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Queen Victoria's story is more inspiring, and more badass, than we've seen before.

Her reign was complicated, tumultuous, and anything but typical.

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PBS Victoria

When Alexandrina Victoria became queen on June 20, 1837, her first act was to demand something she'd been denied her entire life: one hour spent alone.

‌A painting of little Victoria, age 4. Her family doctor, Baron Stockmar, reportedly described her as "plump as a partridge." Image by Stephen Poyntz Denning/Wikimedia Commons. ‌

In her first 18 years, Victoria spent every waking minute in the company of her mother and uncle, preparing for the eventual day where she would don a crown and become the ruler of the British Empire. When that day arrived, she became only the fourth woman in history to take on the role. Despite her youth and inexperience, this determined woman changed the world — and how it viewed the British monarchy — forever.


From the beginning, Queen Victoria's reign was marred by controversy. She famously perpetuated rumors and public shaming about Lady Flora Hastings for appearing to have an out-of-wedlock pregnancy with a married lord (after Hastings died in shame, an autopsy revealed the true cause of her distended "pregnant" belly: a cancerous tumor).

While her role as queen was largely ceremonial in the United Kingdom's constitutional monarchy, she nonetheless managed to cause a government crisis when she refused to allow a new prime minister to replace the ladies of her court with ones from his political party. The press pounced on the moment, dubbing it "The Bedchamber Crisis." Unpopular and isolated, Victoria was in need of good news. She found it in Prince Albert.

In 1839, just five days into his second-ever visit, Victoria proposed to her future husband, Belgian Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha.

‌‌Queen Victoria and Prince Albert on their wedding day in February 1840. Image by Sir George Hayter/The Royal Collection/Wikimedia Commons. ‌

At the time, a woman proposing to a man was unheard of. But, as Victoria was the highest authority in the land, it would have been inappropriate for anyone of lower status to propose to her.

On their wedding day, she broke tradition again. Instead of the Sunday best brides wore at the time, she opted to wear a voluminous white wedding gown. It became an instant sensation.

Victoria embraced her reinvigorated popularity with gusto.

‌‌Albert, Victoria, and their nine children. Image via John Jabez Edwin Mayall/National Portrait Gallery/Wikimedia Commons.‌

Keenly aware of their celebrity, she and Albert revitalized the tradition of royals supporting civic institutions and engaging in service. Victoria alone became the patron of more than 150 institutions across the United Kingdom. They released sets of photos of their daily life, dubbed "Cartes des Visites," which sold an astonishing 60,000 copies.

At Albert's insistence, Victoria worked with Parliament to push through a number of child labor laws enforcing a 10-hour workday and restricting factories from employing children under the age of 10. By 1891, law would make school attendance free and compulsory for all children aged 5-13, effectively ending child labor.

Then, in 1861, tragedy struck. Albert died after a short illness, leaving the queen devastated.

For the next 10 years, Victoria mourned, refusing to fulfill all but the most necessary of her royal duties. Yet even in self-imposed seclusion, she could not escape controversy.

‌‌Victoria, in her black mourning dress, rides her horse Fyvie. Also pictured is her companion and rumored lover, John Brown. Image via George Washington Wilson/Wikimedia Commons. ‌

Politicians, pundits, and journalists criticized her regularly. They condemned what they felt was a lack of royal interest in crises like the Irish Potato Famine. They attacked her friendship with a Scottish servant, John Brown and accused her of having an extramarital affair. Seven men tried to assassinate her, all failing.

‌‌A lithograph depiction of Edward Oxford's 1840 attempt to assassinate Victoria. Image via J.R. Jobbins/Wikimedia Commons.‌

Famed writers, including Ireland's Jonathan Swift and England's Charles Dickens satirized her policies mercilessly. While this kind of negative attention is expected for a royal leader, it was steeped in sexism in Victoria's case. Unlike former kings praised for their steely resolve, Victoria was chided for seeming cold and forbidding, with pundits wondering in the press if she ever even smiled.

If you think that sounds familiar, you're not alone. Australian scholar Julia Baird, writer of a new tome about Victoria, told The Guardian that "Victoria was so tough and stubborn and sometimes rude, and refused to accept defeat. Refused to be told what to do. She was micro reported on every second of the day and she behaved how she wanted to behave. That was quite different — she would’ve been a 'nasty woman' in Trumpian terms, without a doubt."

‌‌A political cartoon from the 1860s featuring Whig leader William Gladstone as Charles Dickens' Scrooge, shown a vision by Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli of Victoria sharing Christmas dinner with people from different parts of the British Empire. Image by Tom Merry/Wellcome Library/Wikimedia Commons. ‌

Not all of the criticism levied against Victoria was unwarranted.

During Victoria's reign, Britain would expand its empire to encompass lands in Canada, Australia, India, the Caribbean, and northeast Africa. For the British, this meant increased political power and economic clout along with a wealth of new foods, textiles, and culture. For the countries it plundered, it meant war, uncertainty, and the rapid, irreplaceable loss of language, customs, and traditions.‌ If she was aware of the negative implications of her nation's imperialist actions, Victoria didn't share them publicly, famously saying of the Boer War, "We are not interested in the possibilities of defeat; they do not exist."

‌This painting featuring Victoria passing a bible to an envoy from India is titled "The Secret of England's Greatness" and typifies the ideas of British imperialism at the time. Image by Thomas Jones Barker/National Portrait Gallery/Wikimedia Commons. ‌

Victoria ruled over her massive empire for an incredible 63 years. At her Diamond Jubilee in 1898, she marked two final firsts.

She was captured on film for the first time, and she became the first royal to send a telegram. Her brief message of "From my heart, I thank my beloved people. May God bless them!" was sent to people across the United Kingdom and to all of its colonies.

Four years later, on Jan. 22, 1901, she passed away. She remained, until recently, the longest-serving monarch in British history.

It can be challenging to view rulers as little more than soundbites or caricatures. But Victoria’s reign, long as it was, deserves nuance.‌

‌Victoria's official portrait for her Diamond Jubilee, marking her reign of 60 years. Image via W. and D. Downey/National Archives of Canada/Wikimedia Commons.‌

She was, by all accounts, an extremely private person who felt both love and loss deeply and viewed her role as a duty and a service. She was also an extremely wealthy person whose power and status shielded her from the effects industrialization and imperialism had on her subjects. Victoria's experience as leader offers a glimpse into how much was different for a female monarch at the time and how little some things have changed.‌

To learn more about Queen Victoria's reign, watch "Victoria" on PBS: Sundays at 9 p.m. Eastern starting Jan. 15, 2017.  

‌Edit‌

When Alexandrina Victoria became queen on June 20, 1837, her first act was to demand something she'd been denied her entire life: one hour spent alone.

‌A painting of little Victoria, age 4. Her family doctor, Baron Stockmar, reportedly described her as "plump as a partridge." Image by Stephen Poyntz Denning/Wikimedia Commons. ‌

In her first 18 years, Victoria spent every waking minute in the company of her mother and uncle, preparing for the eventual day where she would don a crown and become the ruler of the British Empire. When that day arrived, she became only the fourth woman in history to take on the role. Despite her youth and inexperience, this determined woman changed the world — and how it viewed the British monarchy — forever.

From the beginning, Queen Victoria's reign was marred by controversy. She famously perpetuated rumors and public shaming about Lady Flora Hastings for appearing to have an out-of-wedlock pregnancy with a married lord (after Hastings died in shame, an autopsy revealed the true cause of her distended "pregnant" belly: a cancerous tumor).

While her role as queen was largely ceremonial in the United Kingdom's constitutional monarchy, she nonetheless managed to cause a government crisis when she refused to allow a new prime minister to replace the ladies of her court with ones from his political party. The press pounced on the moment, dubbing it "The Bedchamber Crisis." Unpopular and isolated, Victoria was in need of good news. She found it in Prince Albert.

In 1839, just five days into his second-ever visit, Victoria proposed to her future husband, Belgian Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha.

‌‌Queen Victoria and Prince Albert on their wedding day in February 1840. Image by Sir George Hayter/The Royal Collection/Wikimedia Commons. ‌

At the time, a woman proposing to a man was unheard of. But, as Victoria was the highest authority in the land, it would have been inappropriate for anyone of lower status to propose to her.

On their wedding day, she broke tradition again. Instead of the Sunday best brides wore at the time, she opted to wear a voluminous white wedding gown. It became an instant sensation.

Victoria embraced her reinvigorated popularity with gusto.

‌‌Albert, Victoria, and their nine children. Image via John Jabez Edwin Mayall/National Portrait Gallery/Wikimedia Commons.‌

Keenly aware of their celebrity, she and Albert revitalized the tradition of royals supporting civic institutions and engaging in service. Victoria alone became the patron of more than 150 institutions across the United Kingdom. They released sets of photos of their daily life, dubbed "Cartes des Visites," which sold an astonishing 60,000 copies.

At Albert's insistence, Victoria worked with Parliament to push through a number of child labor laws enforcing a 10-hour workday and restricting factories from employing children under the age of 10. By 1891, law would make school attendance free and compulsory for all children aged 5-13, effectively ending child labor.

Then, in 1861, tragedy struck. Albert died after a short illness, leaving the queen devastated.

For the next 10 years, Victoria mourned, refusing to fulfill all but the most necessary of her royal duties. Yet even in self-imposed seclusion, she could not escape controversy.

‌‌Victoria, in her black mourning dress, rides her horse Fyvie. Also pictured is her companion and rumored lover, John Brown. Image via George Washington Wilson/Wikimedia Commons. ‌

Politicians, pundits, and journalists criticized her regularly. They condemned what they felt was a lack of royal interest in crises like the Irish Potato Famine. They attacked her friendship with a Scottish servant, John Brown and accused her of having an extramarital affair. Seven men tried to assassinate her, all failing.

‌‌A lithograph depiction of Edward Oxford's 1840 attempt to assassinate Victoria. Image via J.R. Jobbins/Wikimedia Commons.‌

Famed writers, including Ireland's Jonathan Swift and England's Charles Dickens satirized her policies mercilessly. While this kind of negative attention is expected for a royal leader, it was steeped in sexism in Victoria's case. Unlike former kings praised for their steely resolve, Victoria was chided for seeming cold and forbidding, with pundits wondering in the press if she ever even smiled.

If you think that sounds familiar, you're not alone. Australian scholar Julia Baird, writer of a new tome about Victoria, told The Guardian that "Victoria was so tough and stubborn and sometimes rude, and refused to accept defeat. Refused to be told what to do. She was micro reported on every second of the day and she behaved how she wanted to behave. That was quite different — she would’ve been a 'nasty woman' in Trumpian terms, without a doubt."

‌‌A political cartoon from the 1860s featuring Whig leader William Gladstone as Charles Dickens' Scrooge, shown a vision by Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli of Victoria sharing Christmas dinner with people from different parts of the British Empire. Image by Tom Merry/Wellcome Library/Wikimedia Commons. ‌

Not all of the criticism levied against Victoria was unwarranted.

During Victoria's reign, Britain would expand its empire to encompass lands in Canada, Australia, India, the Caribbean, and northeast Africa. For the British, this meant increased political power and economic clout along with a wealth of new foods, textiles, and culture. For the countries it plundered, it meant war, uncertainty, and the rapid, irreplaceable loss of language, customs, and traditions.‌ If she was aware of the negative implications of her nation's imperialist actions, Victoria didn't share them publicly, famously saying of the Boer War, "We are not interested in the possibilities of defeat; they do not exist."

‌This painting featuring Victoria passing a bible to an envoy from India is titled "The Secret of England's Greatness" and typifies the ideas of British imperialism at the time. Image by Thomas Jones Barker/National Portrait Gallery/Wikimedia Commons. ‌

Victoria ruled over her massive empire for an incredible 63 years. At her Diamond Jubilee in 1898, she marked two final firsts.

She was captured on film for the first time, and she became the first royal to send a telegram. Her brief message of "From my heart, I thank my beloved people. May God bless them!" was sent to people across the United Kingdom and to all of its colonies.

Four years later, on Jan. 22, 1901, she passed away. She remained, until recently, the longest-serving monarch in British history.

It can be challenging to view rulers as little more than soundbites or caricatures. But Victoria’s reign, long as it was, deserves nuance.‌

‌Victoria's official portrait for her Diamond Jubilee, marking her reign of 60 years. Image via W. and D. Downey/National Archives of Canada/Wikimedia Commons.‌

She was, by all accounts, an extremely private person who felt both love and loss deeply and viewed her role as a duty and a service. She was also an extremely wealthy person whose power and status shielded her from the effects industrialization and imperialism had on her subjects. Victoria's experience as leader offers a glimpse into how much was different for a female monarch at the time and how little some things have changed.‌

To learn more about Queen Victoria's reign, watch "Victoria" on PBS: Sundays at 9 p.m. Eastern starting Jan. 15, 2017.  

‌Edit‌

Images courtesy of Letters of Love
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When Grace Berbig was 7 years old, her mom was diagnosed with leukemia, a cancer of the body’s blood-forming tissues. Being so young, Grace didn’t know what cancer was or why her mother was suddenly living in the hospital. But she did know this: that while her mom was in the hospital, she would always be assured that her family was thinking of her, supporting her and loving her every step of her journey.

Nearly every day, Grace and her two younger sisters would hand-make cards and fill them with drawings and messages of love, which their mother would hang all over the walls of her hospital room. These cherished letters brought immeasurable peace and joy to their mom during her sickness. Sadly, when Grace was just 10 years old, her mother lost her battle with cancer.“

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Losing my mom put the world in a completely different perspective for me,” Grace says. “I realized that you never know when someone could leave you, so you have to love the people you love with your whole heart, every day.”

Grace’s father was instrumental in helping in the healing process of his daughters. “I distinctly remember my dad constantly reminding my two little sisters, Bella and Sophie, and I that happiness is a choice, and it was now our job to turn this heartbreaking event in our life into something positive.”

When she got to high school, Grace became involved in the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and a handful of other organizations. But she never felt like she was doing enough.

“I wanted to create an opportunity for people to help beyond donating money, and one that anyone could be a part of, no matter their financial status.”

In October 2018, Grace started Letters of Love, a club at her high school in Long Lake, Minnesota, to emotionally support children battling cancer and other serious illnesses through letter-writing and craft-making.


Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Much to her surprise, more than 100 students showed up for the first club meeting. From then on, Letters of Love grew so fast that during her senior year in high school, Grace had to start a GoFundMe to help cover the cost of card-making materials.

Speaking about her nonprofit today, Grace says, “I can’t find enough words to explain how blessed I feel to have this organization. Beyond the amount of kids and families we are able to support, it allows me to feel so much closer and more connected to my mom.”

Since its inception, Letters of Love has grown to more than 25 clubs with more than 1,000 members providing emotional support to more than 60,000 patients in children’s hospitals around the world. And in the process it has become a full-time job for Grace.

“I do everything from training volunteers and club ambassadors, paying bills, designing merchandise, preparing financial predictions and overviews, applying for grants, to going through each and every card ensuring they are appropriate to send out to hospitals.”

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

In addition to running Letters of Love, Grace and her small team must also contend with the emotions inherent in their line of work.

“There have been many, many tears cried,” she says. “Working to support children who are battling cancer and other serious and sometimes chronic illnesses can absolutely be extremely difficult mentally. I feel so blessed to be an organization that focuses solely on bringing joy to these children, though. We do everything we can to simply put a smile on their face, and ensure they know that they are so loved, so strong, and so supported by people all around the world.”

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Letters of Love has been particularly instrumental in offering emotional support to children who have been unable to see friends and family due to COVID-19. A video campaign in the summer of 2021 even saw members of the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings and the NHL’s Minnesota Wild offer short videos of hope and encouragement to affected children.

Grace is currently taking a gap year before she starts college so she can focus on growing Letters of Love as well as to work on various related projects, including the publication of a children’s book.

“The goal of the book is to teach children the immense impact that small acts of kindness can have, how to treat their peers who may be diagnosed with disabilities or illness, and how they are never too young to change the world,” she says.

Since she was 10, Grace has kept memories of her mother close to her, as a source of love and inspiration in her life and in the work she does with Letters of Love.

Image courtesy of Grace Berbig

“When I lost my mom, I felt like a section of my heart went with her, so ever since, I have been filling that piece with love and compassion towards others. Her smile and joy were infectious, and I try to mirror that in myself and touch people’s hearts as she did.”

For more information visit Letters of Love.

Please donate to Grace’s GoFundMe and help Letters of Love to expand, publish a children’s book and continue to reach more children in hospitals around the world.

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Images courtesy of AFutureSuperhero and Friends and Balance Dance Project
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The day was scorching hot, but the weather wasn’t going to stop a Star Wars Stormtrooper from handing out school supplies to a long line of eager children. “You guys don’t have anything illegal back there - any droids or anything?” the Stormtrooper asks, making sure he was safe from enemies before handing over a colorful backpack to a smiling boy.

The man inside the costume is Yuri Williams, founder of AFutureSuperhero And Friends, a Los Angeles nonprofit that uplifts and inspires marginalized people with small acts of kindness.

Yuri’s organization is one of four inaugural grant winners from the Upworthy Kindness Fund, a joint initiative between Upworthy and GoFundMe that celebrates kindness and everyday actions inspired by the best of humanity. This year, the Upworthy Kindness Fund is giving $100,000 to grassroots changemakers across the world.

To apply, campaign organizers simply tell Upworthy how their kindness project is making a difference. Between now and the end of 2021, each accepted individual or organization will receive $500 towards an existing GoFundMe and a shout-out on Upworthy.

Meet the first four winners:

1: Balance Dance Project: This studio aims to bring accessible dance to all in the Sacramento, CA area. Lead fundraiser Miranda Macias says many dancers spend hours a day at Balance practicing contemporary, lyrical, hip-hop, and ballet. Balance started a GoFundMe to raise money to cover tuition for dancers from low-income communities, buy dance team uniforms, and update its facility. The $500 contribution from the Kindness Fund nudged Balance closer to its $5,000 goal.

2: Citizens of the World Mar Vista Robotics Team: In Los Angeles, middle school teacher James Pike is introducing his students to the field of robotics via a Lego-building team dedicated to solving real-world problems.

James started a GoFundMe to crowdfund supplies for his students’ team ahead of the First Lego League, a school-against-school matchup that includes robotics competitions. The team, James explained, needed help to cover half the cost of the pricey $4,000 robotics kit. Thanks to help from the Upworthy Kindness Fund and the generosity of the Citizens of the World Middle School community, the team exceeded its initial fundraising goal.

Citizens of the World Mar Vista Robotics Team video update youtu.be

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To make room for newcomers, the club recently moved into a larger studio with a third station for apprentices or guest artists. Unlike a traditional fundraiser that supports the organization exclusively, Black Fluidity Tattoo Club will distribute proceeds from GoFundMe directly to emerging Black tattoo artists who are starting their own businesses. The small grants, supported in part with a $500 contribution from the Upworthy Kindness Fund, will go towards artists’ equipment, supplies, furnishings, and other start-up costs.

4: AFutureSuperhero And Friends’ “Hope For The Holidays”: Founder Yuri Williams is fundraising for a holiday trip to spread cheer to people in need across all fifty states.

Along with collaborator Rodney Smith Jr., Yuri will be handing out gifts to children, adults, and animals dressed as a Star Wars’ Stormtrooper, Spiderman, Deadpool, and other movie or comic book characters. Starting this month, the crew will be visiting children with disabilities or serious illnesses, bringing leashes and toys to animal shelters for people taking home a new pet, and spreading blessings to unhoused people—all while in superhero costume. This will be the third time Yuri and his nonprofit have taken this journey.

AFutureSuperhero started a GoFundMe in July to cover the cost of gifts as well as travel expenses like hotels and rental cars. To help the nonprofit reach its $15,000 goal, the Upworthy Kindness Fund contributed $500 towards this good cause.

Think you qualify for the fund? Tell us how you’re bringing kindness to your community. Grants will be awarded on a rolling basis from now through the end of 2021. For questions and more information, please check out our FAQ's and the Kindness Toolkit for resources on how to start your own kindness fundraiser.

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