Originally posted on February 12, 2011, ahead of the other wedding of the decade, that of William and Katherine.
As I write this, there is no word on the designer Kate Middleton has chosen to create her wedding gown, though I have heard many breathless accounts of who is and who is not in the running. So let’s indulge our royal wedding mania by looking at some of the gowns worn in the past.
Above is the dress worn by Princess Charlotte of Wales at her May 2, 1816, wedding to Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg, as exhibited in the Museum of London here.
The Lady’s Magazine of May, 1816, described the gown: White silk net embroidered in silver strip with a spotted ground and borders. The wedding dress, composed of a most magnificent silver lama on net, over a rich silver tissue slip, with a superb border of silver lama embroidery at the bottom, forming shells and bouquets above the border; a most elegant fullness tastefully designed, in festoons of rich silver lama, and finished with a very brilliant rollio of lama; the body and sleeves to correspond, trimmed with a most beautiful point Brussels lace, in a peculiar elegant style.
The manteau of rich silver tissue lined with white satin, trimmed round with a most superb silver lama border, in shells to correspond with the dress, and fastened in front with a most brilliant and costly ornament of diamonds. The whole dress surpassed all conception in the brilliancy and richness of its effects. Head dress, a wreath of rose buds and leaves, composed of the most superb brilliants.” At right, an engraving of Charlotte and Leopold at their wedding in Carlton House.
The portrait of Queen Victoria, at left, is by Winterhalter. It shows a rather wistful young bride at the time of her wedding to Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg (nephew of the above-mentioned Leopold) on February 10, 1840 in the Chapel Royal of St. James Palace.
It was this gown and veil that supposedly has inspired generations of brides ever since to wear white for their ceremonies, though many brides had previously dressed in fashionable white as well as in a variety of other hues.
At right, an image of Queen Victoria’s dress on a mannequin in the collection of Kensington Palace.
Left, the wedding gown of Alexandra of Denmark, who married Victoria’s son, eventually King Edward VII, on March 10, 1863 in St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle. She was Princess of Wales for almost forty years before becoming Queen in 1901. After her husband’s death in 1910, she was known as the Queen Mother until she died in 1925.
Like Charlotte’s mother, Caroline, Princess of Wales, and like the first wife of the present Prince of Wales, Diana (see below), Alexandra had to endure the infidelity of her husband. But unlike the other two, she stuck with him to the end. We’ve all heard the possibly-apocryphal story about how Alexandra invited one of his mistresses, Alice Keppel, to comfort Edward VII on his deathbed.
Princess Mary of Teck wed Prince George, Duke of York on 6 July, 1893 in the Chapel Royal of St. James Palace. She had been engaged to Prince Albert Victor, eldest son of the Prince of Wales in 1891, but Albert Victor died in the great influenza epidemic of 1891-92. Mary and George fell in love and were married with the approval of Queen Victoria as well as Edward and Alexandra, Prince and Princess of Wales. George succeeded his father as George V in 1910. Queen Mary, who was a godchild of Queen Victoria, had five sons and one daughter.
Her eldest son, known to all as David, was more than a disappointment. After inheriting the throne as Eward VIII in 1936, he abdicated less than a year later to marry Wallis Simpson.
After her husband’s death, Queen Mary chose to be addressed as Her Majesty, Queen Mary, rather than as Queen Mother. She was very supportive of her second son, who became King George VI after his brother’s departure from the throne. According to several sources, she was the first dowager queen of Great Britain to ever attended the coronation ceremony of her husband’s successor.
As Duke of York, the second son of George V and Mary grew up in the shadow of his dashing older brother. He married Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon on 26 April 1923 in Westminster Abbey. At the time of the wedding, it was not expected that “Bertie” would take the throne. Lady Elizabeth’s gown, perhaps for that reason, was not as elaborate as some of her predecessors. It was certainly in the style of the day, a rather loose gown, slightly less than floor length. Below is the dress on a mannequin in a Kensington Palace exhibition of several years ago, along with a detail of the veil and bodice.
On 20 November, 1947, Princess Elizabeth (later Queen Elizabeth II) married Prince Philip of Greece (later Duke of Edinburgh) in Westminster Abbey. The designer was Norman Hartnell and the fabric is silk spun at Lullingstone Castle in Kent. She wore a diamond and pearl tiara and a filmy veil. The long train was decorated with traditional symbols, such as Tudor roses and wheat. All the details of the royal romance, the wedding, the gown and the ceremony were eagerly read around the world. It is said the happy event was like a tonic to the war-weary Britons still enduring shortages of goods and rationing.
The Gown on a mannequin
Princess Margaret, second daughter of King George VI, married Antony Armstrong-Jones (later Earl of Snowdon) on May 6, 1960, at Westminster Abbey. Television cameras covered the event and the broadcast was seen worldwide. Like her sister, Margaret chose Norman Hartnell to design her bridal gown.The couple had two children: David, Viscount Linley in 1961 and Lady Sarah Armstrong-Jones in 1964. The Snowdons were divorced in 1978 and Princess Margaret died in 2002.
14 November 1973 – Anne, Princess Royal, married Captain Mark Phillips in Westminster Abbey. Born in 1950, she is Queen Elizabeth II’s only daughter.Anne and Phillips have two children, Peter Phillips born in 1977 and Zara Phillips born in 1981. After divorcing Phillips in 1992, Anne married Timothy Laurence, in Scotland on December 12, 1992.
On 29 July 1981, Lady Diana Spencer and Charles, Prince of Wales, were married in St Paul’s Cathedral. Her dress was controversial — and still is. The designers, David and Elizabeth Emmanuel, immediately shot to the top echelon of British fashion. Like many of Diana’s fashions, the gown (or a replica) travels around the world for popular exhibition.
Charles and Diana had two sons, Prince William, born in 1982, and Prince Harry, born in 1984, before separating in the late 1980s, the Prince living in Highgrove and the Princess at Kensington Palace. Formal separation came in 1992 and the marriage of Charles and Diana ended in divorce on 28 August 1996. On 31 August 1997, a year after the Prince and Princess divorced, Diana died in a car crash in Paris.
Sarah Ferguson and Prince Andrew, the Duke of York, married at Westminster Abbey on 23 July 1986. The Duke and Duchess of York had two children during their marriage: Princess Beatrice of York (born 1988) and Princess Eugenie of York (born 1990). They separated in 1992 and divorced in 1996, though they are often together for vacations and family events.
Of all the gowns shown above, I think I like Sarah’s best, as designed by Lindka Cierach. It is beautiful, flattering to her and has no gimmicks. Princess Elizabeth’s was lovely too, but I like Sarah’s veil better. All in all this one is the winner in the gown category, if perhaps not in the list of “most suitable royal brides.”
One of my favourite painters is Edwin Landseer, who will always be associated with his Scottish paintings featuring wild landscapes and majestic deer, such as the Monarch of the Glen, pictured above, painted following a visit to the Highlands of Scotland in 1824. So inspired was he, and so taken by the wild Scottish landscape and people, that Landseer continued to visit Scotland every autumn for many years thereafter.
Sir Edwin Henry Landseer (1802-1873), was an English painter, born the third son of John Landseer, A.R.A., a well-known engraver and writer on art. He was born at 71 Queen Anne Street East (afterwards 33 Foley Street), London, on March 7th 1802. His mother was Miss Potts, who sat to Sir Joshua Reynolds as the reaper with a sheaf of corn on her head, in “Macklin’s Family Picture,” or “The Gleaners.” So you might say that when it came to art, Edwin was ‘born to it.’
In 1815 Landseer began studying with the history painter, Benjamin Robert Haydon, and in the following year he entered the Royal Academy Schools at the age of fourteen. Landseer had a gift for painting animals, either as animals, or as animals in human attitudes, as in his Laying down the Law, shown here. Landseer was inspired to paint it after seeing Count d’Orsay’s French poodle, Montaigne, resting on the table. At the time, Lord Lyndhurst — who had held the Seals before, and would hold them again — remarked, “What a capital Lord Chancellor!” prompting Landseer to dash off the painting. At the request of the Duke of Devonshire, whose property it became, the artist afterwards introduced his Grace’s Blenheim spaniel just above the highly-bred greyhound. The painting now hangs in the visitor’s entrance Hall at Chatsworth House, while a sketch of Montaigne that Landseer had done for the painting was part of the contents of the Blessington/D’Orsay auction held in Spring of 1849 at Gore House when the couple fled to France to avoid their creditors, a la Brummell.
Another of Landseer’s famous canine portraits, and a personal favourite, is that of Eos, Prince Albert’s favourite greyhound, which he painted at the request of Queen Victoria, who gifted her husband with the painting. The Queen wished the Prince’s hat and gloves to be introduced into the composition, and sent them to Landseer’s studio for this purpose.
However, another favorite has always been the evocative 1837 painting titled, “The Old Shepherd’s Chief Mourner,” seen below. I found a color print in a magazine years ago, cut it out, framed it and have had it on my wall ever since. It’s so poignant, so heart tugging that you can really only look at it when you’re in a good mood. Gaze upon it when you’re even quasi in the dumps and you’re a goner.
The sense of pathos in this work is almost painful to behold. Beyond the pitiable dog, there is little to see in the scene – a room with a hard packed dirt floor, plaster, or daub, falling from the dingy walls, a discarded walking stick and hat and a bible. Though there are a simple wooden chair and a three-legged stool, the main piece of furniture in the scene, of course, is the coffin. With these few props – and the dog’s pose – Landseer managed to eloquently convey the life of the Old Shepherd and the sort of man the Old Shepherd must have been. Everyone who looks upon the scene will, quite naturally, form their own opinions on this. In my mind, I see the Old Shepherd as a loner, perhaps uncomfortable in the company of others. Making monthly trips to town for supplies, he spent his days in the company of his sheep and his faithful companion, his nights looking out at the distant mountains and stars or in reading his bible. Perhaps he indulged in the occasional wee dram of whisky and a pipe. However, the Old Shepherd must have possessed at least one good relative, neighbor or friend, for to me the soft woolen blanket that has been draped over the coffin and on which the dog rests his head seems too fine, and too clean, to have belonged to the Old Shepherd himself. How long had the Old Shepherd lain ill in his cottage before he had been discovered and someone had brought him food, water, a kind word and the blanket? Now that the Old Shepherd is gone and it has become apparent that the dog will not leave his side, this same someone has draped the blanket on the coffin for the sorrowing dog to rest his chin upon. In my personal imaginings, this same kind someone will take the dog home with them once the Old Shepherd has been buried and the dog will be grateful, but will ever after miss the company of the one who had loved him so singularly and so well.
To evoke such thoughts and feelings in the viewer was one of Landseer’s greatest talents. Praise for Landseer is and was unanimous, with he and Stubbs still standing as the greatest English animal painters of all time, yet Landseer had no talent for business. It was his art patron and personal friend, Jacob Bell, who took Landseer in hand and arranged for him to put realistic prices on his paintings. Previously, Landseer had consistently undervalued his own work, a fact which benefited Bell early on as a collector. However, having purchased eighteen Landseer paintings, Bell left them all to the nation upon his death, including Dignity and Impudence, above, one of Landseer’s best known works. Another patron who benefited early on was John Sheepshanks, son of a wealthy Leeds clothier who became one of the age’s leading art collectors. He purchased the above mentioned The Old Shepherd’s Chief Mourner for a “ludicrously small” price, according to W.P. Frith. Thankfully, Sheepshanks also left his collection of art to the nation and The Old Shepherd’s Chief Mourner now hangs in the V&A for all to see.
Bell and Sheepshanks had both inherited huge sums from their industrialist fathers, allowing them to buy and grow art collections by several contemporary painters. Their wealth also allowed them to socialize with the aristocracy and Landseer, by proxy, was given entree to that world early on, before his talent would no doubt have eventually opened some of the same doors.
By 1835, Landseer could boast some very important people amongst his clients, including the Dukes of Aberdeen, Argyll, Atholl, Devonshire and Wellington, but life changed significantly for Landseer the next year, after he was commissioned by the Duchess of Kent to paint a portrait of Dash, her daughter, the future Queen Victoria’s, King Charles Spaniel, which pleased Victoria greatly. Just months afterwards, Victoria took the throne and commissioned Landseer to paint a further portrait for her. She wrote in her diary: “Saw Lord Conyngham and Edwin Landseer, who brought a beautiful little sketch which he has done this morning, of a picture he is to paint for me of Hector and Dash. He is an unassuming, pleasing and very good-looking man, with fair hair.” Landseer must, indeed, have been pleasing to the new Queen, as she would go on to commission many further paintings and portraits from him, to invite him to stay at Windsor, at Osborne and in the Highlands and remained, to the last, one of Landseer’s most loyal patrons and his friend.
In addition to acting as friend to both Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, Landseer also taught them both to draw and, further, to engrave. His elder brother, Tom, was a well known engraver, as was their father, and with Tom’s help, and that of Henry Graves, the Royal couple were taught to engrave and press prints of their own making on a press set up in Buckingham Palace for just this purpose.
Landseer will always be thought of as a masterly painter of dogs, stags and, much later, lions, but it is by his dogs that he is most remembered. His own dog, Brutus, was a model for many of his early dog portraits, followed by Lassie, a Scottish sheepdog and a pedigreed pooch called Breechin. Landseer owned dogs, and gained fame by painting dogs, which led people to believe that he had some special, uncanny connection to dogs, which prompted friends, and even strangers, to write to him for advice concerning their own problem pooches. Eventually, Landseer’s connection to dogs began to work against him, as critics began to complain that his later canine portraits were overly coy and/or sentimental. Landseer went from painting studies like The Old Shepherd’s Chief Mourner or even Eos, to endowing the dogs he put on canvas with overtly human expressions or attitudes. In Laying Down the Law, mentioned above, Landseer inserted the Duke of Devonshire’s spaniel into the finished picture at the Duke’s request. Some say that the inclusion ruined the symmetry of the composition. Regardless, such was the fate of an artist whose chief source of income were the commissions he received from wealthy and aristocratic clients who clamored to have their pets memorialized by the great man himself. Landseer continued to paint other subjects and to show them at the Royal Academy, but this may be where the rot began to seep in – more and more, Landseer began to doubt his own abilities, he became less sure of himself and often gave in to bouts of melancholy and drink. More frequently than not, he began to put off beginning a commissioned work and to miss promised deadlines, even though he was renowned for being able to deliver fully realized paintings in record time. The head of Odin took him two hours, to complete and Landseer tossed off Rabbits in three quarters of an hour.
Queen Victoria had offered Landseer a knighthood in 1842, which he humbly refused to accept until 1850. That same year, he was still taking canine commissions from the Queen and it was also the first year that he was invited to stay at Balmoral and to bring with him “his drawing materials.” In this same year, Landseer’s contribution to the Royal Academy show as his Dialogue at Waterloo, commissioned by his patron Robert Vernon for the princely sum of three thousand pounds. The outsized picture (six feet by 12 feet in size) was produced by Landseer in response to Vernon’s request for a Waterloo painting. Vernon had made much of his fortune by supplying horses to the military and he was also an admirer of the Duke of Wellington. However, Landseer knew full well that his strengths as an artist did not translate to full blown battle scenes. Instead, he portrayed the elderly Wellington revisiting the field at Waterloo on horseback, accompanied by his daughter-in-law, the Marchioness of Douro – a nice sentiment, however the scene never actually took place outside of Landseer’s creative imagination. Regardless, the subsequent engraving sold extremely well.
Increasingly, Landseer suffered bouts of melancholia, causing him to isolate himself within his home in St. John’s Wood and to turn to alcohol and drugs for relief. Despite this, Landseer enjoyed popularity throughout the Victorian era and, although he had no previous experience as a sculptor, in 1859 Landseer was commissioned by the government to make the four huge bronze lions for the base of Nelson’s Column in Trafalgar Square, London. It took him eight years to complete the work. Lions were not a new animal for Landseer – he had been given the carcass of a Regent’s Park zoo lion by it’s keeper after it had died of old age in 1848. After 1859, Landseer managed to acquire another elderly lion, still living, which he kept in his garden. He also made visits to the Regent’s Park zoo to study their still living lions. Landseer completed other works over the course of the eight years, in between bouts of melancholy, but once again, he stalled for time on the most important work in progress. Finally, the clay models were completed and were cast in bronze by Baron Marochetti, whose experience to that point had largely been confined to casting large equestrian statues for public spaces. The lions were put in place and unveiled in Trafalgar Square on 25 January, 1867.
To this day, rumours persist that Landseer’s lions are not anatomically correct and that, unable to secure an actual lion as model, Landseer instead used a common variety house cat as his study. The facts prove this to be untrue. In actual fact, though Landseer had models to hand, he was most likely unable to bestir himself to make use of them. As with his Dialogue at Waterloo, he solved the problem in the end by using a sort of “bait and switch” tactic – the Art-Journal got right to the heart of the matter: “it appears that one body only has been modelled, while two heads were made, each of which served for two bodies. Thus the same body was cast in bronze four times, and the heads twice each.” Another reason for the persistence of the cat rumour can be traced back to early complaints that resting lions do not place their paws flat on the ground, as house cats do, but instead have them angled inwards. Despite The Illustrated London News having published photographs showing zoo lions with their paws in both positions, the rumours refuse to die.
The lion debate could not have done anything to soothe Landseer’s nerves and his mental health deteriorated further and he isolated himself further from both friends and the art world. When his drinking was worst, Landseer’s elder brother, Charles, sent him to a home in Surrey, to dry out. and confided to his friend, T.S. Cooper, that Landseer was a perfect wreck and suffering from the D. T.s. Still, Cooper was shocked by what he found when he visited Landseer and realized that Charles had not been exaggerating the artist’s condition. However, Landseer had not lost his skill. As Lord Frederick Hamilton recalled: “On another occasion there was some talk about a savage bull. Landseer, muttering ‘Bulls, bulls, bulls,’ snatched up an album of my sister’s and finding a blank page in it made exquisite little drawings of a charging bull. The disordered brain repeating, ‘Bulls, bulls, bulls,’ he then drew a bulldog, a pair of bullfinches surrounded by bullrushes and a hooked bull trout fighting furiously for freedom. That page has been cut out and framed . . . ”
In 1872, Landseer’s health had broken down to the point where his family had him certified as insane and he died the following year. The Times wrote: ‘Sir Edwin has been long known to be in a most precarious state of health but the news will not the less shock and grieve the worlds of both art and Society in which he was an equal favourite.’ Landseer was buried with full honours in St Paul’s Cathedral and his lions guarding Nelson’s Column were hung with black wreaths.
William IV was born 21 August 1765 (d. 20 June 1837) and became King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and of Hanover from 26 June 1830. William, the third son of George III and younger brother and successor to George IV, was the last king and penultimate monarch of the House of Hanover. Today, we’ll take a look at one of William IV’s birthday celebrations, which didn’t turn out very well for himself or for his young niece, Queen Victoria.
For the Princess Victoria, a childhood which promised both privilege and affection was overshadowed by the mechanizations of Princess Victoria’s mother, the Duchess of Kent, and by Sir John Conroy, both of whom used her as a pawn during a royal power play.
Victoria’s father, the Duke of Kent, had chosen John Conroy as his Military Equerry in 1817 and after his death, Conroy offered his services to the Duchess. He also acted as Comptroller to Princess Sophia, one of George IV’s younger sisters. Conroy, his wife and two daughters moved into Kensington Palace and Conroy was soon working his influence over the Princess and future queen, as well as over her mother. He pushed to have the Duchess of Kent named Regent should both George IV and the Duke of Clarence die before Princess Victoria reached her majority at age eighteen. For years, Conroy worked to banish all influence upon the Kents except his own. In 1830, Adelaide, Duchess of Clarence, warned the Duchess of Kent that certain people had noted that Conroy “tries to remove everything which might obstruct his influence, so that he may exercise his power alone, and alone, too, one day reap the fruits of his influence.”
Conroy’s methods of controlling the Kents became known as the “Kensington System.” He convinced the Duchess to dismiss Baroness de Spath, her Lady-in-Waiting for over twenty-five years, and tried to rid the palace of Lehzen, Princess Victoria’s governess, as well. The fact that Lehzen enjoyed royal favour from the King was the only thing that saved her. In order to control the Duchess, Conroy constantly warned her that George IV was the greatest despot who ever lived and that the King was talking of taking her child away from her. He added that plots to kill the Princess were afoot, prompting the Duchess to place Lehzen by the child’s bed from the time she was put into it until the Duchess herself went to sleep in the next bed. Conroy effectively cut the Princess off from her English relations, insisting she be guarded round the clock from imaginary dangers.
William IV and his wife, Queen Adelaide, were naturally fond of Victoria, desiring to introduce her to Court life. Conroy prevented this, telling the Duchess that no one should be allowed to influence the future Queen but themselves. Petty acts of power followed on both the Duchess and the King’s parts, with the King keeping a tight reign on the purse strings and the Duchess upon her daughter, keeping her away from Court functions whenever possible. Influenced by Conroy, the Duchess planned tours of the country along royal lines for the Princess, in an effort to garner public support. A series of these tours, covering most of England and Wales, took place between 1832 and 1835. The Duchess planned each route so that as many people as possible might see the Princess. Three hundred people attended a ball held in her honour at Burghley House, whilst the mayor and other officials in each town they visited en route waited to greet her. That none of these plans were cleared first with the Palace, and the fact that they amounted to Royal tours worthy of a reigning monarch, infuriated the King. Matters finally came to a head in 1836.
In an attempt to forge better relations with his niece, King William invited she and her mother to Windsor in the summer of 1836 in order to celebrate the Queen’s birthday on August 13th and his own on the 21st (a birthday shared also by Princess Margaret and Kristine Hughes). The Duchess of Kent replied that she preferred to spend her own birthday on August 17th at Claremont, but could be there by the 20th. This snub to the Queen was not overlooked. The King said nothing, allowing her to travel to Windsor in her own good time. However, whilst the Duchess was en route, he paid an impromptu visit to Kensington Palace and found that the Duchess had taken over seventeen rooms which he had previously – and clearly – forbidden her to requisition. The Princess, who’d been delighted with the new apartments, had no knowledge of the story behind the move or the edicts of her uncle.
Fuming at the Duchess of Kent’s latest act of disrespect, the King arrived at Windsor that evening and joined his guests in the Drawing-room, where the first person he spoke to was his niece, Victoria. At the birthday dinner next day, one hundred guests helped the King to celebrate the event. The Duchess was placed at the King’s right hand, Victoria seated across from him. After the meal, the Kings’ health was drunk and he rose to say a few words. And what words they were! Amongst other verbal displays of vitriol, King William expressed the hope that he would live another nine months, until his niece came of age, so that her mother could never become Regent. He went on, “I should then have the satisfaction of leaving the royal authority to the personal exercise of that Young Lady (he pointed to Victoria), the Heiress presumptive of the Crown, and not in the hands of a person now near me, who is surrounded by evil advisers and who is herself incompetent to act with propriety in the station in which she would be placed. I have no hesitation in saying that I have been insulted – grossly and continually insulted – by that person, but I am determined to endure no longer a course of behaviour so disrespectful to me. Amongst many other things I have particularly to complain of the manner in which that Young Lady has been kept away from my Court; she has been repeatedly kept from my drawing-rooms, at which She ought always to have been present, but I am fully resolved that this shall not happen again. I would have her know that I am King, and that I am determined to make my authority respected, and for the future I shall insist and command that the Princess do upon all occasions appear at my Court, as it is her duty to do.”
Princess Victoria burst into tears and, once the guests had left, the Duchess ordered her carriage, but was convinced by the Duke of Wellington to spend the night at Windsor in order to avoid further scandal. The Duke of Wellington’s summation of the episode was right on the money, “Very awkward, by God!”
On May 18th, 1837, the King instructed Lord Conyngham, the Lord Chamberlain, to hand deliver a letter to the Princess from himself at Kensington Palace. Conroy and the Duchess both endeavored to intercept the missive, but Conyngham stood fast and placed it into Victoria’s hands. It said that when she came of age, William meant to ask Parliament to vote her an annual income of thirty thousand pounds per year – a fortune at that time. It also authorized Victoria to set up her own household and appoint a Keeper of her Privy Purse. Victoria would come of age on the 24th, just six days away, and her uncle had given her a precious gift – the chance for freedom from the power plays of the Duchess and Conroy. Losing no time, Conroy advanced the idea of his becoming Princess Victoria’s Private Secretary and enlisted the aid of the Duchess in bringing her around to the notion. Together they made Victoria’s life a misery, but she refused to be coerced. In a last ditch effort, they sent for Lord Liverpool, in the hopes of winning him over to their side and enlisting his aid in convincing Victoria to appoint Conroy as private secretary or Keeper of the Privy Purse.
After having spoken to both Conroy and the Duchess, Lord Liverpool met privately with Princess Victoria. She was calm and businesslike and explained her side of the story. In the end, Liverpool agreed that she should not appoint Conroy to any position after his many slights towards her in the past. He instead urged the Princess to do nothing upon becoming Queen other than to send immediately for Lord Melbourne. He, Liverpool assured her, would advise her well and she was safe in putting her trust in Melbourne alone. He also told her that he admired the way she had handled her mother. Conroy and the Duchess, needless to say, were furious at Liverpool’s advice, with a desperate Conroy suggesting that, “If Princess Victoria will not listen to reason she must be coerced.”
It is no wonder that Victoria once commented, “Kensington life for the last six or seven years had been one of great misery and oppression.” Queen Victoria would later write about her childhood to her daughter Victoria, the Princess Royal, in 1858, saying that she, “had led a very unhappy life as a child – had no scope for my very violent feelings of affection – had no brothers and sisters to live with – never had a father – from my unfortunate circumstances was not on a comfortable or at all intimate or confidential footing with my mother – much as I lover her now – and did not know what a happy domestic life was!” For all of her life, Queen Victoria would insist, “I never was happy until I was eighteen.”
King William IV died on 20 June, 1837. Shortly before six o’clock in the morning, Dr. Howley (Archbishop of Canterbury), Lord Conyngham (Lord Chamberlain), and Sir Henry Halford (Physician to King William), arrived at Kensington Palace. The Duchess of Kent roused her daughter only after being told by the gentlemen that they had come to see The Queen on State business. Queen Victoria recorded the meeting thusly, “I got out of bed and went into my sitting-room (only in my dressing-gown), and ALONE, and saw them. Lord Conyngham then acquainted me that my poor Uncle, the King, was no more, and had expired at 12 minutes past 2 this morning, and consequently I am Queen . . Since it has pleased Providence to place me in this station, I shall do my utmost to fulfill my duty towards my country; I am very young and perhaps in many, though not in all things, inexperienced, but I am sure, that very few have more real good will and more real desire to do what is fit and right than I have.”
Today’s Once Again Wednesday post was originally published in July, 2010 and features my visit with Victoria to see the Victoria & Albert Art & Love Exhibit at the Queen’s Gallery in London. To this day, it remains the single best exhibition I’ve ever attended. So many truly iconic pieces of art in one room, never mind one exhibition. Do click through and read our original post.
While we were in Windsor after the tour Kristine, of course, came down with the usual malady she suffers through on each of her trips over. Thank goodness it waited to arrive until after the Tour was finished. While she lay dying in bed at the hotel, I trotted off to see a few Windsor sights I had missed on previous visits. Nothing like a good friend in need, I thought. But to tell the truth she was in no mood to be either entertained or conversed with. The best thing I could do was let her sleep!!
One place I was eager to see was the special area in the Windsor and Eton Railroad Station that had been reserved for the use of Queen Victoria and her attendants back in the day.
I had long heard it was in the station, but where? That station has been turned into shopping mall — which we had visited to enthuse over the Jo Malone shop — a favorite of both of us for special luxurious and fragrant cosmetics, Never saw the Queen’s loo. But when I enquired at the station, I was pointed in the direction of All Bar One restaurant at the far end.
And indeed, it was entirely open to the public, if you knew it was there. The writing on the door says ‘This room is reserved’ — but the proprietors are perfectly willing to allow one inside.
It was fitted out as a special private dining room — not the actual loo of course, but the associated small waiting rooms used by the Royal party.
The basin and loo were actually glassed off, either to protect them or to continue the exclusivity…if Queen Elizabeth II happened by, would they allow her to use the facility???
Just outside All Bar One, was a non-working locomotive.
It seems that the locomotive is about all that is left from displays formerly set up on the station by Madame Tussaud’s wax museum, no longer in operation in Windsor.
The text panel reads: The locomotive is a full scale replica of the GWR Achilles class 4-2-2 locomotive No. 3041. It was built in 1804 and originally named “Emlyn” after Lord Emlyn, Chairman of the Great Western Railway Company. Repainted in 1897, in GWR livery, the great locomotive, 57 feet long was renamed “The Queen” especially to pull the six new carriages of the Royal Train. No examples of these locomotives survive today and “The Queen” (later renamed “James Mason”) was withdrawn from service in 1912.
Next time you are in Windsor, check it out! Not as stunning as the Castle, but an amusing sidelight on the Queen who was the first Royal to use the railroads for her travel.
In this Diamond Jubilee year, it’s perhaps fitting to reflect upon the reigns of both Queen Elizabeth II and Queen Victoria, England’s two longest reigning monarchs. To date, Queen Elizabeth has been on the throne for 60 years and still has a few years to go before breaking the regal record held by Queen Victoria for a reign of 63 years and 7 months (and 2 days).
Naturally, all monarchs begin their reigns upon the death of their predecessor.
Queen Elizabeth, her grandmother, Queen Mary and her mother, Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother at the funeral of Queen Elizabeth’s father, King George VI in February, 1952.
However, as is well known, Queen Victoria took her mourning upon the early death of her husband, Prince Albert, to a whole new level.
The widowed Queen Victoria
To back up a bit, Victoria and her cousin Albert were married on February 10th, 1840, at the royal chapel of St. James, in London.
Queen Elizabeth and her cousin, Prince Philip, were married on November 20, 1947 in Westminster Abbey, London.
Queen Victoria’s uninterrupted mourning affected all aspects of her life, not the least of which was her fashion sense, as can be seen by the dress above, on display at the Costume Museum in Bath. Queen Victoria stood a mere five feet tall and, as the above dress will attest, seemingly enjoyed her food.
In contrast, Queen Elizabeth stands at a comparatively statuesque 5′ 4″, eats a bit less and is known for wearing an often bright and always colourful wardrobe.
One thing that Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth have in common is their love for horses and horseback riding. Each began riding early in their lives and continued to ride as long as they were able. Queen Elizabeth is still in the saddle . . . . .
Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee was marked by many celebrations, including, on 22 June 1897, a progress to St Paul’s Cathedral, where a short service of thanksgiving was held outside the building, as the Queen was too lame to manage the steps. Thankfully, Queen Elizabeth is in fine health and a host of Jubilee celebrations will be held throughout the land over the coming months.
The Queen’s 80th birthday portrait, taken in February 2006
Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee Photo
Queen Elizabeth II’s Official Diamond Jubilee Portrait
Chatsworth House, home to the Cavendish family since 1549, has been labelled the ‘Palace of the Peak’ and features more than 30 rooms, a large library and magnificent collections of paintings and sculpture. Additionally, the grounds include a 105-acre garden and a park on the banks of the river Derwent. Recently, and apropos of absolutely nothing, I was musing about Chatsworth and concluded that it remains my personal favourite when it comes to Stately Homes. There are many reasons for this:
1. Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, once lived there.
2. So did the Duke and Bess Foster.
3. When you arrive at Chatsworth House on a visit, you’re likely to be cautioned to mind the present Duchess’s chickens, who are allowed to wander, willy nilly, in the grounds.
4. During a visit to Chatsworth House in 1843 by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, the Orangery in the grounds (above), designed by Joseph Paxton, served as the inspiration for Prince Albert’s idea for the design of the Crystal Palace.
5. Chatsworth House features the hands down, absolute best gift shops. Seriously good. There are six of them. All with different themes and goods. Go prepared and bring an empty carry-all with you. Trust me on this.
Copyright Chatsworth House
6. You can gaze upon the Gainesborough portrait of Georgiana (see Number 1 above), which has a long and twisted history. For the full story, click here to read a previous blog post about the theft of the painting. And by the way, you can purchase a print of the image directly from Chatsworth House by clicking here.
7. The trompe l’oeil door and violin in the State Music Room painted by artist Jan van der Vaart circa 1723. Your first glimpse of the masterpiece will be from afar. Bear in mind that the inner door, the violin and bow and the silver knob from which they appear to be “hanging” are all an illusionist painting.
The next time you’re in or near the Peak District, I urge you to visit Chatsworth House. If you’ve already been, make a return visit and take in all that you missed the first time around. In the meantime, you can watch a stunning slideshow of Chatsworth House images here.
Queen Victoria by Alfred Edward Chalon, 1838, National Galleries of Scotland
From the Greville Memoirs:
August 30th. (1837) —All that I hear of the young Queen leads to the conclusion that she will some day play a conspicuous part, and that she has a great deal of character. It is clear enough that she had long been silently preparing herself, and had been prepared by those about her (and very properly) for the situation to which she was destined. The impressions she has made continue to be favourable, and particularly upon Melbourne, who has a thousand times greater opportunities of knowing what her disposition and her capacity are than any other person, and who is not a man to be easily captivated or dazzled by any superficial accomplishments or mere graces of manner, or even by personal favour. Melbourne thinks highly of her sense, discretion, and good feeling; but what seem to distinguish her above everything are caution and prudence, the former to a degree which is almost unnatural in one so young, and unpleasing, because it suppresses the youthful impulses which are so graceful and attractive.
Victoria Regina, June 20, 1837, by Henry Tanworth Wells, Royal Collection
On the morning of the King’s death, the Archbishop of Canterbury and Lord Conyngham arrived at Kensington at five o’clock, and immediately desired to see ‘the Queen.’ They were ushered into an apartment, and in a few minutes the door opened and she came in wrapped in a dressinggown and with slippers on her naked feet. Conyngham in a few words told her their errand, and as soon as he uttered the words ‘Your Majesty,’ she instantly put out her hand to him, intimating that he was to kiss hands before he proceeded. He dropped on one knee, kissed her hand, and then went on to tell her of the late King’s death. She presented her hand to the Archbishop, who likewise kissed it, and when he had done so, addressed to her a sort of pastoral charge, which she received graciously and then retired. She lost no time in giving notice to Conroy of her intentions with regard to him; she saw him, and desired him to name the reward he expected for his services to her parents. He asked for the Red Eiband, an Irish peerage, and a pension of 3,000l. a year. She replied that the two first rested with her Ministers, and she could not engage for them, but that the pension he should have. It is not easy to ascertain the exact cause of her antipathy to him, but it has probably grown with her growth, and results from divers causes. The person in the world she loves best is the Baroness Lehzen, and Lehzen and Conroy were enemies. There was formerly a Baroness Spaeth at Kensington, lady-in-waiting to the Duchess, and Lehzen and Spaeth were intimate friends. Conroy quarrelled with the latter and got her dismissed, and this Lehzen never forgave. She may have instilled into the Princess a dislike and bad opinion of Conroy, and the evidence of these sentiments, which probably escaped neither the Duchess nor him, may have influenced their conduct towards her, for strange as it is, there is good reason to believe that she thinks she has been ill-used by both of them for some years past.1 Her manner to the Duchess is, however, irreproachable, and they appear to be on cordial and affectionate terms. Madame de Lehzen is the only person who is constantly with her. When any of the Ministers come to see her, the Baroness retires at one door as they enter at the other, and the audience over she returns to the Queen. It has been remarked that when applications are made to Her Majesty, she seldom or never gives an immediate answer, but says she will consider of it, and it is supposed that she does this because she consults Melbourne about everything, and waits to have her answer suggested by him. He says, however, that such is her habit even with him, and that when he talks to her upon any subject upon which an opinion is expected from her, she tells him she will think it over, and let him know her sentiments the next day.
Duchess of Kent and Strathearn, 1786-1861 by Sir George Hayter, 1835
The day she went down to visit the Queen Dowager at Windsor, to Melbourne’s great surprise she said to him that as the flag on the Round Tower was half-mast high, and they might perhaps think it necessary to elevate it upon her arrival, it would be better to send orders beforehand not to do so. He had never thought of the flag, or knew anything about it, but it showed her knowledge of forms and her attention to trifles. Her manner to the Queen was extremely kind and affectionate, and thej were both greatly affected at meeting. The Queen Dowager said to her that the only favour she had to ask of her was to provide for the retirement, with their pensions, of the personal attendants of the late King, Whiting and Bachelor, who had likewise been the attendants of George IV.; to which she replied that it should be attended to, but she could not give any promise on the subject.
William Lamb, Lord Melbourne (1779-1848), by Sir Edwin Landseer 1838 National Portrait Gallery
She is upon terms of the greatest cordiality with Lord Melbourne, and very naturally. Everything is new and delightful to her. She is surrounded with the most exciting and interesting enjoyments; her occupations, her pleasures, her business, her Court, all present an unceasing round of gratifications. With all her prudence and discretion she has great animal spirits, and enters into the magnificent novelties of her position with the zest and curiosity of a child.
From The History of Walmer and Walmer CastleBy Charles Robert Stebbing Elvin (1894)
The quiet unostentations life which the Duke of Wellington led at Walmer, has been familiarized to us by Earl Stanhope in his “Conversations.” But one trait must be briefly alluded to, namely, the Duke’s love for children, which was evinced in a characteristic manner. We are told by Lord Stanhope that, in the autumn of 1837, Wellington had staying with him at Walmer Castle, two little children of Lord and Lady Robert Grosvenor, a boy and girl, and these chicks having expressed a desire to receive letters through the post—it was before the days of the penny post—the Duke used to write to them every morning a letter containing good advice for the day, which was regularly delivered when the post came in. He used also constantly to play fooball with the little boy upon the ramparts.
It was in the October of this year that poor Haydon spent some days at the castle, having come down at the Duke’s request, to paint his portrait for certain gentlemen at Liverpool. Haydon relates in his Diary, how charmed he was with the Duke’s playfulness with “six dear healthy noisy children,” no less than with his unostentatious reverence at the parish church on Sunday. . . . . It is further related of the Duke of Wellington, that he sometimes took out with him, in his walks, a number of sovereigns and half-sovereigns, each suspended from a red or blue ribbon, and that when he came upon a group of children, he would present them with one of these, either red or blue, according as they declared themselves when interrogated, to be for the army or navy. The Duke’s early habits are well known, and an old gentlemen still living, tells me that when he was a boy at Walmer, he and his school-fellows used frequently in the summer, to be taken down to the sea near Walmer Castle, at six o’clock in the morning, to bathe, and the Duke would often come on the beach and converse with them.
In addition to children, the Duke also entertained more mature guests at the Castle –
The Duke of Wellington was repeatedly honoured with visits from Royalty, during his occupancy of Walmer Castle. Thus Earl Stanhope mentions in his Conversations his meeting Prince George of Cambridge (the present Duke) at dinner at Walmer Castle, on October 14th, 1833; and on October 17th, 1837, records a luncheon at the Castle to meet the Princess Augusta of Saxony.
From the same source, also, we learn that two years later the Duke of Cambridge (father of Prince George above-mentioned), and first Duke of Cambridge with the Duchess and Princess Augusta, spent five days at Walmer Castle, namely, from October 3rd to October 8th. And how they were entertained we are also informed. On the evening after their arrival, there was a dinner party of eighteen persons, followed by a concert, for which the Duke of Wellington had engaged several vocalists from London, and to which he invited most of the neighbours: another dinner given on the 6th Oct., was followed by a larger party still, and a concert in the evening: while on the last day of their sojourn, October 7th, a great public breakfast given by the Duke in their honour, at 2 p.m., was attended by from a hundred to a hundred and twenty persons, many of whom came from Ramsgate and Dover; and in the evening there was another concert and large party.
But the chief interest centres in the visits of our present beloved Queen, who first became acquainted with Walmer in 1835 ; in the autumn of which year, she being then the Princess Victoria and a girl of sixteen, paid a visit to the Duke of Wellington and lunched at the castle, with her mother, the Duchess of Kent, and the King and Queen of the Belgians.
Leopold, King of the Belgians
The following account of this visit has been preserved in a letter by the then Lady Burghersh to her husband :—” The King and Queen of the Belgians arrived exactly at 2 in the same carriage with the Dnchess of Kent and Princess Victoria. The Duke of Wellington and I went to meet them on the drawbridge, and brought them up the outside staircase to the ramparts (where nearly all the company were already assembled), the lower battery firing a salute. The scene was beautiful; the whole of the beach in front of the castle and the roads leading to Deal and to the village, were filled with people; all the colours hoisted at the different places along the coast and on the ships, of which, fortunately, there were quantities in the Downs. The only drawback was that we were disappointed of getting a band from Canterbury, so there was no music. After walking about the ramparts and speaking with the company, the King and Queen went with the Duke round the garden, but the Princess Victoria had a little cold; so I staid in the drawing room with her and the Duchess of Kent, and baby was brought in and behaved like a little angel, and was much admired. She was sent for again afterwards to see the Queen. As the crowd outside were eager to see Princess Victoria, I asked the Duchess of Kent if she thought she might come out for a moment to shew herself, and I fetched my ermine tippet for her, which she put on, and came out on the ramparts and was very much cheered.”
Seven years later we find her Majesty again at Walmer Castle; being no longer a girl, but a Queen and a mother. It was on the morning of Thursday, November 10th, 1842, that the Royal party, consisting of the Queen, Prince Albert, and th
eir two children, the Prince of Wales and the Princess Royal, left Windsor Castle, accompanied by a distinguished suite, en route for Walmer Castle; where they arrived the same day escorted by a troop of the 7th Hussars, then quartered at Canterbury, and with a guard of honour furnished by the 51st Infantry. With the exception of the journey from Slough to Paddington, the whole distance was accomplished by road; Her Majesty being everywhere greeted with the most enthusiastic demonstrations of loyalty and esteem. On the outskirts of Upper Deal, the Royal Party were met by the Duke of Wellington, who afterwards rode on to receive Her Majesty and the Prince at Walmer Castle, which was then placed entirely at their disposal; the Duke proceeding to Dover to take up his quarters during the royal visit.
Although the accommodation at the castle was somewhat restricted, being much less in those days than at present, no effort was spared to ensure the comfort of the royal guests and their suite. Two of the principal rooms in the castle had been thrown into one, for the sleeping apartment of Her Majesty and the Prince; while the portion of the fortress appropriated for the royal nursery, consisted of four rooms in “the outworks or north tower,” with the windows facing in a northerly direction. Viscount Sydney, as the Lord in Waiting, and Lady Portman as the Lady in Waiting, as well as the Honble. C. A. Murray, Master of the Household, and others, occupied some other rooms; while the rest of the guests were accommodated in a large house about three quarters of a mile away.
The inhabitants of the whole district seem to have vied with each other in their efforts to do honour to the royal visitors; the illuminations throughout the neighbourhood being most brilliant. And on the following morning, when the royal standard was hoisted on Walmer Castle, the Thunderer manned yards, and saluted Her Majesty with twenty-one guns. The royal party remained at the castle nearly a month; and it was while here that the Queen received by special messenger from Downing Street, the news of the recapture of Ghuznee and Cabul, and the rescue of the prisoners.
An incident took place during this visit, which displays, in a remarkable degree, the natural goodness of heart and kindliness of disposition, which have always been shewn by her Majesty in her intercourse with her people. The Queen and Prince Consort were one day walking on the shore in the direction of Kingsdown, when they were driven by a sudden shower to take refuge in an old boat-house, which, besides being a place for storing boat’s gear, served also as a dwelling for an aged boatman—Thomas Erridge—and his wife; who, although they failed to recognize their visitors, readily offered them such mean accommodation as the place afforded. The royal pair were soon provided with a seat, consisting of some spars placed upon empty water-casks and covered with a spare sail; and there they sat and conversed with their simple-minded hosts, until the shower ceased ; and the latter were afterwards rewarded for their rude, but kindly hospitality, with a pension, with which the Queen provided them for the rest of their days.
The last meeting between Prince Albert and the Duke of Wellington, took place at Walmer Castle, on a similar occasion to the last, and only two years later. It was on August 17th, 1852, a month before the Duke’s death: the royal squadron having anchored in the Downs for one night, with the Queen and the Prince Consort en route for Belgium, His Royal Highness landed in a small boat from the Victoria and Albert, and paid a visit to the castle, where he had a long conversation with the aged warrior and statesman.
Whilst the Duke took excellent care of his many guests, he seems to have been rather more lenient in his care of the Castle gardens –
The next considerable improvement to the (Castle) grounds was made by the Earl of Liverpool (Warden before Wellington), who added the two meadows— since thrown into one—with the express proviso that, in the event of the office of Lord Warden being ever abolished, they should revert to the representatives of his own family.
The Duke of Wellington did not improve the grounds: on the contrary, he seems to have allowed them to fall into a state that would very much shock the professional gardener. But then the Duke’s gardener was not a professional, but a veteran sergeant of the Peninsular Army, and a Waterloo man, named Townsend, who received his appointment to the post of gardener at Walmer Castle under the following peculiar circumstances. The story goes, that shortly after the Duke became Lord Warden, he received a letter from Sergeant Townsend, complaining that he had been discharged from the service without a pension: that thereupon he immediately replied, “Field Marshall the Duke of Wellington would be happy to see Sergeant Townsend at Apsley House -on Friday at noon “: that on the interview taking place, his Grace inquired, “Do you know anything about gardening?” and, on receiving a negative reply, added, “Then learn, learn, and come here this day fortnight at the same hour.” The sergeant withdrew, and when, in obedience to orders, he appeared the second time at Apsley House, was greeted with—”Take the place of gardener at Walmer Castle; and on replying, “But I know nothing about gardening,” was cut short by the Duke with “Nor do I, nor do I, take your place at once.”
HM Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother was Lord Warden for 24 years and spent many summers in residence at Walmer Castle.
June 12th. (1840) — On Wednesday afternoon, as the Queen and Prince Albert were driving in a low carriage up Constitution Hill, about four or five in the afternoon, they were shot at by a lad of eighteen years old, who fired two pistols at them successively, neither shots taking effect. He was in the Green Park without the rails, and as he was only a few yards from the carriage, and, moreover, very cool and collected, it is marvellous he should have missed his aim. In a few moments the young man was seized, without any attempt on his part to escape or to deny the deed, and was carried off to prison. The Queen, who appeared perfectly cool, and not the least alarmed, instantly drove to the Duchess of Kent’s, to anticipate any report that might reach her mother, and, having done so, she continued her drive and went to the Park. By this time the attempt upon her life had become generally known, and she was received with the utmost enthusiasm by the immense crowd that was congregated in carriages, on horseback, and on foot. All the equestrians formed themselves into an escort, and attended her back to the Palace, cheering vehemently, while she acknowledged, with great appearance of feeling, these loyal manifestations. She behaved on this occasion with perfect courage and self-possession, and exceeding propriety; and the assembled multitude, being a high-class mob, evinced a lively and spontaneous feeling for her—a depth of interest which, however natural under such circumstances, must be very gratifying to her, and was satisfactory to witness.
Yesterday morning the culprit was brought to the Home Office, when Normanby examined him, and a Council was summoned for a more personal examination at two o’clock. A question then arose as to the nature of the proceeding, and the conduct of the examination, whether it should be before the Privy Council or the Secretary of State. We searched for precedents, and the result was this: The three last cases of high treason were those of Margaret Nicholson, in 1786; of Hatfield, in 1800 (both for attempts on the life of the Sovereign); and of Watson (the Cato Street affair), for an attempt on the Ministers in 1820. Margaret Nicholson was brought before the Privy Council, and the whole proceeding was set forth at great length in the Council Register. There appeared no entry of any sort or kind in the case of Hatfield; and in that of Watson there was a minute in the Home Office, setting forth that the examination had taken place there by Lord Sidmouth, assisted by certain Lords and others of the Privy Council. There was, therefore, no uniform course of precedents, and Ministers had to determine whether the culprit should be brought before the Privy Council, or whether he should be examined by the Cabinet only—that is, by Normanby as Secretary of State, assisted by his colleagues, as had been done in Watson’s case. After some discussion, they determined that the examination should be before the Cabinet only, and consequently I was not present at it, much to my disappointment, as I wished to hear what passed, and see the manner and bearing of the perpetrator of so strange and unaccountable an act.
Up to the present time there is no appearance of insanity in the youth’s behaviour, and he is said to have conducted himself during the examination with acuteness, and cross-examined the witnesses (a good many of whom were produced) with some talent. All this, however, is not incompatible with a lurking insanity. His answers to the questions put to him were mysterious, and calculated to produce the impression that he was instigated or employed by a society, with which the crime had originated, but I expect that it will turn out that he had no accomplices, and is only a crackbrained enthusiast, whose madness has taken the turn of vanity and desire for notoriety. No other conjecture presents any tolerable probability. However it may torn out—here is the strange fact—that a half-crazy potboy was on the point of influencing the destiny of the Empire, and of producing effects the magnitude and importance of which no human mind can guess at. It is remarkable how seldom attempts like these are successful, and yet the life of any individual is at the mercy of any other, provided this other is prepared to sacrifice his own life, which, in the present instance, the culprit evidently was.