Here in Canada, today is a public holiday celebrated in honour of Queen Victoria’s birthday. The long weekend is traditionally when Canadians plant their gardens and open up their summer cottages.
Why do we celebrate Queen Victoria? She has a special place in Canadian history. When Victoria became queen of Great Britain in 1837, Canada wasn’t yet a country. It was made up of a few separate British territories known collectively as British North America. Victoria gave royal assent to the 1840 Act of Union, uniting Upper Canada (now Ontario) and Lower Canada (now Quebec). She then signed the 1867 British North America Act, by which the provinces Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Canada were united as the Dominion of Canada (the rest of the provinces joined later). She also selected Ottawa to be the capital of Canada, as it was sheltered from potential American invasions and stood on the border between English and French Canada.
Victoria reigned for over 63 years and her legacy can be seen everywhere. Her reign brought in an era of artistic, social, religious and political change. Here in Canada, three Canadian cities are named after her: Victoria, Regina (“Queen City”) and Victoriaville. In fact, all over the world, lakes, mountains and cities have been given her name.
And did you know it was Victoria who popularized white wedding gowns and Christmas trees?