Born at Kensington Palace, the only child of the Duke of Kent and Princess Victoria of Saxe-Coburg, Queen Victoria succeeded to the throne on the death of her uncle, William IV. Not only did she become the longest reigning British monarch but she was also the figurehead of a vast empire. In 1840 she married her cousin, Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, and their happy marriage brought forth a family of nine children. After Albert’s death she largely retired from public life and spent much of her time at Balmoral in Scotland. This delicate watercolour by Chalon was the very first portrait the young queen sat for after her accession to the throne. She is dressed in the robes she wore when Parliament was dissolved after her uncle’s death, her hat casually discarded on the floor.