In 1837, less than a month after her 18th birthday, Alexandrina Victoria - sheltered, small in stature, and female - became Queen of Great Britain and Ireland and from the moment William IV died, the young Queen startled everyone: abandoning her hated first name in favour of Victoria; insisting, for the first time in her life, on sleeping in a room apart from her mother; resolute about meeting with her ministers alone. One of those ministers, Lord Melbourne, became Victoria's private secretary. Perhaps he might have become more than that, except everyone argued she was destined to marry her cousin, Prince Albert. But Victoria had met Albert as a child and found him stiff and critical: surely the last man she would want for a husband?
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