Victoria

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Posted by pompos 04/15/2009 @ 14:12

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News headlines
Medal set including Victoria Cross sold to Canadian War Museum for ... - CBC.ca
Fears that a Victoria Cross medal belonging to a Canadian war hero would be auctioned off to a private collector were allayed Monday evening when the Canadian War Museum bought it and eight other medals for $240000. The set of nine medals includes the...
Victoria Beckham's pricey purses - Boston Herald
By Herald Wire Services Victoria Beckham, fashionista extraordinaire and wife of soccer legend David Beckham, owns 100 Hermes Birkin bags, the Daily Mail reports. They pricey purses are worth more than $2 million. The cost of the Birkin,...
Swine flu fears hit Australian schools - AFP
"We will ask them to voluntarily place those school-age children in quarantine to isolate them at their homes for a period of seven days," Victoria state Health Minister Daniel Andrews told reporters. Several other states, including New South Wales,...
Police chief defends officers - London Free Press
By BRUCE URQUHART, SUN MEDIA WOODSTOCK -- Following fiery criticism from the mother of Victoria (Tori) Stafford, the local police chief spoke out yesterday in defence of his officers. Tara McDonald has slammed investigators for treating her like a...
Australia's Confirmed Swine Flu Cases Increases to 39 - Bloomberg
By Gemma Daley Cases have been confirmed in six of the nation's eight states and territories, with 23 confirmed in southern Victoria. The federal government on May 22 updated its pandemic alert to “contain,” the third-highest level....
Police investigate after skeleton found in truck in Victoria - Vancouver Sun
By Katie DeRosa, Canwest News ServiceMay 25, 2009 Forensics and investigators look into the remains of a body found in a cube van on Catherines Street, in Victoria, BC May 25, 2009. VICTORIA — Victoria police and the BC Coroners Service are...
Two Victoria Resdients Killed in Accident - KAVU
Two Victoria Residents died in a Car Accident Sunday night just outside of the El Campo City Limits. According to the Department of Public Safety, around 7:40 last night, a Chevorlet Suburban traveling South-bound on Highway 59 went off the road,...
FOCUS: Australian State Debt Guarantee May Split Market - Wall Street Journal
Meanwhile, spreads on debt issued by Victoria, which forecast a budget surplus for the fiscal year staring July 1 earlier this month and has suggested it has no immediate desire to use the federal guarantee, have underperformed New South Wales and...
Crater was Shaped by Wind and Water, Mars Rover Data Shows - New York Times
Cape St. Vincent at Victoria Crater on Mars. The crater has widened, evidence of wind erosion. Most of the data relates to the central question of the role water might have played in the planet's past, and a new paper in Science,...
Victoria Police looking to a good knight's work - WA today
New Deputy Commissioner Sir Ken Jones, left, with Chief Commissioner Simon Overland at Victoria Police headquarters yesterday. Photo: Craig Abraham OUTSPOKEN British police chief Sir Ken Jones has been appointed one of three Victoria Police deputy...

Victoria (Australia)

Map of Australia with  Victoria highlighted

Victoria is a state located in the southeastern corner of Australia. It is the smallest mainland state in area but the most densely populated and urbanised. Prior to European settlement, some 30,000 Indigenous Australians are estimated to have lived in the area now occupied by the state. By contrast, over five million people now inhabit the region. European settlement in Victoria began in the 1830s as a farming community. The discovery of gold in 1851 transformed it into a leading industrial and commercial centre. Victoria is the second most populous Australian state, after New South Wales, with an estimated population of 5,205,200 as of June 2007. Melbourne is Victoria's capital and largest city, with more than 70% of all Victorians living there.

Victoria, like Queensland, was named after Queen Victoria, the monarch at the time.

After the founding of the colony of New South Wales in 1788, the continent was divided into an eastern half named New South Wales, and a western half named New Holland, under the administration of the colonial government in Sydney. The first European settlement in Victoria which was established in October 1803 under Lieutenant-Governor David Collins at Sullivan Bay, Victoria on Port Phillip Bay. It consisted of 308 convicts, 51 marines, 17 free settlers, 12 civil officers, a missionary and his wife. They had been sent from England in HMS Calcutta under the command of Captain Daniel Woodriff, principally out of fear that the French, who had been exploring the area, might establish their own settlement and thereby challenge British 'rights' to the continent.

Victoria's next settlement was at Portland, on the west coast of what is now Victoria. Melbourne was founded in 1835 by John Batman.

From settlement the region around Melbourne was known as the Port Phillip District, and this gained some administrative status prior to separation from New South Wales and declaration as the Colony of Victoria in 1851.

In 1851 gold was discovered near Ballarat, and subsequently at Bendigo. Later discoveries occurred at many sites across Victoria. This triggered one of the largest gold rushes the world has ever seen. The colony grew rapidly in both population and economic power. In ten years the population of Victoria increased sevenfold from 76,000 to 540,000. All sorts of gold records were produced including the "richest shallow alluvial goldfield in the world" and the largest gold nugget. Victoria produced in the decade 1851-1860 20 million ounces of gold, one third of the world's output.

Immigrants arrived from all over the world to search for gold, especially from Ireland and China. Many Chinese miners worked in Victoria, and their legacy is particularly strong in Bendigo and its environs. Although there was some racism directed at them, there was not the level of anti-Chinese violence that was seen at the Lambing Flat riots in New South Wales. However, there was a riot at Buckland Valley near Bright in 1857. Conditions on the gold fields were cramped and unsanitary; an outbreak of typhoid at Buckland Valley in 1854 killed over 1,000 miners.

In 1854 there was an armed rebellion against the government of Victoria by miners protesting against mining taxes (the "Eureka Stockade"). This was crushed by British troops, but some of the leaders of the rebellion subsequently became members of the Victorian Parliament, and the rebellion is still sometimes regarded as a pivotal moment in the development of Australian democracy.

The first foreign military action by the colony of Victoria was to send troops and a warship to New Zealand as part of the Maori Wars. Troops from New South Wales had previously participated in the Crimean War.

In 1901 Victoria became a state in the Commonwealth of Australia. As a result of the gold rush, Melbourne had by then become the financial centre of Australia and New Zealand. Between 1901 and 1927, Melbourne was the capital of Australia while Canberra was under construction. It was also the largest city in Australia at the time and the second largest city in terms of population of the British Empire (after London, England). Whilst Melbourne remains an important and influential financial centre, home to many national and international companies, it was slowly overtaken by Sydney in business importance around the 1970s and 1980s.

On Saturday 7 February 2009 ("Black Saturday"), the state was affected by the 2009 Victorian bushfires. The fires have so far resulted in at least 200 deaths, and 100 people have been admitted to hospitals across Victoria with burns, at least 20 in a critical condition, and 9 on life support or in intensive care.

Victoria has a parliamentary form of government based on the Westminster System. Legislative power resides in the Parliament consisting of the Governor (the representative of the Queen), the executive (the Government), and two legislative chambers. The Parliament of Victoria consists of the lower house Legislative Assembly, the upper house Legislative Council and the Queen of Australia.

Eighty-eight members of the Legislative Assembly are elected to four-year terms from single-member electorates.

In November 2006, the Victorian Legislative Council elections were held under a new multi-proportional representation system. The State of Victoria was divided into eight electorates with each electorate represented by five representatives elected by Single Transferable Vote proportional representation. The total number of upper house members was reduced from 44 to 40 and their term of office is now the same as the lower house members — four years. Elections for the Victorian Parliament are now fixed and occur in November every four years. Prior to the 2006 Election the Legislative Council consisted of 44 members elected to eight-year terms from 22 two-member electorates.

The Premier of Victoria is the leader of the political party or coalition with the most seats in the Legislative Assembly. The Premier is the public face of government and, with Cabinet, sets the legislative and political agenda. Cabinet consists of representatives elected to either house of parliament. It is responsible for managing areas of government that are not exclusively the Commonwealth's, by the Australian Constitution, such as education, health and law enforcement. The current premier of Victoria is Mr John Brumby.

Executive authority is vested in the Governor of Victoria who represents and is appointed by Queen Elizabeth II. The post is usually filled by a retired prominent Victorian. The governor acts on the advice of the premier and cabinet.

Victoria has a written constitution. Enacted in 1975, but based on the 1855 colonial constitution, it establishes the parliament as the state's law-making body for matters coming under state responsibility. The Victorian Constitution can be amended by the parliament of Victoria. Under new provisions to be enacted, changes to the Victorian Constitution will be subjected to a plebiscite of votes, voting in a referendum.

The centre-left Australian Labor Party (ALP), the centre-right Liberal Party of Australia and the rural-based National Party of Australia are Victoria's major political parties. Traditionally, Labor is strongest in Melbourne's inner, working class and western and northern suburbs, Morwell, Ballarat, Bendigo and Geelong. The Liberals' main support lies in Melbourne's more affluent eastern and outer suburbs, and some rural and regional centres. The Nationals are strongest in Victoria's North Western and Eastern rural regional areas. The ALP government of former Premier Steve Bracks has been in office in Victoria since 1999 and was re-elected in 2002 and on 25 November 2006. See Victorian state election, 2006, and 2006 Victorian election campaign.

Following the 2006 Victorian election, the balance of power in the Legislative Council is now held by the Australian Greens. This means that by combining with the Liberal and National Party members, the Greens can defeat proposed Government legislation.

On 27 July 2007, Premier Steve Bracks announced his resignation from politics, saying that he needed to spend more time with his family. The deputy premier, John Thwaites, announced later that day that he too would resign. Former Treasurer John Brumby was elected unopposed by the Labor caucus as the new leader and became the 45th Premier of Victoria on Monday 30 July 2007.

Victorian voters elect 49 representatives to the Parliament of Australia, including 37 members of the House of Representatives and 12 members of the Senate. Since 2007, the ALP has held 21 Victorian house seats, the Liberals 14 and the Nationals two. As of 1 July 2008, the Liberals will hold six senate seats, the ALP five and the Family First Party one.

Victoria is incorporated into 79 municipalities for the purposes of local government, including 39 shires, 32 cities, seven rural cities and one borough. Shire and city councils are responsible for functions delegated by the Victorian parliament, such as city planning, road infrastructure and waste management. Council revenue comes mostly from property taxes and government grants.

The 2006 Australian census reported that Victoria had 4,932,422 people resident at the time of the census, an increase of 6.2% on the 1996 figure. The Australian Bureau of Statistics estimates that by June 2007 the state's population reached 5,205,200 and may well reach 7.2 million by 2050. Victoria's founding Anglo-Celtic population has been supplemented by successive waves of migrants from southern and eastern Europe, Southeast Asia and, most recently, the Horn of Africa and Middle East. Victoria's population is ageing in proportion with the average of the remainder of the Australian population. The government predicts that nearly a quarter of Victorians will be aged over 60 by 2021. The 2006 census reveals that Australian average age has crept upward from 35 to 37 since 2001 which reflects the population growth peak of 1969-72.

More than 70% of Victorians live in Melbourne, located in the state's south. The greater Melbourne metropolitan area is home to an estimated 3.64 million people. Leading urban centres include Geelong , Ballarat, Bendigo, Shepparton, Mildura, Warrnambool and the Latrobe Valley. Victoria is Australia's most urbanised state, with nearly 90% of residents living in cities and towns. Since 1871, more than half of all Victorians have lived in urban areas. Today, just over 12% of Victorians live in rural areas. The drift of people into Melbourne continues despite government efforts to encourage Victorians to settle in regional areas.

About 72% of Victorians are Australian-born. This figure falls to around 66% in Melbourne but rises to higher than 95% in some rural areas in the north west of the state. Around two-thirds of Victorians claim Australian, English or Irish ancestry. Less than 1% of Victorians identify themselves as Aboriginal. The largest groups of people born outside Australia came from the British Isles, China, Italy, Vietnam, Greece and New Zealand.

In 2007, Victoria recorded a TFR of 1.87, the highest after 1978.

About 60.5% of Victorians describe themselves as Christian. Roman Catholics form the single largest religious group in the state with 27.5% of Victorian population, followed by Anglicans and members of the Uniting Church. Catholics and Protestants (including Anglicans) in Victoria each form around 30% of the population. Buddhism, the state's largest non-Christian religion, is also the fastest growing with 132,634. Victoria is also home of 109,370 Muslims and 41,105 Jews. Around 20% of Victorians claim no religion.

Victoria's state school system dates back to 1872, when the colonial government legislated to make schooling both free and compulsory. The state's public secondary school system began in 1910. Before then, only private secondary schooling was available. Today, a Victorian school education consists of seven years of primary schooling, including one preparatory year and six years of secondary schooling. The final years of secondary school are optional for children aged over 15 (16 as of 2007). Victorian children generally begin school at age five. On completing secondary school, students earn the Victorian Certificate of Education. Students who successfully complete their secondary education also receive a tertiary entrance ranking, or ENTER score, to determine university admittance.

Victorian schools are either publicly or privately funded. Public schools, also known as state or government schools, are funded and run directly by the Victoria Department of Education . Students do not pay tuition fees, but some extra costs are levied. Private fee-paying schools include parish schools run by the Roman Catholic Church and elite independent schools similar to English public schools. Independent schools are usually affiliated with Protestant churches. Victoria also has several private Jewish and Islamic primary and secondary schools. Private schools also receive some public funding. All schools must comply with government-set curriculum standards.

As of August 2005, Victoria had 1,613 public schools, 484 Catholic schools and 208 independent schools. Just under 537,000 students were enrolled in public schools, and 289,000 in private schools. Nearly two-thirds of private students attend Catholic schools. More than 455,000 students were enrolled in primary schools and more than 371,000 in secondary schools. Retention rates for the final two years of secondary school were 77% for public school students and 90% for private school students. Victoria has about 60,200 full-time teachers.

Victoria has nine universities. The first to offer degrees, the University of Melbourne, enrolled its first student in 1855. The largest, Monash University, has an enrolment of nearly 56,000 students—more than any other Australian university. Both the University of Melbourne and Monash University are purportedly ranked highly among the world's best universities requiring a fairly high entry score, passing of mature age entrance exams or direct payment for student admission into their courses. The number of students enrolled in Victorian universities was 241,755 at 2004, an increase of 2% on the previous year. International students made up 30% of enrolments and account for the highest percentage of pre-paid university tuition fees. The largest number of enrolments were recorded in the fields of business, administration and economics, with nearly a third of all students, followed by arts, humanities, and social science, with 20% of enrolments.

Victoria also has 19 government run TAFE institutes. The first vocational institution in the state was the Melbourne Mechanics Institute (established in 1839), which is now the Melbourne Athenaum. More than 1,000 adult education organisations are registered to provide recognised TAFE programs. In 2004, there were about 480,700 students enrolled in vocational education programs in the state.

The State Library of Victoria is the State's research and reference library. It is responsible for collecting and preserving Victoria's documentary heritage and making it available through a range of services and programs. Material in the collection includes books, newspapers, magazines, journals, manuscripts, maps, pictures, objects, sound and video recordings and databases. Many local government councils maintain local libraries, some with more than one branch in their areas.

The Victorian economy is the second largest in Australia, accounting for a quarter of the nation's gross domestic product. The total gross state product (GSP) at current prices for Victoria was at just over A$222 billion, with a GSP per capita of A$44,443. The economy grew by 3.4% in 2004, less than the Australian average of 5.2%. Finance, insurance and property services form Victoria's largest income producing sector, while the community, social and personal services sector is the state's biggest employer. Despite the shift towards service industries, the troubled manufacturing sector remains Victoria's single largest employer and income producer.

Victoria experienced an economic slump from 1989 to 1992 during the term of John Cain. This was largely attributable to lagging property markets, reduced protection of manufacturing sectors as well as a financial crash involving industry giants such as the Pyramid Building Society and the collapse of The State Bank of Victoria, in particular its merchant banking arm Tricontinental. The result was a loss of employment and a drain of population to New South Wales and Queensland.

In the mid to late 1990s, the Victorian state government of Premier Jeff Kennett (LIB) sought to reverse this trend with massive cuts to state expenditure, shrinking of the state public sector and the aggressive development of new public works, mainly centred around the state capital of Melbourne. These included the Melbourne Museum, Federation Square, the Melbourne Exhibition and Convention Centre (nicknamed "Jeff's Shed"), Crown Casino, capital works such as the CityLink tollway, the sale of state assets (including the State Electricity Commission and some state schools), the pruning of state services and a public relations campaign promoting Melbourne's merits, aimed at Melbourne residents and visitors alike.

Under the government of former Premier Steve Bracks (ALP), there was less emphasis on capital works and more on expansion of public services. Population increase now outstrips the national trend.

During 2003-04, the gross value of Victorian agricultural production increased by 17% to $8.7 billion. This represented 24% of national agricultural production total gross value. As of 2004, an estimated 32,463 farms occupied around 136,000 square kilometres (52,500 sq mi) of Victorian land. This comprises more than 60% of the state's total land surface. Victorian farms range from small horticultural outfits to large-scale livestock and grain productions. A quarter of farmland is used to grow consumable crops.

More than 26,000 square kilometres (10,000 sq mi) of Victorian farmland is sown for grain, mostly in the state's west. More than 50% of this area is sown for wheat, 33% for barley and 7% for oats. A further 6,000 square kilometres (2,300nbsp;sq mi) is sown for hay. In 2003-04, Victorian farmers produced more than 3 million tonnes of wheat and 2 million tonnes of barley. The state also grows about half of Australia's tobacco. Victorian farms produce nearly 90% of Australian pears and third of apples. It is also a leader in stone fruit production. The main vegetable crops include asparagus, broccoli, carrots, potatoes and tomatoes. Last year, 121,200 tonnes of pears and 270,000 tonnes of tomatoes were produced.

More than 14 million sheep and 5 million lambs graze over 10% of Victorian farms, mostly in the state's north and west. In 2004, nearly 10 million lambs and sheep were slaughtered for local consumption and export. Victoria also exports live sheep to the Middle East for meat and to the rest of the world for breeding. More than 108,000 tonnes of wool clip was also produced—one-fifth of the Australian total.

Victoria is the centre of dairy farming in Australia. It is home to 60% of Australia's 3 million dairy cattle and produces nearly two-thirds of the nation's milk, almost 6.4 million litres. The state also has 2.4 million beef cattle, with more than 2.2 million cattle and calves slaughtered each year. In 2003-04, Victorian commercial fishing crews and aquaculture industry produced 11,634 tonnes of seafood valued at nearly $A109 million. Blacklipped abalone is the mainstay of the catch, bringing in $A46 million, followed by southern rock lobster worth $A13.7 million. Most abalone and rock lobster is exported to Asia.

Machinery and equipment manufacturing is the state's most valuable activity, followed by food and beverage manufacturing and petroleum, coal and chemical manufacturing. More than 15% Victorian workers are employed in manufacturing industries. Victoria has 318,000 manufacturing workers. The state is marginally behind New South Wales in the value of manufacturing output.

Major industrial plants belong to the car manufacturers Ford, Toyota and Holden; Alcoa's Portland and Point Henry aluminium smelters; oil refineries at Geelong and Altona; and a major petrochemical facility at Laverton.

Victoria also plays an important role in providing goods for the defence industry. Melbourne is the centre of manufacturing in Victoria, followed by Geelong. Energy production has aided industrial growth in the Latrobe Valley.

Mining in Victoria contributes around A$3 billion to the gross state product but employs less than 1% of workers. The Victorian mining industry is concentrated on energy producing minerals, with brown coal, petroleum and gas accounting for nearly 90% of local production. The oil and gas industries are centred off the coast of Gippsland in the state's east, while brown coal mining and power generation is based in the Latrobe Valley.

In the 2005/2006 fiscal year, the average gas production was over 700 million cubic feet (20,000,000 m3) per day (M cuft/d) and represented 18% of the total national gas sales, with demand growing at 2% per year.

In 1985, oil production from the offshore Gippsland Basin peaked to an annual average of 450,000 barrels per day. In 2005-2006, the average daily oil production declined to 83,000 bbls/d, but despite the decline Victoria still produces almost 19.5% of crude oil in Australia.

Brown coal is Victoria's leading mineral, with 66 million tonnes mined each year for electricity generation in the Latrobe Valley, Gippsland. The region is home to the world's largest known reserves of brown coal.

Despite being the historic centre of Australia's gold rush, Victoria today contributes a mere 1% of national gold production. Victoria also produces limited amounts of gypsum and kaolin.

The service industries sector is the fastest growing component of the Victorian economy. It includes the wide range of activities generally classified as community, social and personal services; finances, insurance and property services, government services, transportation and communication, and wholesale and retail trade. Most service industries are located in Melbourne and the state's larger regional centres. As of 2004-05, service industries employed nearly three-quarters of Victorian workers and generated three-quarters of the state's GSP. Finance, insurance and property services, as a group, provide a larger share of GSP than any other economic activity in Victoria. More than a quarter of Victorian workers are employed by the community, social and personal services sector.

Victoria's northern border is the southern bank of the Murray River. It also rests at the southern end of the Great Dividing Range, which stretches along the east coast and terminates west of Ballarat. It is bordered by South Australia to the west and shares Australian's shortest land border with Tasmania. The official border between Victoria and Tasmania is at 39°12' S, which passes through Boundary Islet in the Bass Strait for 85 metres. Victoria contains many topographically, geologically and climatically diverse areas, ranging from the wet, temperate climate of Gippsland in the southeast to the snow-covered Victorian alpine areas which rise to almost 2,000 metres (6,500 ft), with Mount Bogong the highest peak at 1,986 m; (6,516 ft). There are extensive semi-arid plains to the west and northwest.

There is an extensive series of river systems in Victoria. Most notable is the Murray River system. Other rivers include: Ovens River, Goulburn River, King River, Campaspe River, Loddon River, Wimmera River, Elgin River, Barwon River, Thomson River, Snowy River, Latrobe River, Yarra River, Maribyrnong River, Mitta River, Hopkins River, Merri River and Kiewa River.

The state symbols include the Pink Heath (state flower), Leadbeater's Possum (state animal) and the Helmeted Honeyeater (state bird).

The state's capital, Melbourne, contains approximately 70% of the state's population and dominates its economy, media, and culture. For other cities and towns, see List of localities (Victoria) and Local Government Areas of Victoria.

Victoria has the highest population density in any state in Australia, with population centres spread out over most of the state, with only the far northwest and the Victorian Alps lacking permanent settlement.

The Victorian road network services the population centres, with highways generally radiating from Melbourne and other major cities and rural centres with secondary roads interconnecting the highways to each other. Many of the highways are built to freeway standard ("M" freeways), while most are generally sealed and of reasonable quality.

Rail transport in Victoria is provided by several private and public railway operators who operate over government-owned lines. Major operators include: Connex Melbourne which runs an extensive, electrified, passenger system throughout Melbourne and suburbs; V/Line which is now owned by the Victorian Government, operates a concentrated service to major regional centres, as well as long distance services on other lines; Pacific National, CFCLA, El Zorro which operate freight services; Great Southern Railway which operates The Overland Melbourne-Adelaide; and CountryLink which operates XPTs Melbourne-Sydney. There also are several smaller freight operators and numerous tourist railways operating over lines which were once parts of a state-owned system. Victorian lines mainly use the 5 ft 3 in (1,600 mm) broad gauge. However, the interstate trunk routes, as well as a number of branch lines in the west of the state have been converted to 4 ft 8½ in (1,435 mm) standard gauge. Two tourist railways operate over 2 ft 6 in (762 mm) narrow gauge lines, which are the remnants of five formerly government-owned lines which were built in mountainous areas.

Melbourne has the world's largest tram network, currently operated by Yarra Trams. As well as being a popular form of public transport, over the last few decades trams have become one of Melbourne's major tourist attractions. There are also tourist trams operating over portions of the former Ballarat and Bendigo systems. There are also tramway museums at Bylands and Haddon.

Melbourne Airport is the major domestic and international gateway for the state. Avalon Airport is the state's second busiest airport, which is complements Essendon and Moorabbin Airports to see the remainder of Melbourne's air traffic. Hamilton Airport, Mildura Airport, Mount Hotham and Portland Airport are the remaining airports with scheduled domestic flights. There are no fewer than 27 other airports in the state with no scheduled flights.

The Port of Melbourne is the largest port for containerised and general cargo in Australia, and is located in Melbourne on the mouth of the Yarra River, which is at the head of Port Phillip Bay. Additional seaports are at Westernport Bay, Geelong, and Portland.

Victoria has a varied climate despite its small size. It ranges from semi-arid and hot in the north-west, to temperate and cool along the coast. Victoria's main land feature, the Great Dividing Range, produces a cooler, mountain climate in the centre of the state.

Victoria's southernmost position on the Australian mainland means it is cooler and wetter than other mainland states and territories. The coastal plain south of the Great Dividing Range has Victoria's mildest climate. Air from the Southern Ocean helps reduce the heat of summer and the cold of winter. Melbourne and other large cities are located in this temperate region. The Mallee and upper Wimmera are Victoria's warmest regions with hot winds blowing from nearby deserts. Average temperatures top 30 °C (86°F) during summer and 15 °C (59°F) in winter. Victoria's highest maximum temperature of 48.8°C (119.8°F) was recorded in Hopetoun on 7 February 2009. The Victorian Alps in the northeast are the coldest part of Victoria. The Alps are part of the Great Dividing Range mountain system extending east-west through the centre of Victoria. Average temperatures are less than 9°C (48°F) in winter and below 0°C (32°F) in the highest parts of the ranges. The state's lowest minimum temperature of -12.8°C (9.0°F) was recorded at Mount Hotham on 13 August 1947.

Victoria is the wettest Australian state after Tasmania. Rainfall in Victoria increases from north to south, with higher averages in areas of high altitude. Median annual rainfall exceeds 1,800 millimetres (71 inches) in some parts of the northeast but is less than 250 millimetres (10 inches) in the Mallee. Rain is heaviest in the Otway Ranges and Gippsland in southern Victoria and in the mountainous northeast. Snow generally falls only in the mountains and hills in the centre of the state. Rain falls most frequently in winter, but summer precipitation is heavier. Rainfall is most reliable in Gippsland and the Western District, making them both leading farming areas. Victoria's highest recorded daily rainfall was 375 millimetres (14.7 in) at Tanybryn in the Otway Ranges on 22 March 1983.

Average January temperatures: Victoria's north is always hotter than coastal and mountainous areas.

Average July temperatures: Victoria's hills and ranges are coolest during winter. Snow also falls there.

Average yearly precipitation: Victoria's rainfall is concentrated in the mountainous north-east and coast.

The climate of Victoria's capital Melbourne, which is located on Victoria's central south coast, as measured and recorded at the Regional Office (altitude 31.2m).

The climate of Mildura on the Murray River on the north-western border of Victoria as measured and recorded at the Airport (altitude 50m).

The climate of Wilsons Promontory which constitutes the southernmost tip of Victoria and the Australian mainland as measured and recorded at the Lighthouse (altitude 88.7 m/291 ft).

Other popular tourism activities are gliding, hang-gliding, hot air ballooning and scuba diving.

Major events also play a big part in tourism in Victoria, particularly cultural tourism and sports tourism. Most of these events are centred around Melbourne, but others occur in regional cities, such as the V8 Supercars and Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix at Phillip Island, the Grand Annual Steeplechase at Warrnambool and the Australian International Airshow at Geelong and numerous local festivals such as the popular Port Fairy Folk Festival, Queenscliff Music Festival, Bells Beach SurfClassic and the Bright Autumn Festival.

Victoria is the home of Australian rules football, with ten of the sixteen clubs of the Australian Football League based in Victoria, and the traditional Grand Final held at the Melbourne Cricket Ground usually on the last Saturday in September.

Victoria's cricket team, the Victorian Bushrangers play in the national Sheffield Shield cricket competition, and is represented in Football (soccer) by Melbourne Victory in the A-League. Victoria is also represented in the National Rugby League by the Melbourne Storm.

Melbourne has held the 1956 Summer Olympics, 2006 Commonwealth Games, FINA World Swimming Championship, and is home to the annual Australian Open tennis tournament, and the Australian Formula One Grand Prix.

Victoria is also home to Bells Beach, which is the home of the world's longest-running surfing competition, the Bells Beach SurfClassic, which is part of The ASP World Tour.

Possibly Victoria's most famous island, Phillip Island, is home of the Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit which hosts the Australian motorcycle Grand Prix which features MotoGP (the world's premier motorcycling class), as well as the Australian round of the World Superbike Championship and the domestic V8 Supercar racing, which also visits Sandown Raceway and the rural Winton Motor Raceway circuit.

Australia's most prestigious footrace, the Stawell Gift, is an annual event.

The Melbourne Spring Racing Carnival is one of the biggest horse racing events in the world and is one of the world's largest sporting events. The main race is for the $6 million Melbourne Cup, and crowds for the carnival exceed 700,000.

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Victoria Cross

Victoria Cross Medal Ribbon & Bar.png

The Victoria Cross (VC) is the highest military decoration which is, or has been, awarded for valour "in the face of the enemy" to members of the armed forces of various Commonwealth countries, and previous British Empire territories. It takes precedence over all other orders, decorations and medals. It may be awarded to a person of any rank in any service and civilians under military command. It is usually presented to the recipient, or their next of kin, by the British monarch during an investiture held at Buckingham Palace, or by the Governor-General for awards made by other Commonwealth countries. It is the joint highest award for bravery in the United Kingdom with the George Cross, which is the equivalent honour for valour not in the face of the enemy. However, the VC is higher in the order of wear and would be worn first by an individual who had been awarded both decorations (which has not so far occurred).

The VC was introduced on 29 January 1856 by Queen Victoria to reward acts of valour during the Crimean War. Since then, the medal has been awarded 1,356 times to 1,353 individual recipients. Only 13 medals, nine to members of the British Army, and four to the Australian Army have been awarded since the Second World War. The traditional explanation of the source of the gunmetal from which the medals are struck is that it derives from Russian cannon captured at the siege of Sevastopol. Recent research has thrown doubt on this story, suggesting a variety of origins for the material actually making up the medals themselves. Due to its rarity, the VC is highly prized and the medal can reach over £400,000 at auction. There are a number of public and private collections devoted to it. Lord Ashcroft, whose collection contains over one-tenth of the total VCs awarded, announced in July 2008 a donation to the Imperial War Museum, allowing his collection to be displayed there in a new gallery which will open in 2010.

Since 1990, three Commonwealth countries that retain the Queen as head of state have instituted their own versions of the VC. As a result, the original Victoria Cross is sometimes referred to as the "British Victoria Cross" or the "Imperial Victoria Cross", in order to distinguish it from the newer awards.

In 1854, after 40 years of peace, Britain found itself fighting a major war against Russia. The Crimean War was one of the first wars with modern reporting, and the dispatches of William Howard Russell described many acts of bravery and valour by British servicemen that went unrewarded.

Before the Crimean War, there was no official standardised system for recognition of gallantry within the British armed forces. Officers were eligible for an award of one of the junior grades of the Order of the Bath and brevet promotions whilst a Mention in Despatches existed as an alternative award for acts of lesser gallantry. This structure was very limited; in actual practice awards of the Order of the Bath were confined to officers of field rank. Brevet promotions or Mentions in Despatches were largely confined to those who were under the immediate notice of the commanders in the field, generally members of the commander's own staff.

Other European countries had awards that did not discriminate against class or rank; France awarded the Légion d'honneur (Legion of Honour) and The Netherlands gave the Order of William. There was a growing feeling amongst the public and in the Royal Court that a new award was needed to recognise incidents of gallantry that were unconnected with a man's lengthy or meritorious service. Queen Victoria issued a Warrant under the Royal sign-manual on 29 January 1856 (gazetted 5 February 1856) that officially constituted the VC. The order was backdated to 1854 to recognise acts of valour during the Crimean War.

Queen Victoria had instructed the War Office to strike a new medal that would not recognise birth or class. The medal was meant to be a simple decoration that would be highly prized and eagerly sought after by those in the military services. To maintain its simplicity, Queen Victoria, under the guidance of Prince Albert, vetoed the suggestion that the award be called The Military Order of Victoria and instead suggested the name Victoria Cross. The original warrant stated that the Victoria Cross would only be awarded to soldiers who have served in the presence of the enemy and had performed some signal act of valour or devotion. The first ceremony was held on 26 June 1857 where Queen Victoria invested 62 of the 111 Crimean recipients in a ceremony in Hyde Park. Charles Davis Lucas was the first recipient.

It was originally intended that the VCs would be cast from the bronze cascabels of two cannon that were captured from the Russians at the siege of Sevastopol. The historian John Glanfield has since proven through the use of x-rays of older Victoria Crosses that the metal used for VCs is in fact from antique Chinese guns and not of Russian origin. One theory is that the guns were originally Chinese weapons but the Russians captured them and reused them at Sevastopol. It was also thought that some medals made during the First World War were composed of metal captured from different Chinese guns during the Boxer Rebellion but the original metal was used after the war. It is also believed that another source of metal was used between 1942 and 1945 to create five Second World War VCs when the Sevastopol metal went missing.

The barrels of the cannon in question are on display at Firepower - The Royal Artillery Museum at Woolwich. The remaining portion of the only remaining cascabel, weighing 358 oz (10 kg), is stored in a vault maintained by 15 Regiment Royal Logistic Corps at Donnington, Telford. It can only be removed under armed guard. It is estimated that approximately 80 to 85 more VCs could be cast from this source. A single company of jewellers, Hancocks of London, has been responsible for the production of every VC awarded since its inception.

The decoration is a bronze cross pattée, 41 mm high, 36 mm wide, bearing the crown of Saint Edward surmounted by a lion, and the inscription FOR VALOUR. This was originally to have been FOR THE BRAVE, until it was changed on the recommendation of Queen Victoria, as it implied that not all men in battle were brave. The decoration, suspension bar and link weigh about 0.87 troy ounces (27 g).

The cross is suspended by a ring from a seriffed "V" to a bar ornamented with laurel leaves, through which the ribbon passes. The reverse of the suspension bar is engraved with the recipient's name, rank, number and unit. On the reverse of the medal is a circular panel on which the date of the act for which it was awarded is engraved in the centre.

The Original Warrant Clause 1 states that the Victoria Cross "shall consist of a Maltese cross of bronze". Nonetheless, it has always been a cross pattée; the discrepancy with the Warrant has never been corrected.

The ribbon is crimson, 38 mm (1.5 inches) wide. The original (1856) specification for the award stated that the ribbon should be red for army recipients and blue for naval recipients. However the dark blue ribbon was abolished soon after the formation of the Royal Air Force on 1 April 1918. On 22 May 1920 King George V signed a warrant that stated all recipients would now receive a red ribbon and the living recipients of the naval version were required to exchange their ribbons for the new colour. Although the Army warrants state the colour as being red it is defined by most commentators as being crimson or "wine-red".

A recommendation for the VC is normally issued by an officer at regimental level, or equivalent, and has to be supported by three witnesses, although this has been waived on occasion. The recommendation is then passed up the military hierarchy until it reaches the Secretary of State for Defence. The recommendation is then laid before the monarch who approves the award with his or her signature. Victoria Cross awards are always promulgated in the London Gazette with the single exception of the award to the American Unknown Soldier in 1921. The Victoria Cross warrant makes no specific provision as to who should actually present the medals to the recipients. Queen Victoria indicated that she would like to present the medals in person and she presented 185 medals out of the 472 gazetted during her reign. Including the first 62 medals presented at a parade in Hyde Park on 26 June 1857 by Queen Victoria, nearly 900 awards have been personally presented to the recipient by the reigning British monarch. Nearly 300 awards have been presented by a member of the royal family or by a civil or military dignitary. About 150 awards were either forwarded to the recipient or next of kin by registered post or no details of the presentations are known.

The original Royal Warrant did not contain a specific clause regarding posthumous awards, although official policy was to not award the VC posthumously. Between the Indian Mutiny and 1897 and the beginning of the Second Boer War the names of six officers and men were published in the London Gazette with a memorandum stating they would have been awarded the Victoria Cross had they survived. A further three notices were published in the London Gazette in September 1900 and April 1901 for gallantry in the Second Boer War. In a partial reversal of policy, six posthumous Victoria Crosses, all for South Africa including the three officers and men mentioned in the notices in 1900 and 1901 were granted on 8 August 1902. Five years later in 1907, the posthumous policy was completely reversed and medals were sent to the next of kin of the six officers and men. The awards were mentioned in notices in the Gazette dating back to the Indian Mutiny. The Victoria Cross warrant was not amended to explicitly allow posthumous awards until 1920, but one quarter of all awards for World War I were posthumous. Although the 1920 Royal Warrant made provision for awards to women serving in the Armed Forces, no women have been awarded a VC.

In the case of a gallant and daring act being performed by a squadron, ship's company or a detached body of men (such as marines) in which all men are deemed equally brave and deserving of the Victoria Cross then a ballot is drawn. The officers select one officer, the NCOs select one individual and the private soldiers or seamen select two individuals. In all 46 awards have been awarded by ballot with 29 of the awards during the Indian Mutiny. Four further awards were granted to Q Battery, Royal Horse Artillery at Korn Spruit on 31 March 1900 during the Second Boer War. The final ballot awards for the Army were the six awards to the Lancashire Fusiliers at W Beach during the landing at Gallipoli on 25 April 1915 although three of the awards were not gazetted until 1917. The final seven ballot awards were the only naval ballot awards with three awards to two Q-Ships in 1917 and four awards for the Zeebrugge Raid in 1918. The provision for awards by ballot is still included in the Victoria Cross warrant but there have been no further such awards since 1918.

Between 1858 and 1881 the Victoria Cross could be awarded for actions taken "under circumstances of extreme danger" not in the face of the enemy. Six such awards were made during this period—five of them for a single incident during an Expedition to the Andaman Islands in 1867. In 1881, the criteria were changed again and the VC was only awarded for acts of valour "in the face of the enemy". Due to this it has been suggested by many historians including Lord Ashcroft that the changing nature of warfare will result in fewer VCs being awarded. The prevalence of more remote fighting techniques has meant that the opportunity to carry out acts of bravery are diminishing. Since 1940, military personnel who have distinguished themselves for gallantry not in the face of the enemy have been awarded the George Cross, which ranks immediately after the VC in the Order of Wear.

The Victoria Cross was extended to colonial troops in 1867. The extension was made following a recommendation for gallantry regarding colonial soldier Major Charles Heaphy for action in the New Zealand land wars in 1864. He was operating under British command and the VC was gazetted in 1867. Later that year, the Government of New Zealand assumed full responsibility for operations but no further recommendations for the Victoria Cross were raised for local troops who distinguished themselves in action. Following gallant actions by three New Zealand soldiers in November 1868 and January 1869 during the New Zealand land wars, an Order-in-Council on 10 March 1869 created a “Distinctive Decoration” for members of the local forces without seeking permission from the Secretary of State for the Colonies. Although the Governor was chided for exceeding his authority, the Order in Council was ratified by the Queen. The title “Distinctive Decoration” was later replaced by the title New Zealand Cross.

The question of whether recommendations could be made for colonial troops not serving with British troops was not asked in New Zealand, but in 1881, the question was asked in South Africa. Surgeon John McCrea, an officer of the South African forces was recommended for gallantry during hostilities which had not been approved by British Government. He was awarded the Victoria Cross and the principle was established that gallant conduct could be rewarded independently of any political consideration of military operations. More recently, four Australian soldiers were awarded the Victoria Cross in Vietnam although Britain was not involved in the conflict.

Indian troops were not originally eligible for the Victoria Cross since they had been eligible for the Indian Order of Merit since 1837 which was the oldest British gallantry award for general issue. When the Victoria Cross was created, Indian troops were still controlled by the Honourable East India Company and did not come under Crown control until 1860. European officers and men serving with the Honourable East India Company were not eligible for the Indian Order of Merit and the Victoria Cross was extended to cover them in October 1857. It was only at the end of the 19th Century that calls for Indian troops to be awarded the Victoria Cross intensified. Indian troops became eligible for the award in 1911. The first awards to Indian troops appeared in the London Gazette on 7 December 1914 to Darwan Sing Negi and Khudadad Khan. Negi was presented with the Victoria Cross by King George V during a visit to troops in France. The presentation occurred on 5 December 1914 and he is one of a very few soldiers presented with his award before it appeared in the London Gazette.

In recent years, several Commonwealth countries have introduced their own honours systems, separate from the British Honours System. This began with the Partition of India in 1947, when the new countries of India and Pakistan introduced their own systems of awards. The VC was replaced by the Param Vir Chakra (PVC) and Nishan-e-Haider respectively, although the new countries continued to permit winners of British honours to wear their awards. Several Pakistani soldiers and officers were authorised to wear both the British medals and the ones earned in the later Indo-Pakistani wars. Three Commonwealth realms — Australia, Canada and New Zealand — have each introduced their own decorations for gallantry and bravery, replacing British decorations such as the Military Cross with their own. Most Commonwealth countries, however, still recognise some form of the VC as their highest decoration for valour.

Australia was the first Commonwealth realm to create its own VC, on 15 January 1991. Although it is a separate award, its appearance is identical to its British counterpart. Canada followed suit when in 1993 Queen Elizabeth signed Letters Patent creating the Canadian VC, which is also similar to the British version, except that the legend has been changed from FOR VALOUR to the Latin PRO VALORE This language was chosen so as to favour neither French nor English, the two official languages of Canada. New Zealand was the third country to adapt the VC into its own honours system. While the New Zealand and Australian VCs are technically separate awards, the decoration is identical to the British design, including being cast from the same Crimean War gunmetal as the British VC. The Canadian VC is not made from the same gun-metal; it is currently made of metal from an unspecified source.

As of January 2009, only two of the separate VCs have been awarded. Willie Apiata received the Victoria Cross for New Zealand on 2 July 2007, for his actions in the War in Afghanistan in 2004. Mark Donaldson was awarded the Victoria Cross for Australia on 16 January 2009 for actions during Operation Slipper, the Australian contribution to the War in Afghanistan. A Canadian version has been cast that was originally to be awarded to the Unknown Soldier at the rededication of the Vimy Memorial on 7 April 2007. This date was chosen as it was the 90th anniversary of the battle of Vimy Ridge but pressure from Veterans organisations caused the plan to be dropped.

As the highest award for valour of the United Kingdom, the Victoria Cross is always the first award to be presented at an investiture, even before knighthoods, as was shown at the investiture of Private Johnson Beharry who received his medal before General Sir Mike Jackson. Due to its status, the VC is always the first decoration worn in a row of medals and it is the first set of post-nominal letters used to indicate any decoration or order. Similar acts of extreme valour that do not take place in the face of the enemy are honoured with the George Cross, which has equal precedence but is awarded second due to fact that the GC is newer.

There is a widespread erroneous myth that it is statutory for "all ranks to salute a bearer of the Victoria Cross". There is no official requirement that appears in the official Warrant of the VC, nor in Queen's Regulations and Orders, but tradition dictates that this occurs and as such the Chiefs of Staff will salute a Private awarded a VC or GC.

The Victoria Cross was at first worn as the recipient fancied. It was popular to pin it on the left side of the chest over the heart, with other decorations grouped around the VC. The Queen's Regulations for the Army of 1881 gave clear instructions on how to wear it; the VC had to follow the badge of the Order of the Indian Empire. In 1900 it was ordained in Dress Regulations for the Army that it should be worn after the cross of a Member of the Royal Victorian Order. It was only in 1902 that King Edward VII gave the cross its present position on a bar brooch. The cross is also worn as a miniature decoration on a brooch or a chain with mess jacket, white tie or black tie.

As a bearer of the VC is not a Companion in an Order of Chivalry, the VC has no place in a coat of arms.

The original warrant stated that NCOs and private soldiers or seamen on the Victoria Cross Register were entitled to a £10 per annum annuity. In 1898, Queen Victoria raised the pension to £50 for those that could not earn a livelihood, be it from old age or infirmity. Today holders of the Victoria Cross or George Cross are entitled to an annuity, the amount of which is determined by the awarding government. Since 2002, the annuity paid by the British government is £1,495 per year. As of January 2005, under the Canadian Gallantry Awards Order, members of the Canadian Forces or people who joined the British forces before 31 March 1949 while domiciled in Canada or Newfoundland receive Can$3,000 per year. The Australian Government provides the two surviving Australian recipients a Victoria Cross Allowance under Subsection 103.4 of the Veterans' Entitlements Act 1986. Similarly, the one recipient of the VC for Australia will also receive an annuity. In January 2006 the amount was Aus$3,230 per year which is indexed annually in line with Australian Consumer Price Index increases.

The King feels so strongly that, no matter the crime committed by anyone on whom the VC has been conferred, the decoration should not be forfeited. Even were a VC to be sentenced to be hanged for murder, he should be allowed to wear his VC on the gallows.

The power to cancel and restore awards is still included in the Victoria Cross warrant but none has been forfeited since 1908.

A total of 1,356 Victoria Crosses have been awarded since 1856 to 1,353 men. There are several statistics related to the largest number of VCs awarded in individual battles or wars. The largest number awarded for actions on a single day was 24 on 16 November 1857, at the relief of Lucknow during the Indian Mutiny and the number awarded in a single action was 11 for the defence of Rorke's Drift on 22 January 1879 during the Zulu War. The record for the number of Victoria Crosses awarded in a single conflict was 628 during the First World War. There are only eight living holders of the VC—three British, two Australians, three Gurkhas—four of them for exploits during the Second World War; in addition one New Zealander holds the Victoria Cross for New Zealand and one Australian holds the Victoria Cross for Australia. Eight of the then-twelve surviving holders of the Victoria Cross attended the 150th Anniversary service of remembrance at Westminster Abbey on 26 June 2006.

In 1921 the Victoria Cross was given to the American Unknown Soldier of the First World War. (The British Unknown Warrior was reciprocally awarded the US Medal of Honor.) One VC is in existence that is not counted in any official records. In 1856, Queen Victoria laid a Victoria Cross beneath the foundation stone of Netley Military hospital. When the hospital was demolished in 1966 the VC, known as "The Netley VC", was retrieved and is now on display in the Army Medical Services Museum, Ash, near Aldershot.

Three people have been awarded the VC and Bar, the bar representing a second award of the VC. They are: Noel Chavasse and Arthur Martin-Leake, both doctors in the Royal Army Medical Corps, for rescuing wounded under fire; and New Zealander Charles Upham, an infantryman, for pure combat actions. Upham remains the only combatant soldier to have received a VC and Bar. An Irishman, Surgeon General William Manley, remains the sole recipient of both the Victoria Cross and the Iron Cross. The VC was awarded for his actions during the Waikato-Hauhau Maori War, New Zealand on 29 April 1864 whilst the Iron Cross was awarded for tending the wounded during the Franco-Prussian War of 1870–71. New Zealand Flying Officer Lloyd Trigg, has the distinction of being the only serviceman ever awarded a VC on evidence solely provided by the enemy, for an action in which there were no surviving Allied witnesses. The recommendation was made by the captain of the German U-boat U-468 sunk by Trigg's aircraft. Lieutenant-Commander Gerard Roope was also awarded a VC on recommendation of the enemy, the captain of the Admiral Hipper, but there were also numerous surviving Allied witnesses to corroborate his actions. Only Field Marshal the Lord Roberts and William Sidney, 1st Viscount De L'Isle have been both a Knight of the Order of the Garter and awarded the VC.

Since the end of the Second World War the original VC has been awarded 13 times: four in the Korean War, one in the Indonesia-Malaysia confrontation in 1965, four to Australians in the Vietnam War, two during the Falklands War in 1982, one in the Iraq War in 2004, and one in the War in Afghanistan in 2006. The Victoria Cross for New Zealand has been awarded once, which was earned in Afghanistan in 2004 but awarded in 2007. The Victoria Cross for Australia has been awarded once, which was earned in Afghanistan in 2008 but awarded in 2009.

The two awards given in the 21st century to British personnel have been for actions in the Afghanistan War and the Iraq War. On 18 March 2005, Lance Corporal (then Private) Johnson Beharry of the 1st Battalion, Princess of Wales's Royal Regiment became the first recipient of the VC since Sergeant Ian McKay in 1982. The most recent award of the Victoria Cross to a British service person was the posthumous award on 14 December 2006 to Corporal Bryan Budd of 3 Para. It was awarded for two separate acts of "inspirational leadership and the greatest valour" which led to his death, during actions against the Taliban in Afghanistan in July and August 2006.

It was announced on 2 July 2007 that Corporal Bill Apiata of the Special Air Service of New Zealand (NZ SAS) was awarded the Victoria Cross for New Zealand for carrying a severely wounded comrade 70 metres over rocky ground while under heavy machine-gun and Rocket propelled grenade fire during the Afghanistan War in 2004.

On 16 January 2009, Trooper Mark Donaldson of the Australian Special Air Service was the first recipient of the Victoria Cross for Australia for deliberately drawing enemy fire to allow comrades to escape and then rescuing a wounded interpreter during the Afghanistan War in 2008.

The inherent value of the VC can be seen by the increasing sums that the medals reach at auction. In 1955 the set of medals awarded to Edmund Barron Hartley was bought at Sotheby's for the then record price of £300. In October 1966 the Middlesex Regiment paid a new record figure of £900 for a VC awarded after the Battle of the Somme. In January 1969 the record reached £1700 for the medal set of William Rennie In April 2004 the VC awarded in 1944 to Sergeant Norman Jackson, RAF, was sold at auction for £235,250.

On 24 July 2006, an auction at Bonhams in Sydney of the VC awarded to Captain Alfred Shout fetched a world record hammer price of AU$1 million. Captain Alfred Shout was awarded the VC posthumously in 1915 for hand-to-hand combat at the Lone Pine trenches in Gallipoli Turkey. The buyer, Kerry Stokes has since donated the medal set to the Australian War Memorial. It is on display with the eight other VCs awarded to Australians at Gallipoli.

Several VCs have been stolen and being valuable have been placed on the Interpol watch-list for stolen items. The VC awarded to Milton Gregg, which was donated to the Royal Canadian Regiment Museum in London, Ontario Canada in 1979, was stolen on Canada Day, (1 July 1980), when the museum was overcrowded and has been missing since. A VC awarded in 1917 to Canadian soldier Corporal Filip Konowal was stolen from the same museum in 1973 and was not recovered until 2004.

On 2 December 2007, 9 VCs were among 100 medals stolen from locked, reinforced glass cabinets at the QEII Army Memorial Museum in Waiouru, New Zealand with a value of around NZD$20 million. Charles Upham's VC and Bar was among these. A reward of NZ$300,000 was posted for information leading to the recovery of the decorations and conviction of the thieves, although at the time there was much public debate about the need to offer reward money in order to retrieve the medals. On 16 February 2008 New Zealand Police announced all the medals had been recovered.

British businessman and politician Lord Ashcroft has amassed a private collection of over 150 VCs. Lord Ashcroft purchased his first in 1986 and the collection now contains over a tenth of the VCs ever awarded, the largest private or public collection of such decorations ever accumulated. The collection is administered by The Ashcroft Collection Trust. Victoria Cross Heroes by Michael Ashcroft was published in November 2006. It was announced in July 2008 that Lord Ashcroft is donating £5 million for a permanent gallery at the Imperial War Museum where the 50 VCs held by the museum will be put on display alongside his own collection of 152 VCs.

In 2004 a national Victoria Cross and George Cross memorial was installed in Westminster Abbey close to the tomb of The Unknown Warrior. Westminster Abbey is a living monument to British history in that it contains monuments and memorials to central figures in British History including Charles Darwin and James VI & I. As such it was a significant honour for the VC to be commemorated in Westminster Abbey.

Canon William Lummis, MC, was a military historian who built up an archive on the service records and final resting places of Victoria Cross holders. This was then summarised into a pamphlet which was taken to be an authoritative source on these matters. However, Lummis was aware of short-comings in his work and encouraged David Harvey to continue it. The result was Harvey's seminal book Monuments to Courage. In 2007 the Royal Mail used material from Lummis' archives to produce a collection of stamps commemorating Victoria Cross winners.

It is a tradition within the Australian Army for soldiers' recreational clubs on military bases to be named after a particular Victoria Cross winner, usually one with whom the unit is historically associated. Permission for such naming rights is usually obtained not only from the relevant command hierarchy within the military itself, but also from the family of the VC winner. Once dedicated, the club and its participants typically take great pride in the deeds of the VC winner with whom they are associated, and often family members will be invited to attend certain functions held by the club as a mark of thanks and respect.

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Victoria of the United Kingdom

Queen Victoria -Golden Jubilee -3a cropped.JPG

Victoria (Alexandrina Victoria; 24 May 1819 – 22 January 1901) was from 20 June 1837 the Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and from 1 May 1876 the first Empress of India of the British Raj until her death. Her reign as the Queen lasted 63 years and seven months, longer than that of any other British monarch before her. The period centered on her reign is known as the Victorian era, a time of industrial, political, and military progress within the United Kingdom.

Though Victoria ascended the throne at a time when the United Kingdom was already an established constitutional monarchy in which the king or queen held few political powers and exercised their influence by the prime minister's advice, she still served as a very important symbolic figure of her time. The Victorian era represented the height of the Industrial Revolution, a period of significant social, economic, and technological progress in the United Kingdom. Victoria's reign was marked by a great expansion of the British Empire; during this period it reached its zenith, becoming the foremost global power of the time.

Victoria, who was of almost entirely German descent, was the daughter of Prince Edward Augustus Duke of Kent and Princess Victoria of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld, and granddaughter of George III and the niece of her predecessor William IV. She arranged marriages for her nine children and forty-two grandchildren across the continent, tying Europe together; this earned her the nickname "the grandmother of Europe". She was the last British monarch of the House of Hanover; her son King Edward VII belonged to the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha.

Victoria was born in Kensington Palace in 1819. Her uncle, William IV was the father of ten illegitimate children by his mistress, the actress Dorothy Jordan, but had no surviving legitimate children. As a result, the young Princess Victoria became heiress presumptive.The law at the time made no special provision for a child monarch. Therefore, a Regent needed to be appointed if Victoria were to succeed to the throne before coming of age at the age of eighteen. Parliament passed the Regency Act 1830, which provided that Victoria's mother, the Duchess of Kent, would act as Regent during the Queen's minority, if she acceded to the throne while still a minor. Parliament did not create a council to limit the powers of the Regent. King William disliked the Duchess and, on at least one occasion, stated that he wanted to live until Victoria's 18th birthday, so a regency could be avoided.

Princess Victoria met her future husband, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, when she was just seventeen in 1836. But it was not until a second meeting in 1839 that she said of him: "...dear Albert... He is so sensible, so kind, and so good, and so amiable too. He has besides, the most pleasing and delightful exterior and appearance you can possibly see." Prince Albert was Victoria's first cousin; his father was her mother's brother, Ernest. As a monarch, Victoria had to propose to him and in 1840 they married. Their marriage proved to be very happy.

Raised by her governess, Baroness Louise Lehzen, from Hanover, Victoria was only taught German until she was three years old. She was since taught French and English as well, and became virtually trilingual. Her mother spoke German with her. Her command of English was, although good, not perfect. Victoria maintained a close relationship with Baroness Lehzen for much of her life.

On 24 May 1837 Victoria turned 18, and the regency was avoided. On 20 June 1837, William IV died from heart failure at the age of 71, and Victoria became Queen of the United Kingdom. In her diary she wrote, "I was awoke at 6 o'clock by Mamma ...who told me the Archbishop of Canterbury and Lord Conyngham were here and wished to see me. I got out of bed and went into my sitting-room (only in my dressing gown) and alone, and saw them. Lord Conyngham then acquainted me that my poor Uncle, the King, was no more, and had expired at 12 minutes past 2 this morning, and consequently that I am Queen..." Her coronation took place on 28 June 1838, and she became the first Monarch to take up residence at Buckingham Palace.

Under Salic Law, however, no woman could be heir to the throne of Hanover, a realm which had shared a monarch with Britain since 1714. Hanover passed to her uncle, the Duke of Cumberland and Teviotdale, who became King Ernest Augustus I. (He was the fifth son and eighth child of George III.) As the young queen was as yet unmarried and childless, Ernest Augustus also remained the heir presumptive to the throne of the United Kingdom until Victoria's first child was born in 1840.

At the time of her accession, the government was controlled by the Whig Party, which had been in power, except for brief intervals, since 1830. The Whig Prime Minister, Lord Melbourne, at once became a powerful influence in the life of the politically inexperienced Queen, who relied on him for advice—some even referred to Victoria as "Mrs. Melbourne". However, the Melbourne ministry would not stay in power for long; it was growing unpopular and, moreover, faced considerable difficulty in governing the British colonies, especially during the Rebellions of 1837. In 1839, Lord Melbourne resigned after the Radicals and the Tories (both of whom Victoria detested at that time) joined together to block a Bill before the House of Commons that would have suspended the Constitution of Jamaica.

Victoria's principal adviser was her uncle King Leopold I of Belgium (her mother's brother, and the widower of Victoria's cousin, Princess Charlotte). Queen Victoria's cousins, through Leopold, were King Leopold II of Belgium and Empress Carlota of Mexico.

The Queen then commissioned Sir Robert Peel, a Tory, to form a new ministry, but was faced with a débâcle known as the Bedchamber Crisis. At the time, it was customary for appointments to the Royal Household to be based on the patronage system (that is, for the Prime Minister to appoint members of the Royal Household on the basis of their party loyalties). Many of the Queen's Ladies of the Bedchamber were wives of Whigs, but Sir Robert Peel expected to replace them with wives of Tories. Victoria strongly objected to the removal of these ladies, whom she regarded as close friends rather than as members of a ceremonial institution. Sir Robert Peel felt that he could not govern under the restrictions imposed by the Queen, and consequently resigned his commission, allowing Melbourne to return to office.

The Queen married her first cousin, Prince Albert, on 11 February 1840, in the Chapel Royal of St. James's Palace, London. Albert became not only the Queen's companion, but an important political advisor, replacing Lord Melbourne as the dominant figure in the first half of her life following Melbourne's death.

During Victoria's first pregnancy, eighteen-year-old Edward Oxford attempted to assassinate the Queen while she was riding in a carriage with Prince Albert in London. Oxford fired twice, but both bullets missed. He was tried for high treason, but was acquitted on the grounds of insanity. Despite the shooting, the first of the royal couple's nine children, named Victoria, was born on 21 November 1840.

Further attempts to assassinate Queen Victoria occurred between May and July 1842. First, on 29 May at St. James's Park, John Francis fired a pistol at the Queen while she was in a carriage, but was immediately seized by Police Constable William Trounce. Francis was convicted of high treason. The death sentence was commuted to transportation for life. Additionally, on 13 June 1842, Victoria made her first journey by train, travelling from Slough railway station (near Windsor Castle) to Bishop's Bridge, near Paddington (in London), in a special royal carriage provided by the Great Western Railway. Accompanying her were her husband and the engineer of the Great Western line, Isambard Kingdom Brunel. The Queen and the Prince Consort both complained the train was going too fast at 20 mph (30 km/h), fearing the train would derail off the railway line. Then, on 3 July, just days after Francis's sentence was commuted, another boy, John William Bean, attempted to shoot the Queen. Prince Albert felt that the attempts were encouraged by Oxford's acquittal in 1840. Although his gun was loaded only with paper and tobacco, his crime was still punishable by death. Feeling that such a penalty would be too harsh, Prince Albert encouraged Parliament to pass the Treason Act 1842. Under the new law, an assault with a dangerous weapon in the monarch's presence with the intent of alarming her was made punishable by seven years imprisonment and flogging. Bean was thus sentenced to 18 months' imprisonment; however, neither he, nor any person who violated the act in the future, was flogged.

Peel's ministry soon faced a crisis involving the repeal of the Corn Laws. Many Tories—by then known also as Conservatives—were opposed to the repeal, but some Tories (the "Peelites") and most Whigs supported it. Peel resigned in 1846, after the repeal narrowly passed, and was replaced by Lord John Russell. Russell's ministry, though Whig, was not favoured by the Queen. Particularly offensive to Victoria was the Foreign Secretary, Lord Palmerston, who often acted without consulting the Cabinet, the Prime Minister, or the Queen.

In 1849, Victoria lodged a complaint with Lord John Russell, claiming that Palmerston had sent official dispatches to foreign leaders without her knowledge. She repeated her remonstrance in 1850, but to no avail. It was only in 1851 that Lord Palmerston was removed from office; he had on that occasion announced the British government's approval for President Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte's coup in France without prior consultation of the Prime Minister.

The period during which Russell was Prime Minister also proved personally distressing to Queen Victoria. In 1849, an unemployed and disgruntled Irishman named William Hamilton attempted to alarm the Queen by firing a powder-filled pistol as her carriage passed along Constitution Hill, London. Hamilton was charged under the 1842 act; he pleaded guilty and received the maximum sentence of seven years of penal transportation.

In 1850, the Queen did sustain injury when she was assaulted by a possibly insane ex-Army officer, Robert Pate. As Victoria was riding in a carriage, Pate struck her with his cane, crushing her bonnet and bruising her. Pate was later tried; he failed to prove his insanity, and received the same sentence as Hamilton.

The young Queen Victoria fell in love with Ireland, choosing to holiday in Killarney in Kerry. Her love of the island was matched by initial Irish warmth towards the young Queen. In 1845, Ireland was hit by a potato blight that over four years cost the lives of over a million Irish people and saw the emigration of another million. In response to what came to be called the Irish Potato Famine (An Gorta Mór - Irish for "The Great Famine"), the Queen personally donated £2,000 sterling to the starving Irish people.

However, the policies of her minister Lord John Russell were often blamed for exacerbating the severity of the famine, which adversely affected the Queen's popularity in Ireland. Victoria was a strong supporter of the Irish; she supported the Maynooth Grant and made a point, on visiting Ireland, of visiting the seminary.

Victoria's first official visit to Ireland, in 1849, was specifically arranged by Lord Clarendon, the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland—the head of the British administration—to try to both draw attention from the famine and alert British politicians through the Queen's presence to the seriousness of the crisis in Ireland. Despite the negative impact of the famine on the Queen's popularity she remained popular enough for nationalists at party meetings to finish by singing "God Save the Queen". Her personal donation of money was not backed up by any ground movement to deal with the famine, and she became known in Ireland as "The Famine Queen", and was much vilified then, as now.

By the 1870s and 1880s the monarchy's appeal in Ireland had diminished substantially, partly because Victoria refused to visit Ireland in protest at the Dublin Corporation's decision not to congratulate her son, the Prince of Wales on both his marriage to Princess Alexandra of Denmark and on the birth of the royal couple's oldest son, Prince Albert Victor.

Victoria refused repeated pressure from a number of prime ministers, lords lieutenant and even members of the Royal Family, to establish a royal residence in Ireland. Lord Midleton, the former head of the Irish unionist party, writing in his memoirs of 1930 Ireland: Dupe or Heroine?, described this decision as having proved disastrous to the monarchy and British rule in Ireland.

The Queen paid her last visit to Ireland in 1900, when she came to appeal to Irishmen to join the British Army and fight in the Second Boer War. Nationalist opposition to her visit was spearheaded by Arthur Griffith, who established an organisation called Cumann na nGaedhael to unite the opposition. Five years later Griffith used the contacts established in his campaign against the queen's visit to form a new political movement, Sinn Féin.

After the Mughal Emperor was deposed by the British East India Company, and after the company itself was dissolved, the title "Empress of India" was taken by Queen Victoria from 1 May 1876, and proclaimed at the Delhi Durbar of 1877. The title was created nineteen years after the formal incorporation into the British Empire of Britain's possessions and protectorates on the Indian subcontinent. Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli is usually credited with creating the title for her.

The Prince Consort died of typhoid fever on 14 December 1861 due to the primitive sanitary conditions at Windsor Castle. His death devastated Victoria, who was still affected by the death of her mother earlier that year. She entered a state of mourning and wore black for the remainder of her life. She avoided public appearances and rarely set foot in London in the following years. Her seclusion earned her the name "Widow of Windsor." She blamed her son Edward, the Prince of Wales, for his father's death, since news of the Prince's poor conduct had come to his father in November, leading Prince Albert to travel to Cambridge to confront his son.

Victoria's self-imposed isolation from the public greatly diminished the popularity of the monarchy, and even encouraged the growth of the republican movement. Although she did undertake her official government duties, she chose to remain secluded in her royal residences—Balmoral Castle in Scotland, Osborne House on the Isle of Wight and Windsor Castle.

As time went by Victoria began to rely increasingly on a manservant from Scotland, John Brown. A romantic connection and even a secret marriage have been alleged, but both charges are generally discredited. However, when Victoria's remains were laid in the coffin, two sets of mementos were placed with her, at her request. By her side was placed one of Albert's dressing gowns while in her left hand was placed a piece of Brown's hair, along with a picture of him. It was learned in 2008 that Victoria's body wore the wedding ring of John Brown's mother, placed on her hand after her death. Rumours of an affair and marriage earned Victoria the nickname "Mrs Brown". The story of their relationship was the subject of the 1997 movie Mrs. Brown.

In 1887, the British Empire celebrated Victoria's Golden Jubilee. Victoria marked the fiftieth anniversary of her accession on 20 June with a banquet to which 50 European kings and princes were invited. Although she could not have been aware of it, there was a plan—ostensibly by Irish anarchists—to blow up Westminster Abbey while the Queen attended a service of thanksgiving. This assassination attempt, when it was discovered, became known as the Jubilee Plot. On the next day, she participated in a procession that, in the words of Mark Twain, "stretched to the limit of sight in both directions". By this time, Victoria was once again an extremely popular monarch.

On 22 September 1896, Victoria surpassed George III as the longest-reigning monarch in English, Scottish, and British history. The Queen requested all special public celebrations of the event to be delayed until 1897, to coincide with her Diamond Jubilee. The Colonial Secretary, Joseph Chamberlain, proposed that the Diamond Jubilee be made a festival of the British Empire.

The Prime Ministers of all the self-governing dominions and colonies were invited. The Queen's Diamond Jubilee procession included troops from every British colony and dominion, together with soldiers sent by Indian princes and chiefs as a mark of respect to Victoria, the Empress of India. The Diamond Jubilee celebration was an occasion marked by great outpourings of affection for the septuagenarian Queen. A service of thanksgiving was held outside St. Paul's Cathedral. Queen Victoria sat in her carriage throughout the service; she wore her usual black mourning dress trimmed with white lace. Many trees were planted to celebrate the Jubilee, including 60 oak trees at Henley-on-Thames in the shape of a Victoria Cross. The VC was introduced on 29 January 1856 by Queen Victoria to reward acts of valour during the Crimean War, and it remains to this day the highest British award for bravery.

Following a custom she maintained throughout her widowhood, Victoria spent the Christmas of 1900 at Osborne House on the Isle of Wight. She died there from a cerebral hemorrhage and declining health on Tuesday 22 January 1901 at half past six in the afternoon, at the age of 81. At her deathbed she was attended by her son, the future King, and her eldest grandson, German Emperor William II. As she had wished, her own sons lifted her into the coffin. She was dressed in a white dress and her wedding veil. Her funeral was held on Saturday 2 February, and after two days of lying-in-state, she was interred beside Prince Albert in Frogmore Mausoleum at Windsor Great Park. Since Victoria disliked black funerals, London was instead festooned in purple and white. When she was laid to rest at the mausoleum, it began to snow.

Flags in the United States were lowered to half-staff in her honour by order of President William McKinley, a tribute never before offered to a foreign monarch at the time and one which was repaid by Britain when McKinley was assassinated later that year. Victoria had reigned for a total of 63 years, seven months and two days—the longest of any British monarch—and surpassed her grandfather, George III, as the longest-lived monarch three days before her death. Her record of longest lived British monarch was subsequently surpassed by her great-great-granddaughter Elizabeth II on 21 December 2007.

Victoria's death brought an end to the rule of the House of Hanover in the United Kingdom. As her husband belonged to the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, her son and heir Edward VII was the first British monarch of this new house. Later, in 1917, her grandson King George V changed the house name from Saxe-Coburg and Gotha to the (currently serving) House of Windsor.

Victoria outlived 3 of her 9 children, and came within seven months of outliving a fourth (her eldest daughter, Vicky, who died of spinal cancer in August 1901 aged 60). She outlived 11 of her 42 grandchildren (3 stillborn, 6 as children, and 2 as adults).

Queen Victoria's reign marked the gradual establishment of modern constitutional monarchy. A series of legal reforms saw the House of Commons' power increase, at the expense of the House of Lords and the monarchy, with the monarch's role becoming gradually more symbolic. Since Victoria's reign the monarch has had only, in Walter Bagehot's words, "the right to be consulted, the right to advise, and the right to warn".

As Victoria's monarchy became more symbolic than political, it placed a strong emphasis on morality and family values, in contrast to the sexual, financial and personal scandals that had been associated with previous members of the House of Hanover and which had discredited the monarchy. Victoria's reign created for Britain the concept of the "family monarchy" with which the burgeoning middle classes could identify.

Victoria was the first known carrier of haemophilia in the royal line. Since no haemophiliacs were among her known ancestors, hers was quite possibly an instance of spontaneous mutation, which account for about 33% of all haemophilia A and 20% of all haemophilia B cases. The sudden appearance of haemophilia in Victoria's descendants has led to suggestions that her true father was not the Duke of Kent but a haemophiliac. This belief is dismissed by geneticists, who consider it more likely that the mutation arose because Victoria's father was old (haemophilia arises more frequently in the children of older fathers). There is no documentary evidence of a haemophiliac man in connection with Victoria's mother, and as male carriers always suffer the disease, even if such a man had existed he would have been seriously ill. Evidence indicates Victoria passed the gene on to two of her five daughters: Princess Alice and Princess Beatrice. Her son, Prince Leopold, was affected by the disease. The most famous haemophilia victims among her descendants were her great-grandson, Alexei, Tsarevich of Russia, and Alfonso, Prince of Asturias and Infante Gonzalo of Spain, the eldest and youngest sons of King Alfonso XIII of Spain and Queen Victoria Eugenie (Victoria's granddaughter).

Queen Victoria experienced unpopularity during the first years of her widowhood, but afterwards became extremely well-liked during the 1880s and 1890s. In 2002, the BBC conducted a poll regarding the 100 Greatest Britons; Victoria attained the eighteenth place.

The design of the Queen's head on the first postage stamp was based upon the 1837 Wyon City medal engraved by a famous coin engraver William Wyon. The design of Queen Victoria's head is based on a sitting when she was a princess aged 15. Victoria also started the tradition of a bride wearing a white dress at her wedding. Before Victoria's wedding a bride would wear her best dress of no particular colour.

Internationally Victoria was a major figure, not just in image or in terms of Britain's influence through the empire, but also because of family links throughout Europe's royal families, earning her the affectionate nickname "the grandmother of Europe". For example, three of the main monarchs with countries involved in the First World War on the opposing side were either grandchildren of Victoria's or married to a grandchild of hers. Eight of Victoria's nine children married members of European royal families, and the other, Princess Louise, married Marquess of Lorne, a future Governor-General of Canada.

Victoria and Albert had 42 grandchildren and their current descendants number into the hundreds. As of 2009, the European monarchs and former monarchs descended from Victoria are: Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom (as well as her husband), King Harald V of Norway, King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden, Queen Margrethe II of Denmark, King Juan Carlos I of Spain (as well as his wife), and the deposed kings Constantine II of Greece (as well as his wife) and Michael of Romania. The pretenders to the thrones of Serbia, Russia, Prussia and Germany, Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, Hanover, Hesse, Baden and France (Legitimist) are also descendants.

Several places in the world have been named after Victoria, including two Australian States (Victoria and Queensland), the capitals of British Columbia (Victoria), and Saskatchewan (Regina), the capital of the Seychelles, Africa's largest lake, and Victoria Falls.

Victoria Day is a Canadian statutory holiday celebrated on the last Monday before or on 24 May in honour of both Queen Victoria's birthday and the current reigning Canadian Sovereign's birthday. While Victoria Day is often thought of as a purely Canadian event, it is also celebrated in some parts of Scotland, particularly in Edinburgh and Dundee, where it is also a public holiday.

Queen Victoria remains the most commemorated British monarch in history, with statues to her erected throughout the former territories of the British Empire. These range from the prominent, such as the Victoria Memorial outside Buckingham Palace—which was erected as part of the remodelling of the façade of the Palace a decade after her death—to the obscure: in the town of Cape Coast, Ghana, a bust of the Queen presides, rather forlornly, over a small park where goats graze around her. Many institutions, thoroughfares, parks, and structures bear her name.

There is a statue of Queen Victoria in Victoria Square in Adelaide, capital city of the Australian state of South Australia; in Queen's Square in Brisbane, capital city of the Australian state of Queensland; and in the Domain Gardens in Melbourne, the capital of the Australian State of Victoria. In Perth, capital city of Western Australian a marble statue stands in King's Park overlooking the city surrounded by canon used at the Battle of Waterloo. A bronze statue of Queen Victoria stands in the main street of the city of Ballarat in Victoria, Australia. At Bangalore, India, the statue of the Queen stands at the beginning of MG Road, one of the city's major roads. Statues erected to Victoria are common in Canada, where her reign was coterminous with the confederation of the country and the creation of several new provinces. A bas-relief image of Victoria is on the wall of the entrance to the Canadian Parliament, and her statue is in the Parliamentary library as well as on the grounds.

Queen Victoria invited Martha Ann Ricks, on behalf of Liberian Ambassador Edward Wilmont Blyden, to Windsor Castle on 16 July 1892. Martha Ricks, a former slave from Tennessee, had saved her pennies for more than fifty years, to afford the voyage from Liberia to England to personally thank the Queen for sending the British navy to patrol the coast of West Africa to prevent slavers from exporting Africans for the slave trade. Martha Ricks shook hands with the Queen and presented her with a Coffee Tree quilt, which Queen Victoria later sent to the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition for display. A mystery remains as to where the Coffee Tree quilt is today. The royal Victoria Teaching Hospital In The Gambia is also named after the Queen.

As the male-line granddaughter of a King of Hanover, Victoria also bore the titles of Princess of Hanover and Duchess of Brunswick and Lunenburg. In addition, she held the titles of Princess of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha and Duchess in Saxony etc. as the wife of Prince Albert.

Victoria's coat of arms was not uniform throughout the United Kingdom: Quarterly, I and IV Gules three lions passant guardant in pale Or (for England); II Or a lion rampant within a double tressure flory-counter-flory Gules (for Scotland); III Azure a harp Or stringed Argent (for Ireland). This same coat of arms has been used by every subsequent British monarch.

Victoria's Royal Cypher was the first to be used on a postbox. The letters are VR interlaced, standing for "Victoria Regina". Although Victoria eventually used the cypher VRI ("Victoria Regina Imperatrix") when she became Empress, this never appeared on postboxes. Victoria's cypher was the only one to appear on postboxes without a crown above it.

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Victoria Beckham

Victoria Beckham on Spice Girls tour.

Victoria Caroline Beckham (née Adams; born 17 April 1974) is an English singer, songwriter , dancer, fashion designer, author, businesswoman, actress and model.

During her rise to fame with 1990s pop group the Spice Girls, she was dubbed Posh Spice, a nickname first coined by a British pop music magazine. Since the Spice Girls followed separate careers, Beckham has dabbled in pop music, scoring four UK Top 10 singles as a solo artist. Her first single to be released, "Out of Your Mind", reached number two in the UK Singles Chart and is her highest chart entry to date. During her solo music career she has been signed to Virgin Records and Telstar Records.

Beckham has found more success as an internationally recognised and photographed style icon. She has had a career in fashion, designing a line of jeans for Rock & Republic and later designing her own denim brand, dVb Style. Beckham has brought out her own range of sunglasses and fragrance, entitled Intimately Beckham, which has been released in the UK and in the United States. In association with the Japanese store Samantha Thavasa, she has produced a range of handbags and jewelry. In addition, she has released two bestselling books; one her autobiography, the other a fashion guide.

In her television ventures, she has had five official documentaries and reality shows made about her, some of which include Being Victoria Beckham and The Real Beckhams. Her last documentary to date was Victoria Beckham: Coming to America which documented her move to the United States with her family in 2007. She since made a cameo appearance in an episode of American TV series Ugly Betty, and been a guest judge on Project Runway.

She is married to English footballer David Beckham with whom she has three sons. The couple's joint wealth is estimated at £112 million.

Victoria Caroline Adams was born to Anthony and Jacqueline Adams at the Princess Alexandra Hospital in Harlow, Essex and raised in Goffs Oak, Hertfordshire. Beckham's father was an electronics engineer and the success of the family business meant a wealthy upbringing for Victoria and her siblings, Louise and Christian.

After Beckham had watched the musical, Fame, it inspired her and she subsequently decided that she would want to become famous. It was then that her parents enrolled her at Jason Theatre School. At 17, she attended Laine Theatre Arts College in Epsom, Surrey and studied dance and modeling. She was also in a band called Persuasion.

Victoria Adams (as she then was) joined the all-girl group Spice Girls, first called "Touch," in 1994, with Geri Halliwell, Emma Bunton, Melanie Brown and Melanie Chisholm. She had previously answered an advertisement in The Stage in March 1993 which required girls who were "street smart, extrovert, ambitious and able to sing and dance".

The group's first single, "Wannabe", went to number one in the UK and the United States and India, and would be followed by eight other successful number one singles from their albums, Spice, Spiceworld and Forever. Each member of the group received a nickname from the media. Victoria was called Posh Spice because of her refined attitude, form-fitting designer outfits, such as little black dresses, and her love of high-heeled footwear. The group was one of the most successful pop acts of the 1990s, selling over fifty-five million records worldwide. After the release of their third album, Forever (UK#2), which was much less successful than their previous two albums, the Spice Girls stopped recording, leading Beckham to try to build a solo career.

Filmmaker, Bob Smeaton, has also directed an official documentary on the reunion. It is entitled Spice Girls: Giving You Everything and was first aired on Fox8 in Australia. It later aired in the United Kingdom on 31 December 2007 on BBC One.

As well as the sell-out tour, the Spice Girls were contracted to appear in Tesco advertisements, for which they were paid £1 million each.

On 14 August 2000, Victoria released her first solo single, "Out of Your Mind" in collaboration with Dane Bowers and Truesteppers. The week of release coincided with the release of "Groovejet (If This Ain't Love)" by Spiller ft. Sophie Ellis-Bextor, resulting in a chart battle dubbed 'Posh vs. Posher' by the tabloids. Following a huge publicity campaign, "Out Of Your Mind" was outsold by Ellis-Bextor, and debuted at number two in the UK Singles Chart. Before the single's release, on 8 July 2000 she made her public solo debut at London's Hyde Park at a concert to raise money for the Prince's Trust charity. She sang "Out of Your Mind" to a 100,000-strong audience.

Beckham then signed recording contract with her group label Virgin Records. Her next single as a solo artist, "Not Such An Innocent Girl", was released on 17 September 2001. Again, she faced competition in another hugely hyped chart battle, this time with Kylie Minogue's single "Can't Get You Out Of My Head". Despite a huge promotional campaign, Beckham was outsold eight to one, and the single debuted at number 6. Beckham's debut album, eponymously entitled Victoria Beckham, was released on 1 October 2001, and reached number 10 in the UK album chart. The album cost a reputed £5 million to produce and it sold a modest 50,000 copies.

Telstar Records signed Beckham in 2002 in a deal made with Simon Fuller's 19 Management. The contract was worth £1.5 million. Beckham spent much of 2002 recording a pop-influenced album called Open Your Eyes which yielded the single "Let Your Head Go", but she allegedly chose not to release it after being disappointed with the results. Instead of pop, Beckham wanted to record tracks with a more RnB and hip hop influence, creating a more urban sound. She began working with urban producer Damon Dash. During this time, it was reported that Dash slighted Beckham, stating "If we can make Victoria hot, we can make anybody hot." When he was first asked why he was working with Beckham he stated "Because I see how much she gets photographed over here." A Dash-produced track "It's That Simple" featuring M.O.P. was created, and received a premiere on radio stations in July 2003. This generated mixed reviews, and further criticism, with the feeling being that Beckham was far from convincing as an urban act.

Beckham's first single with Telstar Records, "Let Your Head Go / This Groove", was released in the UK on 29 December 2003, following heavy promotion and many TV appearances across the Christmas period. The single charted at number 3 in the UK. This double A-side lifted "Let Your Head Go" from Beckham's earlier pop-inspired work with "This Groove" one of her Hip-Hop/R'n'B songs and remains Beckham's last single release to date. She is currently the only Spice Girl never to have had a British solo number one, though she is also the only Spice Girl to have all her single/album releases go Top 10. Outside of the UK, Damon Dash had plans for Beckham in the United States, including a potential release of "Let Your Head Go / This Groove" under the name of "Posh Spice Victoria Beckham". The release was proposed for sometime between March to May 2004, but never occurred.

With the UK media describing her solo music career a failure, and combined with a rumoured fall-out between Dash and Fuller, her hip hop album, Come Together, was not released. Amidst the collapse of Telstar Records, remaining plans for Beckham's music career were cancelled.

Victoria Beckham is the only Spice Girl to have all of her singles and albums chart in the top 10 of the UK charts, but she also has released fewer albums (1) and singles (4).

Beckham's autobiography, entitled Learning to Fly, was released on 13 September 2001. The title was taken from a line in a song from the musical Fame, which Beckham enjoyed as a child. The verse that inspired the title goes "I'm gonna live forever, I'm gonna learn how to fly". The book documents her childhood, time during the Spice Girls, her marriage and family life, as well as her career at the time. Learning to Fly became the third best-selling non-fiction title of 2001 and the total UK sales stand at more than 500,000 copies. When the book was first released, it went to number 1 in the book charts after four weeks of release, sending Robbie Williams' book to second. A high-profile appearance on Parkinson, watched by 9 million people, helped to promote the book. Before the publishing of the book, Hello!, The Daily Mail and The Mail on Sunday joined to buy the rights to preview and serialise the book before its release. The figure paid was thought to be near £1 million.

Beckham was quoted by a Spanish journalist in 2005 as saying "I've never read a book in my life". She later claimed this was a mistranslation from the original Spanish in which the interview was printed, saying she actually stated that she never had time to finish reading a book because she was always too busy looking after her children.

Beckham's second book, a fashion advice guide, entitled That Extra Half an Inch: Hair, Heels and Everything In Between, was published on 27 October 2006. That Extra Half an Inch: Hair, Heels and Everything In Between includes tips from Beckham on fashion, style and beauty, and also contains photography by Mario Testino, Annie Leibovitz and Steven Meisel. The book became another bestseller, and has sold 400,000 copies in Britain alone since it was published in hardcover. The rights have since been sold to the United States, the Netherlands, Japan, Portugal, Lithuania, Russia, and most recently China.

Beckham has shot five official reality documentaries. The first, dated 11 January 2000, was called Victoria's Secrets, a programme only shown in the UK on Channel4 which involved Beckham being followed by cameras while also discussing and interviewing other British celebrities, such as Sir Elton John. Beckham discussing her career as a solo artist, with the release of her first album, also showing her at various photo shoots and recording sessions. The documentary attracted a strong audience of 8.83 million, coming top in its timeslot. One critic described her as "so clearly level-headed, happy with her not inconsiderable lot and seemingly unfazed by the madly intrusive nature of her monumentally ridiculous fame". The third, The Real Beckhams which aired on 24 December 2003 on ITV1, focused on the Beckhams' move to Madrid from London after David Beckham was signed to Real Madrid. It also featured Victoria Beckham re-launching her solo career and showed her mocking the tabloid stories she reads in the paper every day. The special received an audience of 6.10 million viewers and was later released on DVD on 2 February 2004.

The fourth was entitled Full Length & Fabulous: The Beckhams' 2006 World Cup Party, which followed Victoria and David Beckham organising and making preparations to host a 2006 World Cup Party at a marquee in the grounds of their mansion in Hertfordshire, which aimed to raise money for their charity. Two tickets to attend the ball were auctioned online for charity, and sold for £103,000. The documentary aired on 28 May 2006 and showed the event itself, where the menu was designed especially by friend and chef Gordon Ramsay and the charity auction was hosted by Graham Norton. Ramsay catered for 600 guests, with the aid of 40 chefs and 100 waiting staff. The ITV documentary attracted an average of 7.56 million viewers.

To document Victoria Beckham's preparations for her family's move to the United States, she signed a deal with NBC for six episodes of a half-hour unscripted reality TV series. Despite the originally planned six episodes, the show was cut to a one hour special only as there "just wasn't enough (material) for a series." The show, called Victoria Beckham: Coming to America, aired on 16 July 2007 in the US and Canada. It was heavily scrutinised by the American media and critics, with The New York Post describing it as "an orgy of self-indulgence" and also describing Beckham as "vapid and condescending". The programme was the third-most-watched programme in its time-slot and received viewing figures of 4.9 million in the US, beaten by a repeat of Wife Swap and two sitcoms. The programme aired in Britain on 17 July 2007 on ITV with 3.84 million viewers tuning in. The programme was produced by Simon Fuller who managed her and the Spice Girls on their come-back tour.

In July 2007, it was announced that Beckham was shortly to begin filming a cameo appearance playing herself in an episode of the second season of ABC's TV series Ugly Betty. The episode, "A Nice Day for a Posh Wedding", aired on 9 November 2007 in the United States and on 23 November in the United Kingdom. Beckham's first line was "It's major", said when bursting through a curtain at a dress fitting for a wedding, in which she was the bridesmaid. Beckham has said she only agreed to the part because of her interest in fashion, and not for the acting opportunity. Despite her forays into television, Beckham has denied plans to embark upon an LA movie career.

In February 2008, it was revealed that Beckham would be the guest judge for the fourth season finale of Project Runway, which aired on 5 March 2008 in the United States. She was especially complimentary of winner Christian Siriano's designs, saying they were very much to her taste and style.

Beckham has become better recognised as an international style icon, rather than a music artist. Beckham made a guest appearance on the catwalk for Maria Grachvogel in 2000, making this her debut at London Fashion Week as a model. Beckham also acted as British ambassador for Dolce and Gabbana and was briefly the face of Rocawear in 2003.

On 16 January 2006, Beckham walked the runway for Roberto Cavalli at Milan Fashion Week and was for a period exclusively dressed by him for red-carpet and social events. For the March 2006 issue of Harper's Bazaar, Beckham acted as fashion editor when she styled her close friend, Katie Holmes, for a fashion shoot. In July 2006, Beckham released a line of sunglasses, called dvb Eyewear. She has admitted to a personal love of sunglasses, saying "I'm quite obsessed with sunglasses. I collect vintage Guccis and Carreras — they can make virtually any outfit look cool." After Beckham's departure from Rock & Republic, in September 2006, she furthered her fashion ventures when she launched her own denim label of which she acts as creative director. The new line of Beckham's jeans collection is called dvb Style. In the same month, Intimately Beckham, a his-and-her fragrance line, was launched at a lavish press conference in Venice. Beckham then launched her new official website, dvbstyle.com, which promotes her fashion work. She also produced a range of handbags and jewellery in association with the Japanese store, Samantha Thavasa.

On 5 June 2007, she won two British Glamour Magazine Awards, one for "Woman of the Year" and another for "Entrepreneur of the Year," which celebrated her fashion achievements. On 14 June 2007 Beckham launched her dvb Denim collection in New York at the high-end Saks Fifth Avenue, along with unveiling her eye-wear range in the United States for the first time. In the same month Beckham made her first appearance at London's annual Graduate Fashion Week as a judge alongside Glenda Bailey, the editor-in-chief of Harper’s Bazaar, and Alber Elbaz, to choose a winner to receive the River Island Gold Award, worth £20,000. In August 2007, Intimately Beckham perfume hit American stores for the first time. Victoria Beckham has stated "We are not just saying, 'We are celebrities, put our name on it.' I love to be involved with the whole process." The Intimately Beckham line has been predicted to sell over $100 million worth of sales internationally, doubling this estimate in 2008. In September 2007, Beckham released Intimately Beckham Night a new range of his-and-her fragrances, and her debut cosmetics line V-Sculpt was unveiled and launched in Tokyo. In a 2007 appearance at an LA Galaxy press conference, Beckham is credited with having popularised Roland Mouret's 'moon dress' and his brand, and Beckham was also the face of Marc Jacobs for his Spring 2008 collection. Beckham's own fashion collection debuted during the 2008 New York Fashion Week at the Waldorf Hotel, featuring dresses, of which only 400 will be made. Her first collection, that will retail between £650 and £1900, was met with positive reviews; "it was a very impressive, accomplished collection, with not a single dud. ... it was the fabrics (silk, wool and organza) and the attention to detail that impressed", wrote one critic, whilst others called it "Beautiful", "desirable" and "classy". Victoria is also well known for her love of high heel shoes, and is often seen right up on her toes with a pair of skyscraper heels on her feet.

Beckham has voiced her anti-fur beliefs and promotes an animal friendly wardrobe filled with faux/synthetic furs. Beckham's stand against the fur industry has generated admiration from animal rights organizations, including PETA. Of PETA anti-fur campaigns, Beckham stated that she is "supportive of its high-profile anti-fur campaigns," and pledged "never to work with fur in any of own fashion collections".

Her most signified trademark are her Hermes Birkin Bag (s), in which she is pictured with almost in every photograph.

Victoria Adams started dating football player David Beckham in 1997 after they had met at a charity football match, prompting him to request a meeting with her. Of their initial meeting she said, "I didn't really know who he was. I was never into football." The couple announced their engagement in 1998 and were dubbed "Posh and Becks" by the media, and were later married at Luttrellstown Castle, Ireland on 4 July 1999, with the wedding attracting much media coverage. David Beckham's team-mate, Gary Neville, was the best man, and the couple's four month old infant son Brooklyn was the ring bearer. Most of the media were kept away from the ceremony as an exclusive deal with OK! Magazine had been arranged, but photographs were released showing the Beckhams sitting on golden thrones. A total of 437 staff were employed for the wedding reception, which was estimated to have cost £500,000. The couple bought what would become their most famous home for £2.5 million in 1999; the property, which is set in 24 acres (97,000 m2) of land, was duly given a £3 million renovation and was subsequently dubbed Beckingham Palace by the media.

The couple have three children, Brooklyn Joseph Beckham (born 4 March 1999 in London), Romeo James Beckham (born 1 September 2002 in London), and Cruz David Beckham (born 20 February 2005 in Madrid, Spain). Elton John and David Furnish are reportedly the godparents of Brooklyn and Romeo, and the godmother is Elizabeth Hurley. The Beckhams have stated that they would like to have more children, especially a daughter.

In January 2000, a tip-off to Scotland Yard detectives exposed a plot to kidnap Victoria and Brooklyn Beckham and hold them at a house in Hampstead, London. The family was then moved to a secret location, but no arrests were made. Later in March 2000, she received a death threat prior to performing at the Brit Awards with the Spice Girls, and in the show's rehearsal, a red laser light appeared on her chest and she was rushed off stage. After a fire door was found to be lodged open, it was thought that there had been an assassin there, and Beckham later revealed that she was terrified by the experience. In November 2002, five people were arrested after another plot for her kidnap was infiltrated by a tabloid newspaper. All charges were dropped after a witness was deemed unreliable.

The Beckhams moved to Los Angeles, California on 12 July 2007 as a result of David Beckham being signed to play for the LA Galaxy. On arrival in America on 12 July 2007, the couple were met by hundreds of paparazzi and media representatives, causing a media frenzy. They are now residing in a $22 million Beverly Hills mansion with 10 security guards. To create publicity for their move to America, the couple were photographed in their underwear for the fashion magazine, W, which also included an interview in which Victoria Beckham said that David's supposed affair with Loos made their marriage stronger.

Beckham's marriage and career as a singer have made her the 52nd richest woman in Britain. and the 619th richest person in Britain with husband David, with an estimated joint wealth of £112 million ($225 million USD).

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Source : Wikipedia