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Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Victorian Cherubim Cliparts

Victorian morality is a distillation of the moral views of people living at the time of Queen Victoria (reigned 1837 - 1901) in particular, and to the moral climate of Great Britain throughout the 19th century in general. It is not tied to this historical period and can describe any set of values that espouses sexual repression, low tolerance of crime, and a strong social ethic.

Historians now regard the Victorian era as a time of many contradictions. A plethora of social movements concerned with improving public morals co-existed with a class system that permitted harsh living conditions for many. The apparent contradiction between the widespread cultivation of an outward appearance of dignity and restraint and the prevalence of social phenomena that included prostitution and child labour were two sides of the same coin: the various social reform movements and high principles arose from attempts to improve the harsh conditions.

The term Victorian has acquired a range of connotations, including that of a particularly strict set of moral standards, which are often applied hypocritically. This stems from the image of Queen Victoria —and her husband, Prince Albert, perhaps even more so—as innocents, unaware of the private habits of many of her respectable subjects; this particularly relates to their sex lives.

Two hundred years earlier the Puritan republican movement under Oliver Cromwell had temporarily overthrown the British monarchy. During England's years as a republic, the law imposed a strict moral code on the people (even abolishing Christmas as too indulgent of the sensual pleasures).

When the monarchy was restored, a period of loose living and debauchery appeared to be a reaction to the earlier repression. The two social forces of puritanism and libertinism continued to motivate the collective psyche of the United Kingdom from the restoration onward. This was particularly significant in the public perceptions of the later Hanoverean monarchs who immediately preceded Queen Victoria. For instance, her uncle George IV was commonly perceived as a pleasure-seeking playboy, whose conduct in office was the cause of much scandal.

By the time of Victoria, the interplay between high cultured morals and low vulgarity was thoroughly embedded in British culture.


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