Queen Victoria was quite possibly one of the most iconic women in British history. A truly independent woman, she was one of the UK’s longest reigning rulers, along with Queen Elizabeth who currently holds the title of the longest ruling UK monarch of all time. The 19th-century queen was so beloved that the entire Victorian era was named after her, as well as a multitude of cities and towns around the world. Though you’ve doubtless heard of her, prepare to learn a few fun facts that will help you get to know her a little bit better.

The artist formally known as Alexandrina

Though she’s gone down in history as Queen Victoria, she actually chose to go by her middle name when she ascended the throne. When she was born on May 24, 1819, she was dubbed Alexandrina Victoria and was often called by the nickname “‘Drina” by her family. Though named after her godfather, Tsar Alexander I, she decided to drop her first name when she was crowned and it was never used again.

Her odds of becoming Queen were incredibly slim

Although things ultimately turned out in her favor, Victoria wasn’t exactly next in line for the throne. The granddaughter of King George III, she was not first or second, but fifth in line for the throne. Due to the fact that many of the men in her family failed to produce heirs, the crown eventually passed to her upon the death of her uncle, William IV. She was just 18 years old when she was crowned queen and was so short (standing at just 4’11) that she had to sit on a raised platform so everybody could see her.

A not so happy childhood

Unfortunately for young Victoria, her childhood was pretty bleak. After her dad died when she was just eight months old, Victoria’s mom got overprotective, to say the least. Victoria was mostly kept inside Kensington Palace, where she was born and raised, and rarely allowed to interact with other children or people. Her strict mode of upbringing came to be known as the ‘Kensington System,’ though it seems that Victoria herself was its greatest opposer. After taking the throne, Victoria quickly distanced herself from her mother and her advisor, John Conroy, whom she had come to high resent.

Bringing Buckingham back

While her uncle, King William IV, owned Buckingham Palace, Victoria was the first to actually make in her home. It was a bit of a fixer-upper when Victoria moved in but she was up to the challenge. She added on a new wing and made sure everything was so up to par that it still serves as Queen Elizabeth’s London home to this day.

She wasn’t afraid to put a ring on it

Victoria’s love affair with her husband, Prince Albert, was the stuff that legendary romance is made of. Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha was also Victoria’s first cousin, though keeping it in the family didn’t seem to be such a big deal back in those days. By the time that Victoria was ready to tie the knot, however, she faced a bit of an ordeal. Finding herself higher in station than Albert, she thought it only proper that she should be the one to propose instead of the other way around. Undeterred, she popped a knee and recorded their wedded bliss in her journal as the first time she’d ever been happy in her life.

She probably picked the color of your wedding dress

During the time period in which Victoria and Albert were married, wedding dresses came in all sorts of different colors. Victoria, however, wanted hers to be white so that she could really show off her lace embroidery. Not to be upstaged, she requested that no one else at the ceremony wear white so that none of her guests would accidentally steal the spotlight. After she walked down in the aisle in white, complete with an 18 foot-long dress train, women the world over decided that they too simply must copy the trend. White has been the traditional color of bridal wedding gowns ever since, though ironically Victoria had her dress patterns destroyed so that no one could ever copy them exactly.

Victoria and Albert popularized the Christmas tree

They can’t be credited with actually inventing them, but Victoria and Albert definitely helped take Christmas trees mainstream. The royal couple and their children were super into decorating their trees themselves, as opposed to hiring royal decorators to come in and do the job for them. In 1848, engravings of their family trimming the royal tree were published and suddenly everyone had indulged in the tradition. Albert was so into it that he would send decked out Christmas trees to army barracks and schools around England.

Victoria took Albert’s death notoriously hard

When Albert passed away in 1861, Victoria was heartbroken. Albert died an unexpected death from thyroid at just 42 years old and it eventually became clear that Victoria’s mourning period would last far longer than the standard two years which most widows observed. She continued to sink into a deep depression throughout most of the 1860s and withdrew from public life to the extent that her subjects began to question when the “Widow of Windsor” would get back to work. She ultimately began to resurface in the 1870s, but continued to wear black and mourn Albert until her own death, 40 years after his.

The ‘Grandmother of Europe’

Beyond her iconic role as Queen, Victoria left quite a legacy as the mother of nine children and grandmother of 42. many of her grandchildren went on to marry into other European royal families, earning her the title of the “Grandmother of Europe.”