Queen Victoria's central importance to the era defined by her reign is self-evident, and yet it has been surprisingly overlooked in the study of Victorian culture. This collection of essays goes beyond the facts of biography and official history to explore the diverse, and sometimes conflicting, meanings she held for her subjects around the world and even for those outside her empire, who made of her a multifaceted icon serving their social and economic needs. In her paradoxical position as neither consort nor king, she baffled expectations throughout her reign. She was a model of wifely decorum and solid middle-class values, but she also became the focus of anxieties about powerful women, and - increasingly - of anger about Britain's imperial aims. Each essay analyses a different aspect of this complex and fascinating figure. Contributors include noted scholars in the field of literature, cultural studies, art history, and women's studies.