Chapter Two: The Growth of Commerce and Industry

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Chapter Two: The Growth of Commerce and Industry

In November the Queen had her first child, Victoria. She was very clever and was the Queen’s favorite child. In 1841 Albert Edward, Prince of Wales, was born. Between 1840 and 1857 Victoria and Albert had nine children-four sons and five daughters. Victoria was a strict mother. The children’s food and clothing were always very simple. Victoria and Albert were devoted parents and spent a lot of time with their children. Family values① and morality② were very important to the royal couple. They became an example for their people. Most Victorians had large families. In the late 1800s, the average family had five or six children.

Albert introduced the first Christmas tree to the royal family, since it was a German custom. Soon it was popular all over Britain. Victoria was very fond of Christmas and its traditions.
The first public railway opened in 1825 and attracted a lot of attention. It was built by George Stephenson, an engineer. In 1830 the Liverpool to Manchester Railway opened and soon transported 1,200 passengers every day.

With the railway, people and goods travelled cheaply and quickly. Railways spread③ rapidly all over England, Scotland and Wales. People started going to the seaside and seaside towns developed. By 1848 there were no more stage coaches – almost everyone travelled by train. In 1842 Victoria and Albert took their first train ride.

① values:价值。
② morality:道德。
③ spread:伸展。

The Queen liked the speed, comfort and privacy of the train. Soon the royal family travelled by Royal Train, a specially designed carriage. In 1840 the first national postal system was created and the “Penny Black” became the first adhesive① postage stamp. Victoria’s profile② appeared on it. It cost only one penny to send a letter anywhere in Great Britain. Today the red Victorian letter boxes are still used!

Victoria had three royal houses but she didn’t like any of them. She wanted a private, remote family home. She and Albert bought a large estate③ called Osborne on the Isle of Wight. Victoria loved Osborne and was very happy there.

In 1847 the royal couple bought a house in Scotland: Balmoral Castle. It was surrounded by green hills and forests. Victoria liked the fresh, clean air and Albert liked hunting and fishing.
Poverty was a big problem in 19th-century Britain. Working people had a very difficult life. Adults and children worked long hours in factories in dangerous conditions. They were usually hungry and often ill. Squalid④ houses, unclean water and dirty streets caused many diseases. The air was full of smoke and fog. People did not live long in these conditions. People without work lived on the streets. They were beggars⑤ 0r thieves. Others lived in workhouses⑥. Some Victorians tried to help the poor. Dr Barnardo opened a home for orphans in London. Charles Dickens wrote about these social problems in his novels, for example in Oliver Twist and David Copperfield.

① adhesive:黏胶的。
② profile:侧面轮廓。
③ estate:庄园。
④ squalid:肮脏的。
⑤ beggars:乞丐。
⑥ workhouses:贫民庇护工场。

Social reforms were seriously needed. In 1847 the Ten Hour Act limited the working day of women and children to ten hours a day! In 1848 Parliament passed laws to make towns and cities cleaner. But progress was very slow.

The middle and upper classes had clean, comfortable houses, far from the industrial centers in green areas called suburbs. Their children received a good education. Under Victoria’s reign Britain became the richest commercial nation. It produced machines, textiles, ships and other goods, and sold them to other countries.

Albert wanted to show Britain’s products, inventions and machines to the world. He decided to open an international exhibition. For two years he worked intensely on this complex project. The British began to appreciate Albert’s qualities.

On 1 May 1851 Queen Victoria opened the Great Exhibition in the Crystal Palace in London. She called it “the most beautiful spectacle ever seen.” The Crystal Palace was truly a spectacle. It was made of iron and glass, and was as big as four football fields! There were over 7,000 exhibitors from Britain and 6,000 from other countries. It was an enormous success with over 6 million visitors in 140 days!

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