When Alexandrina Victoria was born in Kensington Palace on May 24, 1819, there seemed little chance that she would ever succeed as the ruling monarch of Great Britain and Ireland eighteen years later. Her father, Prince Edward, Duke of Kent, was the fourth son of the reigning King George III. He was one of the less inspiring figures of the populous royal familya man of somewhat middleclass sensibilities who had been discharged from the army for brutal behavior, accrued large debts, and lived for many years with a French singer before marrying Victorias mother. King George had other sons who would succeed himthe future George IV and William IVand it was generally assumed that at least one of them would eventually sire a legitimate male heir to the throne.
Victorias mother was Victoire of SaxeCoburg, Princess of Leiningen, a small German principality. The sister of Prince Leopold of SaxeCoburg and widow of Prince Emich Charles of Leiningen, she married Prince Edward with hopes of providing him with a son. However, Drina, as young Victoria was called, was their only child (Princess Victoire had two other daughters by her first marriage, Charles and Feodora). Edward died in January 1820 of pneumonia, the same year that his father King George III passed away.
While her uncle King George IV reigned over Great Britain and Ireland, Victoria lived a quiet, secluded childhood in Kensington Palace with her mother and a largely Germanspeaking household. German was Victorias first language, though she soon mastered English. Not expected ever to reign as monarch, her upbringing was left largely to her mother, who saw to it that her daughter received a liberal education in music, drawing, natural philosophy, history, and foreign languages. A German governess named Louise Lehzen, who sparked the future queens lifelong interest in reading history, tutored Victoria. Young Victoria showed exceptional talent with French and Italian as well as with her drawing and singing lessons.