Open Book
Light Bulb


Last night we finished streaming Season 1 of, “Victoria” a PBS Masterpiece theatrical series. This lovely production recounts the beginning of the 64-year reign of England’s Queen Victoria. Her longevity accompanied a cultural abandonment of rationalism throughout the English speaking world and Europe. During the modern era and our own post-modern era, the term “Victorian” has often been used to disparage sexual restraint, intolerance, or any strict social code of conduct. These were hallmarks of Victoria’s personal life and of the society she led. Could it be possible, could PBS celebration of Queen Victoria signal a similar cultural shift?
A television mini-series never has and never will transform a culture. But they have been indicators.

PBS rehabilitation of Queen Victoria might reflect a post-modern thirst for a more stable, less relativistic world. Following immediately upon six years of prim and proper 
Downtown Abbey, does Victoria continue to feed some hunger for a bit more personal restraint?  

In 1991 William Straus, faculty fellow at Notre Dame, and Neil Howe, 
president of Saeculum Research, published Generations, the History of America’s Future. Their theory: America is a succession of generational biographies, that each generation belongs to one of four types, and that these types repeat sequentially in a fixed pattern, over 80-90 years. Their research contradicts conventional conservative wisdom that we’re going from bad to worse.

Straus and Howe anticipate the millennial generation (born 1981-2001) will clean up the squalor and decay left by previous generations. Instead of adopting the personalized morality of baby-boomers, they’ll become a “civic” and morally complacent generation which will institutionalize what works. While millennials are readily experimenting today, a decade from now they’re likely to discard the things they tried but that failed them. 

Many millennials are survivors of the lonely pain of family breakups. They’re tired of war, technologically savvy but suspicious, hunting for safety, and doubting they’ll ever have prosperity. Contrast that pessimism with the Victorian Age, often called the Pax Britannica. Wars were infrequent and limited, public education was introduced and expanded, urban squalor diminished, population and life-spans increased, prosperity expanded. 

A revelation in Victoria is her relationship with her husband. As royalty they did not have opportunity to fall in love (as Queen, Victoria had to ask him to marry her). Instead they made the decision to love, then nurtured and faithfully protected that love. Their nine children became the royalty of Europe.

More than one historian has said that World War 1 could not have started while Queen Victoria lived
—she would not have tolerated the self-serving choices her grandchildren made that led to cataclysmic war. ~

Dan Nygaard