While Queen Victoria was the Queen of the United Kingdom, she also held the additional title of (the first) Empress of India. She was proclaimed as Empress on 1 May 1876 and held the title until her death on 22 January 1901. In total, she served as India’s empress for 24 years, eight months, and three weeks.
The idea of the Queen becoming Empress of India had been discussed for decades before it was instituted, first being brought up in 1843. Mughal Emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar had been deposed in 1857 at which point control of British India was transferred to the Crown from the East India Company (EIC). Victoria was offered the position of empress after the EIC was dissolved; she accepted it on 1 May 1876 with it being officially proclaimed in India on 1 January 1877.
Obtaining the title of Empress of India, came 15 years after her beloved husband, Prince Albert had died. As such, Victoria had no consort while reigning over India.
Victoria did not have much power over the Indian government, serving more as a figurehead. Instead, the Governor General stood in her stead in India where he presided over legislative branches at the federal and provincial levels.
One significant difference in Victoria’s reign over India from the United Kingdom was religion. Whereas in the United Kindom, the Church of England reigned supreme with the Queen as the head of the church, in India this did not apply. Most Indians followed the Hindu religion, and this eliminated the power of the Church of England in the country. Victoria was adamant that freedom of religion be observed in the country having respect for Indians and their various beliefs. The lack of religious freedom threatened to undermine the “native religions and customs,” she said.
Empress Victoria threatened to abdicate several times as she wanted the UK (under the leadership of Conservative Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli) to fight against Russia in the Russo-Turkish War. The threats were just that, threats, as Victoria never made good on her ultimatum.
While as Queen of the United Kingdom she was referred to as Her Majesty, as Empress of India, she was called Her Imperial Majesty. And subsequent emperors were known as His Imperial Majesty until 22 June 1948 when King George VI relinquished the title after the Second World War. India had gained its independence a year earlier.