Chapter Four: The End of an Era

Listen to the audio and read the text below – Victoria Times

Chapter Four: The End of an Era

In 1866 Victoria opened Parliament for the first time after Albert’s death. She was dressed in black, the colour of mourning, which she wore for the rest of her life.

Transportation became a big problem in London because roads were always crowded. In 1863 the first underground railway in the world opened in London. Today it is called the “tube”.
This was a period of social reforms①. In 1870 the Education Act was passed. It introduced the first state schools for all children between the ages of five and thirteen. Factory reforms, new laws for the poor and new hospitals improved people’s lives. In 1875 many slums② were destroyed and better homes were built. However, poverty③ was still a big problem.

In 1878 the American inventor Alexander Bell showed the Queen his invention, the telephone.
Victoria was astonished④! She was even more astonished to learn about the invention of a new means of transport: the automobile. This was a period of revolutionary change. At this time Victoria’s favourite Prime Minister was Benjamin Disraeli, a witty, intelligent man. He got along well with⑤ the Queen and encouraged her to return to public life. Disraeli wanted to expand the British Empire. His political rival, William Gladstone, wanted to limit it. Victoria did not like Gladstone. He complained about the cost of the Albert Memorial. Victoria liked Disraeli’s idea of a bigger and stronger British Empire. In 1869 the Suez Canal, built by the French, opened and created an important trade route to India and the East.

① social reforms:社会改革。
② slums:贫民窟。
③ poverty:贫穷。
④ astonished: 惊讶。
⑤ got along well with:与人相处。

Great Britain bought shares① in the canal to secure Britain’s power in the East. India was an important colony with its production of tea, silk and cotton. Victoria was fascinated by India and was delighted to become Empress of India in 1876. The British Empire expanded rapidly with the addition of Borneo, Burma and New Guinea.

David Livingstone was a British missionary and a great explorer. In the 1850s he travelled extensively② in Africa and made the first maps of Central Africa. He discovered six lakes, rivers, mountains and the biggest waterfall in the world: called Victoria Falls in honour of the Queen. Henry Morton Stanley explored Lake Tanganyika and the Congo River.
In the 1880s Britain took control of large parts of Africa: Egypt, Nigeria, Kenya and Uganda. In 1883 there was a war in Sudan and rebels destroyed the British command③ in Khartoum. From its African colonies Britain got cocoa, coffee and diamonds. On 20 June 1887 Victoria celebrated her 50 years as Queen. The following day she rode through London in an open carriage for the spectacular④ Golden Jubilee⑤ celebrations. The streets were full of cheering people. A procession of royal guests from. all over the world rode in front of Victoria.

① shares:股份。
② extensively:广阔的。
③ command:部队。
④ spectacular:壮观。
⑤ Golden Jubilee:金禧。

There were Kings and Queens from Europe, the Crown Prince① of Prussia and Princes from India, Japan and Siam. Victoria was very fond of music and liked singing arias② from the comic operas of Gilbert and Sullivan. The Milkado, The pirates of Penzance and HMS pinafore are their most famous operas. Howerver, it was the famous British composer Edward Elgar who wrote music for the great celebration. But Victoria felt sad and lonely. “I sat alone,” she wrote, “Oh! without my beloved husband!” All of her children married into royal families in different parts of Europe.

When Victoria celebrated her Diamond Jubilee in 1897 there was another gigantic procession, with 50,000 troops from all over the British Empire. On that day Victoria pressed a button to send a telegraph message around the empire: “From my heart I thank my beloved people. May God bless them!”

In 1899 the British Empire was the biggest empire in the world. It covered one-fifth of the earth’s land area with 370 million people! Victoria was now an old woman and suffered from rheumatism③. She could not walk well but was still active. She worked from half past seven in the morning until late at night, studying government papers. She loved her people and her empire.

At the beginning of 1901 the Queen was very weak. On 22 January 1901 Victoria died at the age of 82 at Osborne House. Thousands of people wept during her funeral procession④. She was considered the Mother of the British Empire. She was buried beside her beloved Albert at Frogmore near Windsor.

① Crown Prince:王诸。
② arias:歌剧中的咏叹调。
③ rheumatism:风湿病。
④ funeral procession:葬礼巡行。

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