhaps only a basic level of attention to ‘emotional intelligence’ applies, whether you have a family of 8 or a family of 1. Whether you homeschool in a city or in the country, whether you move frequently or stay put. And whether your extended family approves, or is involved, or not.

Queen Victoria was fortunate to have a loving uncle (who admittedly also had ulterior motives in maintaining good relations with his powerful relatives). Her ‘Uncle Leopold’ provided much-appreciated support and kindness to her through keeping up an encouraging correspondence for years. On this May long weekend, in which Canadians note the birthday of the late Queen Victoria, we here at Canadian Winter Homeschool Materials take a moment to  note the wonderful influence that well-intended extended family can have on any child – homeschooled or not! That uniquely ‘neutral’ enthusiasm that an uncle can bestow, the listening ear of a not-too-closely-involved aunt, the tried-and-true wisdom of a grandfather, the patience and stability of a grandmother.

Before you begin to think that we have some sort of surreally-fantastic family hurrah-ing us all the way over here as we do dishes and correct spelling – we don’t. We do not have any extended family – and we feel its absence. But we can imagine how nice it would be. And we can celebrate it when we see it!

And so, in respectful memoriam of Queen Victoria and her ‘dear’ Uncle Leopold, here is a letter he wrote to her on her birthday long ago – the embodiment of an affectionate and concerned uncle, offering thoughtful and pertinent advice. In short, an uncle whom every homeschooled student (or parent!) would surely love to have.


The King of the Belgians to the Princess Victoria.

Laeken, 21st May 1833.

My dearest Love,—To make quite sure of my birthday congratulations reaching you on that day, I send them by to-day’s messenger, and confide them to the care of your illustrious mother.

My sincere good wishes for many happy returns of that day which gave you, dear little soul, to us, will be accompanied by some few reflections, which the serious aspect of our times calls forth. My dearest Love, you are now fourteen years old, a period when the delightful pastimes of childhood must be mixed with thoughts appertaining already to a matured part of your life. I know that you have been very studious, but now comes the time when the judgment must form itself, when the character requires attention; in short when the young tree takes the shape which it retains afterwards through life.

To attain this object it is indispensable to give some little time to reflection. The life in a great town is little calculated for such purposes; however, with some firmness of purpose it can be done.

Self-examination is the most important part of the business, and a very useful mode of proceeding is, for instance, every evening to recapitulate the events of the day, and the motives which made one act oneself, as well as to try to guess what might have been the motives of others. Amiable dispositions like yours will easily perceive if your own motives were good. Persons in high situations must particularly guard themselves against selfishness and vanity. An individual in a high and important situation will easily see a great many persons eager to please the first, and to flatter and encourage the last. Selfishness, however, makes the individual itself miserable, and is the cause of constant disappointment, besides being the surest means of being disliked by everybody.

Vanity, on the other hand, is generally artfully used by ambitious and interested people to make one a tool for purposes of their own, but too often in opposition with one’s own happiness and destruction of it.

To learn to know oneself, to judge oneself with truth and impartiality, must be the great objects of one’s exertion; they are only attainable by constant and cool self-examination.

The position of what is generally called great people has of late become extremely difficult. They are more attacked and calumniated, and judged with less indulgence than private individuals. What they have lost in this way, they have not by any means regained in any other. Ever since the revolution of 1790 they are much less secure than they used to be, and the transition from sovereign power to absolute want has been as frequent as sudden.

It becomes, therefore, necessary that the character should be so formed as not to be intoxicated by greatness and success, nor cast down by misfortune. To be able to do so, one must be able to appreciate things according to their real value, and particularly avoid giving to trifles an undue importance.

Nothing is so great and clear a proof of unfitness for greater and nobler actions, than a mind which is seriously occupied with trifles.

Trifling matters may be objects of amusement and relaxation to a clever person, but only a weak mind and a mean spirit consider trifles as important. The good sense must show itself by distinguishing what is and what is not important.

My sermon is now long enough, my dear child. I strongly recommend it, however, to your reflection and consideration.

Let me soon hear from you; and may God bless and preserve you. Ever, my dear Love, your affectionate Uncle,

Leopold R.


Image: Princess Victoria and her dog, Dash, after George Hayter (1792-1871)

You may like: British Royals Literature & Composition


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