Queen (then Princess) Victoria was born in the early hours (4.15 am) of 24 May 1819. At the time of her birth, the future queen was fifth in line to the throne after King George III’s four elder sons: the Prince of Wales, the Duke of York, the Duke of Clarence, and the Duke of Kent. Her uncles either had no legitimate children (anymore) or children who died in infancy, meaning she was the only royal of her generation.
The United Kingdom was in a succession crisis at the time due to the death of Princess Charlotte (daughter to the Prince of Wales and Victoria’s first cousin). Her uncle, the Duke of Clarence, succeeded his elder brother King George IV on 26 June 1830, becoming King William IV. At the time, Victoria was only 11 years old. Naturally, due to Victoria’s young age, there were fears that if King William IV died before she turned 18, there would have to be a regency put into place.
This was to be in the form of Victoria’s mother, the Duchess of Kent. The Regency Act 1830 set out plans for the Duchess to act as regent until Victoria came of age, but the King admitted he did not trust the Duchess’s (born Princess Victoria of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld) ability to act as regent. His Majesty even declared, in front of the Duchess of Kent, that he hoped to live until Victoria was 18 so that she would never have to serve as regent.
The Regency Act not only set forth who would be regent if Victoria was to come to the throne underage, but it also had provisions for if the King ever had any legitimate children who could come to the throne before they turned 18. In that case, the King’s wife, Queen Adelaide, would serve as regent for her child until they turned 18. It also stated that if William died while Adelaide was pregnant, Victoria would be monarch until the child was born. The child would automatically replace Victoria upon its birth.
Both the Duchess of Kent and Queen Adelaide would have the ability to exercise all powers of the monarchy as regent. However, they were prohibited from giving royal assent to bills that would change the line of succession. They were also banned from giving royal assent to bills that would revoke or alter the Protestant Religion and Presbyterian Church Act 1707 and the Act of Uniformity 1662.
If the underage monarch wanted to marry, they had to be given permission by the regent. If someone married the monarch without permission of the regent, they would be guilty of high treason. Anyone who helped arrange the marriage would also be guilty. The regent was also barred from marrying a Roman Catholic. If they chose to marry a Roman Catholic, a foreigner without permission, or even left the United Kingdom without permission, the regent would lose their status as regent.
It was given royal assent on 23 December 1830.
Thankfully, the Regency Act of 1830 would never have to be used, as King William IV wouldn’t die until after Victoria reached the age of majority in 1837.