When Victoria became Queen in 1837, Lord Melbourne was the leader of the Whig party. A childless widower, he treated the young Victoria like a daughter, giving her political advice and attempting to protect her from the realities of life for the British public which, in London, were often harsh. Their close relationship led to great suspicion from many – Lord Melbourne had an apartment at Windsor Castle and often used to spend six hours a day with the young queen.
In 1839, the Whigs were defeated by Peel’s Tory party. According to tradition, the Queen should have replaced her Ladies of the Bedchamber so that they were of the same political alliance as the government. However, Victoria refused and Peel resigned from office, to be replaced again by Melbourne.
The situation was diffused somewhat in early 1840 when Victoria married Prince Albert and he began to influence her political decisions. Not tied to any one party, he began to interest her in the social conditions in Britain – child labour, city slums etc. Lord Melbourne no longer held such sway over the Queen and when he resigned in 1841, Victoria was able to form a good relationship with Peel. Despite this, Victoria’s ill-concealed favouritism and tendency to be easily influenced brought her a lot of criticism in the popular press for the first years of her reign.
Read more about Queen Victoria and her Prime Ministers.