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10 Queen Victoria Quotes on the Miseries of Motherhood

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Wikimedia Commons

Queen Victoria (1819-1901) might be considered the queen of working mothers. She had nine children and ruled the largest empire on earth. But Victoria—Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, Defender of the Faith, and Empress of India—detested babies, childbirth, and all that muck.

She wrote volumes of letters, both official and personal. Occasionally her true feeling leaked through her official letters, but in her private ones, notably those written to her firstborn daughter Victoria The Princess Royal (Vicky), they positively soaked the page. Below are some choice words Her Majesty had for the business of babies.

1. On children as (basically) parasites

From a letter to her Uncle, the Belgian King, after the birth of her first child, Vicky: "My dearest Uncle,—… I think, dearest Uncle, you cannot really wish me to be the ‘Mamma d'une nombreuse famille,’ for I think you will see with me the great inconvenience a large family would be to us all, and particularly to the country, independent of the hardship and inconvenience to myself; men never think, at least seldom think, what a hard task it is for us women to go through this very often."

Bless your heart Uncle, I just spent the last nine months overseeing the annexation of New Zealand while my body was invaded by a parasite that made me physically ill and eventually split me open like the spear of a Zulu warrior. Please don’t wish me an abundance of this blessing.

2. On children and their daddies

From the same letter: “Our young lady flourishes exceedingly…I think you would be amused to see Albert dancing her in his arms; he makes a capital nurse (which I do not, and she is much too heavy for me to carry), and she already seems so happy to go to him."

Or: Little Vicky and her daddy love each other. Which is good, because Mom is not touching that fat, drooling little rutabaga.

3. On babies as disappointments

"We found our dear little Victoria so grown and so improved, and speaking so plain, and become so independent; I think really few children are as forward as she is. She is quite a dear little companion. The Baby is sadly backward, but also growing, and very strong."

In other words: Vicky is becoming more human, more tolerable! The newborn future King of England however, who at this time must execute the royal duties of crying, sucking his fist, and pooping, is already a great disappointment.

4. On rumors of her daughter being pregnant

"It is most odious but they have spread a report that you & I are both in what I call an unhappy condition!...All who love you hope you will be spared this trial for a year yet.” Victoria further laments how miserable it will be for her daughter to combat homesickness and other trials of being newly married “while ailing and in a state of constant malaise."

Rumors abounded that both the newly married Vicky and her 39 year old mother were pregnant. They were unfounded, but in Vicky’s case, not for long. In 1859 Vicky gave birth to Wilhelm, who would eventually become Kaiser Wilhelm, the German Emperor fighting WWI against his English first cousin King George V. Grandmamma would never have stood for that foolishness.

5. On her youngest son, Leopold

"…I am no admirer of babies generally – there are exceptions – for instance (your sisters) Alice, and Beatrice were very pretty from the very first – yourself also-rather so - Arthur too...Bertie and Leopold –too frightful. Little girls are always prettier and nicer.”

Leopold was Victoria’s youngest son, and she devotes a truly depressing amount of her personal writing to how much he bothered her. Starting right with his ugly little face at birth.

6. On Baby Doctors ... and Men

Her daughter wrote Victoria that she was preparing her life for the birth of her first baby with finality “the same as a person does that is going to have her head cut off.” Her mother was very sympathetic.

“Oh! If those selfish men – who are the causes of all one’s misery, only knew what their poor slaves go through! What suffering – what humiliation to the delicate feelings of a poor woman…especially with those nasty doctors.

Men are such bungholes.

7. On her daughter wanting to be positive about her pregnancies

The princess decided to put a positive spin on her inevitable pregnancies. Her mom thought she was just adorable for doing that. An adorable cow. 

“What you say of the pride of giving life to an immortal soul is very fine, dear, but I own I cannot enter into that; I think much more of our being like a cow or a dog at such moments; when our poor nature becomes so very animal and unecstatic," Victoria wrote her daughter.

8. On which animal infants resemble

“I like them better than I did, if they are nice and pretty…Abstractedly, I have no tender for them till they have become a little human; an ugly baby is a very nasty object – and the prettiest is frightful when undressed. Until about 4 months; in short as long as they have their big body and little limbs and that terrible froglike action.”

9. On the miseries of motherhood

Victoria urged Vicky to not tell her sister, Alice, how soul-shattering the whole baby thing was. She would find out soon enough. "Let me caution, dear child, again, to say as little as you can on these subjects [pregnancy] before Alice (who has already heard much more than you ever did) for she has the greatest horror of having children, and would rather have none -- just as I was when a girl and when I first married -- so I am very anxious she should know as little about the inevitable miseries as possible; so don't forget, dear."

10. On babies ruining lives

From this letter, it appeared that Victoria thought marriage = babies = death of hope and joy. “When I think of a merry, happy, and free young girl -- and look at the ailing aching state a young wife is generally doomed to -- which you can't deny is the penalty of marriage."

In fairness, these were only a portion of the things the Queen said about children; there are many more lines declaring her love and interest in her nine offspring. But those cheerful feelings were not constant, even in a woman who represents the very soul of self-control and propriety. To some of us, it’s a relief to know we’re in such distinguished company.  

See Also...

10 Lines From Napoleon's Love Letters That Sound Like Crazy Texts

These quotes were gathered from the pages of Dearest Child: Letters Between Queen Victoria and The Princess Royal 1858-1861 by Roger Fulford.

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Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
May 21, 2017
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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva

Jacques Mattheij made a small, but awesome, mistake. He went on eBay one evening and bid on a bunch of bulk LEGO brick auctions, then went to sleep. Upon waking, he discovered that he was the high bidder on many, and was now the proud owner of two tons of LEGO bricks. (This is about 4400 pounds.) He wrote, "[L]esson 1: if you win almost all bids you are bidding too high."

Mattheij had noticed that bulk, unsorted bricks sell for something like €10/kilogram, whereas sets are roughly €40/kg and rare parts go for up to €100/kg. Much of the value of the bricks is in their sorting. If he could reduce the entropy of these bins of unsorted bricks, he could make a tidy profit. While many people do this work by hand, the problem is enormous—just the kind of challenge for a computer. Mattheij writes:

There are 38000+ shapes and there are 100+ possible shades of color (you can roughly tell how old someone is by asking them what lego colors they remember from their youth).

In the following months, Mattheij built a proof-of-concept sorting system using, of course, LEGO. He broke the problem down into a series of sub-problems (including "feeding LEGO reliably from a hopper is surprisingly hard," one of those facts of nature that will stymie even the best system design). After tinkering with the prototype at length, he expanded the system to a surprisingly complex system of conveyer belts (powered by a home treadmill), various pieces of cabinetry, and "copious quantities of crazy glue."

Here's a video showing the current system running at low speed:

The key part of the system was running the bricks past a camera paired with a computer running a neural net-based image classifier. That allows the computer (when sufficiently trained on brick images) to recognize bricks and thus categorize them by color, shape, or other parameters. Remember that as bricks pass by, they can be in any orientation, can be dirty, can even be stuck to other pieces. So having a flexible software system is key to recognizing—in a fraction of a second—what a given brick is, in order to sort it out. When a match is found, a jet of compressed air pops the piece off the conveyer belt and into a waiting bin.

After much experimentation, Mattheij rewrote the software (several times in fact) to accomplish a variety of basic tasks. At its core, the system takes images from a webcam and feeds them to a neural network to do the classification. Of course, the neural net needs to be "trained" by showing it lots of images, and telling it what those images represent. Mattheij's breakthrough was allowing the machine to effectively train itself, with guidance: Running pieces through allows the system to take its own photos, make a guess, and build on that guess. As long as Mattheij corrects the incorrect guesses, he ends up with a decent (and self-reinforcing) corpus of training data. As the machine continues running, it can rack up more training, allowing it to recognize a broad variety of pieces on the fly.

Here's another video, focusing on how the pieces move on conveyer belts (running at slow speed so puny humans can follow). You can also see the air jets in action:

In an email interview, Mattheij told Mental Floss that the system currently sorts LEGO bricks into more than 50 categories. It can also be run in a color-sorting mode to bin the parts across 12 color groups. (Thus at present you'd likely do a two-pass sort on the bricks: once for shape, then a separate pass for color.) He continues to refine the system, with a focus on making its recognition abilities faster. At some point down the line, he plans to make the software portion open source. You're on your own as far as building conveyer belts, bins, and so forth.

Check out Mattheij's writeup in two parts for more information. It starts with an overview of the story, followed up with a deep dive on the software. He's also tweeting about the project (among other things). And if you look around a bit, you'll find bulk LEGO brick auctions online—it's definitely a thing!

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