Queen Victoria, ca. 1870, as photographed by the French photographer Disderi (By Nationwide Media Museum from UK (Queen Victoria, c.1870.Uploaded by mrjohncummings) [No restrictions], by way of Wikimedia Commons)
For some, Queen Victoria stays etched into the favored reminiscence because the monochrome royal widow, wearing black for the remainder of her life, a black sometimes relieved by the big white handkerchiefs which she typically took round together with her, or the little lace cap, that turned differently, a logo of her mourning. This, in fact, is true. It’s a picture the Queen firmly cultivated. However it is just half of the story.
Queen Victoria’s obsessive predilection for the observance of royal mourning remained a key facet of her behaviour all through her life; the lack of her mom, the Duchess of Kent and the dying of Prince Albert in the identical yr – 1861 – gave this tendency its final expression, plunging the Queen into black, making even her handwriting disappear into ever deeper black-edged borders in her letters, for as she annotated an early photograph of herself and her household at Windsor shortly after the dying of the Prince Consort: ‘Day turned into Night’.
I view it as essential to know that the Queen’s cult of mourning for Prince Albert was merely a darker expression of the cult of their marriage while he was alive when the royal mutual love was the topic of countless presents and artistic endeavors. After the demise of Prince Albert, it was solely pure that there must be an equal outpouring for the Queen grief in artwork and sculpture, as there had been in love. The speedy hyperlink is that the royal spouse and the royal widow have been the identical lady however that the dying of the Prince had turned one into the opposite – an apparent level maybe – however one which I really feel, that helps us to know the Queen as a widow a lot better.
Behind the violent grief was a passionate spouse. The Queen who had written on Prince Albert’s dying: ‘Truly the Prince was my entire self… my very life and soul… I only lived through him My heavenly Angel’ (Quoted in Christopher Hibbert, Queen Victoria, 290) was the identical lady who had written on her wedding ceremony day: ‘I NEVER, NEVER spent such an evening!! MY DEAREST DEAREST DEAR Albert sat on a footstool by my side… really how can I ever be thankful enough to have such a Husband!’ (Quoted in Ibid, 123).
Importantly, Albert had been memorialised lengthy earlier than his dying; though it will be mistaken to assume that this was pure presentiment. The Queen’s deep love for her husband meant that the presents she gave him inevitably concerned herself or their youngsters, such because the portrait she commissioned from the portraitist Franz Xaver Winterhalter, depicting her in her wedding ceremony gown as a gift for the Prince on their seventh wedding ceremony anniversary in 1847. That was a celebration of life, not demise and importantly, their life collectively. This can be a elementary level, for with the dying of the Prince, got here the Queen’s lack of id as a spouse. After Albert’s demise, the room the place he died at Windsor was turned into a type of memorial shrine and was a dwelling, sacred area, by which the Queen recurrently prayed and clearly felt some hyperlink with the Prince’s final sickness and dying.
I first turned fascinated with this room – the Blue Room – again in 2013, once I researched its historical past in depth and wrote about it (Elizabeth Jane Timms, The Blue Room at Windsor Citadel, The European Royal Historical past Journal, Problem XCVI, 2013). Recent garments for the lifeless Prince have been laid out every day on the mattress as if he would nonetheless want them (Hibbert, 286). I feel this finds a attainable parallel with earlier paintings throughout his lifetime – for instance, the watercolour by George M. Greig of Alt-na-giubhsaich, Prince Albert’s Dressing-Room, which exhibits the Prince’s garments laid out and the door open as if he was about to return and change for dinner (Delia Millar, Queen Victoria’s Life within the Scottish Highlands, 132). The Prince was then, in fact, very a lot alive, however the want seems to be there, to feverishly document even royal trivia.
Queen Victoria had widowhood actually in her veins on each side. This has not typically been the topic of a lot consideration, with Queen Victoria having develop into for a lot of, the last word matriarch of mourning. It was, nevertheless, a part of her royal, household material. Though these instances are, in fact, particular person tales in their very own context and to construe in any other case would make dangerous principle, I’ve discovered it fascinating to uncover extra particulars about this, given the apparent similarity with the Queen a lot later, as a result of her expertise discovered emotional symmetry with different widows in her lineage, each Hanoverian and Saxon. On the Hanoverian aspect, her paternal great-grandmother, Augusta, Dowager Princess of Wales, had misplaced Frederick, Prince of Wales in 1751; he died, as Prince Albert would, together with his spouse at his bedside. As Prince Albert had listened to considered one of his daughters play the piano at Windsor within the first levels of his sickness, so the musically-turned Prince Frederick had been sat up in mattress having fun with items on the violin performed by his dancing grasp, Dunoyer (Stella Tillyard, A Royal Affair, three). The Dowager Princess of Wales presumably commissioned the artist George Knapton to color her and her household after the dying of Frederick – the portrait is signed and dated 1751, and the Prince is depicted as a portrait inside the portray. The Dowager Princess is central to the paintings and wears a mourning veil; the widowed Queen Victoria, in fact, in time, would have herself photographed, surrounded by her giant household, with a bust of the lifeless Prince Albert.
Her maternal grandmother, the gorgeous Countess Augusta Reuss-Ebersdorf and Lobenstein (1757–1831) was painted by the good artist Johann Heinrich Tischbein as Artemisia, in mourning for her husband, Mausolus, whose magnificent tomb at Halicarnassus gave the time period ‘Mausoleum’ to the traditional world (A. N Wilson, Victoria, 20). There’s, thus, one other parallel – for parallel, it may solely be – with Queen Victoria, who in fact, constructed the Royal Mausoleum at Frogmore, which she would finally share with Prince Albert, on her personal dying in 1901. Queen Victoria’s biographer, A. N. Wilson went additional and instructed there’s something ‘prophetic’ in the truth that this maternal grandmother of the ‘Widow of Windsor’, is depicted together with her husband’s urn, nonetheless younger herself (Ibid, 20).
Considerably unusually, nevertheless, Tischbein was commissioned to depict Countess Augusta as a widow, earlier than her precise marriage. The image was painted by order of Augusta’s father, Heinrich XXIV Rely Reuss of Ebersdorf, (Ibid, 20) to draw an appropriate fiancé from amongst the extensive pool of German the Aristocracy. Countess Augusta married Duke Francis of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld in 1777. Countess Augusta was not truly widowed till a lot later, in 1806. It’s clear then that Tischbein selected this as a purely classical pose, however provided that the Countess’ granddaughter would grow to be a widow in her forty-second yr, the picture is for us, curious.
Countess Augusta is important within the story of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert – she was their shared grandmother, as amongst her youngsters have been Victoria’s mom, Victoire – the longer term Duchess of Kent – and Albert’s father, the longer term Duke Ernst I of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, the rationale why Queen Victoria and Prince Albert have been cousins. It was this mutual grandmother – the Dowager Duchess of Coburg as she turned recognized – who was knowledgeable of the longer term Queen’s start in 1819 and responded: ‘My God, how glad I am to hear of you… I cannot find words to express my delight that everything went so smoothly…’ (Quoted in Christopher Hibbert, Queen Victoria, A Private Historical past, 12). With prescience, she added on the start of the infant princess: ‘The English like Queens’ (Quoted in Cecil Woodham-Smith, Queen Victoria: Her Life and Occasions, 30). The Queen’s ‘dear Grandmama of Coburg-Saalfeld’ (Quoted in HRH The Duchess of York and Benita Stoney, Travels with Queen Victoria, pp. 177-78) could also be seen in a portrait within the Household Corridor within the Ehrenburg in Coburg. The maternal line of widowhood doesn’t cease right here. Nevertheless – Countess Augusta’s mom – the Queen’s ‘great Grandmother, Princess Caroline of Erbach’ (Quoted in Ibid, 177) had been widowed in 1779 on the demise of Heinrich XXIV Rely Reuss. Her mom, in flip, Princess Ferdinande Henriette of Stolberg-Gedern had predeceased her husband, George August of Erbach-Schönberg, who outlived his spouse by eight years.
The Queen’s Stuart relative by way of her direct ancestor James I – versus the Hanoverian line of which she was half, being herself of the Home of Hanover which could be traced again to James in a unique line by way of his daughter, Elizabeth of Bohemia, taking within the 1701 Act of Settlement – was Queen Anne. An earlier British Queen Regnant – because the Acts of Union (1707), she gave very particular expression of her grief on the demise of her husband, Prince George of Denmark, to whom she had been devoted. Queen Victoria made references to Prince George of Denmark in her journal; she mentioned him together with her Prime Minister, Lord Melbourne and additionally appears to have been inquisitive about taking him as a royal working example, as a result of he had been a Prince Consort to a ruling Queen, particularly as a precedent previous to her marriage to Prince Albert.
Prince George died at Kensington Palace – the palace of Queen Victoria’s delivery – in 1708. Queen Anne remained together with her husband’s physique, in line with a letter written to Basic Cadogan: ‘His death has flung the Queen into an unspeakable grief. She never left him till he was dead, but continued kissing him the very moment his breath went out of his body…’ (Quoted in Edward Gregg, Queen Anne, 280). We’d recall Queen Victoria’s phrases on Prince Albert’s demise at Windsor: ‘Two or three long, but perfectly gentle breaths were drawn, the hand clasping mine, & (oh! It turns me sick to write it) all, all was over…’ (Quoted in A. N Wilson, 255). Queen Anne wrote to her nephew, the King of Denmark: ‘the lack of such a husband, who beloved me so dearly and so devotedly, is just too crushing for me to have the ability to bear it as I ought“ (David Inexperienced, Queen Anne, 198; Anne Somerset, Queen Anne: The Politics of Ardour, 372). Queen Victoria had goals of Albert within the quick interval after his dying, and on one event ‘took his pricey hand and kissed it so lengthy and so typically and cried over it and didn’t wish to let it go‘ (Hannah Pakula, An Unusual Lady, The Empress Frederick, 160; quoted in Hibbert, 290).
Queen Adelaide – widow of King William IV, on whose dying, Victoria as his niece, succeeded as Queen – was handled most sensitively by the younger Victoria, who was extraordinarily keen on her aunt. She continued to deal with her as ‘Her Majesty the Queen’ and when prompted to amend this to ‘Her Majesty, the Queen Dowager’, Victoria retorted: ‘I am quite aware of Her Majesty’s altered standing, however I might relatively not be the primary individual to remind her of it’ (Giles St Aubyn, Queen Victoria, 66; quoted in Hibbert, 54). Considerably, William IV had died within the Blue Room at Windsor Fort, the exact same room into which Prince Albert was moved within the latter levels of his sickness and through which on 14 December 1861, he would die.
One of many instant examples Queen Victoria had in fact, was the widowed state of her personal mom, the Duchess of Kent. Her mom had been a widow twice over, having misplaced her first husband, Emich Carl, Prince of Leiningen, in 1814. The demise of the Duke of Kent in 1820 earlier than the longer term Queen was one-year-old, meant that the Duchess – who had married to the Duke in a double English ceremony at Kew in 1818 – was widowed for the second time in her life. This finds poignant expression within the portray by Sir William Beechey – now at Kensington Palace – which exhibits a toddler Princess Victoria aged two, together with her mom, the Duchess, wearing mourning, while the little Victoria clasps a miniature of her father, the Duke. On the Duchess’ dying in 1861, Queen Victoria discovered amongst her mom’s results: ‘… a most precious relic of my poor father, which I had never seen. His little writing desk – with his Garter purse, the drawing of the room he died in – his three last letters to dearest Mama (in French) and such loving tender letters, and a little book of hers in which she wrote in every week after his death expressive of such love and tender affection for him – such despair at his death, such longing to be soon re-united with him…’ (Quoted in Elizabeth Jane Timms, Woolbrook Cottage, Royalty Digest Quarterly, 2013/1; Fulford, Dearest Youngster: Letters between Queen Victoria and the Princess Royal, 319). Because the Duke’s sister, Princess Augusta later remembered: ‘She quite adored him and they were truly blessed in each other’ (Quoted in Hibbert, 9).
Queen Victoria for a lot of stays, the favored ‘Widow of Windsor’. It’s nonetheless the Queen’s solemn however magnificent statue which greets us because the foot of Citadel Hill in Windsor at present, though this statue dates from the triumphant interval of the Queen’s Golden Jubilee, when the Queen had come out of her self-imposed seclusion. Wanting on the widowhood in her circle of relatives, we see situations, all too typically been missed, that present fascinating parallels for consideration, though the Queen’s personal behaviour after 1861 was in fact, personally attribute of herself and nobody else.