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Queen Victoria’s Widow’s Cap – Royal Central

Queen Victoria’s Widow’s Cap – Royal Central

The white caps worn by Queen Victoria have – appropriately – come to be considered a logo for her widowhood. They symbolize one of many few contrasts in color to the deepest mourning that she adopted after 1861, as a declaration in textile, of the colossal emotional significance to her of the Prince Consort’s demise.

White had, in fact, been symbolic of her wedding ceremony to Prince Albert, when she wore creamy white Spitalfields silk-satin for her wedding ceremony gown and her ‘dear wedding veil’.

The Queen was painted in white after dying by Hubert von Herkomer, which I consider, might maybe additionally symbolize the top of her widowhood and for the Queen, virtually a return to her wedding ceremony day, a re-uniting with the Prince Consort, one thing which is hinted at within the Latin inscription she had engraved over the doorways of the Royal Mausoleum at Frogmore: ‘… here at last I shall rest with thee, with thee in Christ, I shall rise again…’

The Queen expressly forbade a black funeral for herself. Considerably, the Queen’s serene marble effigy had no traces of the widow about it; sculpted at her instruction concurrently that of the Prince Consort, it depicted her within the likeness of a younger lady and royal spouse. There isn’t a widow’s cap.

These white caps offered momentary aid within the mourning that the Queen wore, along with the occasional large white handkerchief, each of which have been skilfully captured by the portraitist Henrich von Angeli, in his portray of the Queen in 1875. The facility of this picture – the Queen in black – was additionally one which she actively cultivated, as a public assertion that the royal spouse had now turn into a royal widow, a brand new id which was intrinsically linked with Prince Albert’s reminiscence and so was as a lot part of memorialising him, as was her programme of erecting statues and monuments after his dying. The abandonment of color for a mainly monochrome wardrobe was a method of signalling to the world what she had misplaced. Importantly, the demise of her mom, the Duchess of Kent, in March 1861, had antedated Prince Albert’s dying by six months. It was the dying of Prince Albert, nevertheless, which plunged the Queen right into a black from which she by no means really emerged. Relating to color, it ‘dyed’ her for all times.

Queen Victoria sporting one in every of her mourning caps (Wellcome Photographs  ICV No 18436; [CC BY (], by way of Wikimedia Commons)

Hitherto, royal mourning was ordered out of respect and ruled by the established dictates of protocol, with courtroom mourning noticed for a interval of three months, corresponding to that requested for the Prince Regent’s daughter, Princess Charlotte in 1817, after which color was permitted to be worn once more, just like the ‘bursting out of spring’ (Quoted in Staniland, 76).

Queen Victoria confirmed this observance within the wake of Prince Albert’s demise however ordered that the Royal Family ought to stay in mourning for a whole yr (Ibid, 156). Queen Victoria’s option to undertake mourning for the remainder of her life from 42-years-old onwards, differed completely from these conventions because the mourning she selected for herself had no timescale. This, in flip, set the tone for courtroom observances regarding gown, though she relaxed this considerably in later years, for her youthful maids of honour.

On this harsh private determination, she as an alternative extra mirrored the Empress Maria Theresia, whose devastation on the demise of her beloved husband, Holy Roman Emperor Franz I, was such that she minimize off her famously luscious hair and remained in mourning weeds for the remainder of her days. Like Maria Theresia, Queen Victoria had been an equally passionate spouse, certainly no accident in parallel, and one which provides a prepared rationalization for the extremity of the like-minded choice relating to gown. The social guidelines that prevailed for mourning allowed an into the half-mourning colors of white, gray, mauve and purple, resembling was noticed on the wedding ceremony of the Prince of Wales in 1863. Though this was not one thing the Queen noticed. She dictated the hue of those ceremonies, as on the marriage of her second daughter, Princess Alice in 1862, the place the younger bride’s complete trousseau was black.

In regards to the Queen’s clothes, mourning was by no means to be relaxed and was at most, solely relieved, by white cuffs, scarfs, trimmings, or the ever present patterned shawls which the Queen wore and which have been the topic of remark by no less than two of her granddaughters, Princess Louis of Battenberg and Princess Alix of Hesse, who helped her change them once they accompanied her driving out. Princess Louis of Battenberg remembered in her personal reminiscences: ‘Though it is well known from her portraits that the Queen always wore some form of widow’s cap, but within the privateness of her personal room she would sit with out it, with solely a bit of bow association pinned on to the again of her hair, which it coated, leaving the larger a part of the top free…’ (Quoted in David Duff, Hessian Tapestry, 270).

Prince Albert had performed an important position within the Queen’s wardrobe, on whose extremely refined inventive style the Queen relied. In her personal phrases: ‘He did everything – everywhere… the designing and ordering of Jewellery, the buying of a dress or a bonnet… all was done together…’ (Quoted in HRH The Duchess of York with Benita Stoney, Victoria and Albert: A Household Life at Osborne Home, 164). The Queen preserved her ‘going away’ bonnet, sprigged with orange blossom, by which she travelled to Windsor for her honeymoon; a number of bonnets with vibrant or richly flowered ribbons within the assortment of the Museum of London are recognized examples of the Queen’s bonnets earlier than 1861. These present a choice of the colorful palette that the Queen loved in her wardrobe, earlier than the Prince’s demise (Kay Staniland, In Royal Trend, 132). Aged solely six months as Princess Victoria had been painted for her father, the Duke of Kent, in a Scotch bonnet. For Victoria, the peaked widow’s cap was a really totally different sort of headpiece, making her face heart-shaped, its personal unhappy image.

The white cap turned a ordinary accoutrement of the Queen’s typical gown, a kind of day by day crown. It seems a lot in pictures manufactured from the Queen within the early years of her widowhood, akin to the images made in round 1862 by Ghemar Freres of Queen Victoria together with her youngest daughter, Princess Beatrice, who referred to the widow’s cap that her mom wore, as ‘Ma’s unhappy caps’ (Staniland, 157). The black-clad Princess Beatrice, photographed together with her widowed mom and in a gaggle together with her sisters in mourning gown, clustered round a bust of the Prince Consort, would comment with that unusual mixture of poignant accuracy contained inside the musings of youngsters: ‘What a pity that I used to be too little to be at your marriage” (Quoted in Christopher Hibbert, Queen Victoria, A Private Historical past, 287).

One of many little mourning clothes worn by the younger Princess Beatrice and product of black poplin with crape bands survives on the Museum of London. The Queen was described as ‘sadly worn and thinned, and very small altogether, in her little widow’s cap, with out strings however with streamers behind, and her heavy clinging woollen robe’ (Eleanor Stanley, Twenty Years at Courtroom, 394, quoted in HRH The Duchess of York with Benita Stoney, 167). Queen Victoria wore mourning hoods when dressing for outdoor, edged with white frills (Staniland, 154).

The Queen wore her white, widow’s cap within the engraving by Thomas, the Marriage of Princess Alice to Prince Louis of Hesse, which was carried out at Osborne in 1862. The Queen sits to the left of the engraving, while above hangs a portrait of her mom – who had died in March 1861 – and above the altar, a replica of the massive portray by Franz Xaver Winterhalter, The Royal Household in 1846, through which a painted Prince Albert, stretches out his hand in the direction of his eldest son, the Prince of Wales.

Sometimes for the Queen on any wedding ceremony day of her daughters, she referred to Princess Alice’s wedding ceremony garments after which what she was sporting: ‘She is dressing in her Beloved Papa’s room, which I’m having my widow’s cap adjusted! I feel it’s a dreadful dream!’ (Quoted in Ibid, 172). The Queen started to be photographed in her white peaked caps, spinning; an occupation that the Queen took up, which maybe underlined her solitary state and one which, like her portray field, enabled creativity inside that solitude. Sir Joseph Boehm sketched the Queen in 1869 spinning, by which era a spinning wheel had been positioned in her sitting room (Ibid, 177). Once more, Boehm exhibits her sporting her mourning weeds and her white cap, tantamount now to a kind of widow’s uniform. She additionally wore the caps engaged in one other solitary occupation, knitting or crochet work. Bassano photographed her sporting the cap. Carl Rudolph Sohn painted her in her white mourning headdress in 1883, as did Josefine Swoboda ten years later, at Balmoral. By 1886, the photographer Gustav Mullins was capable of report Princess Beatrice together with her niece, Victoria, Princess Louis of Battenberg, holding her daughter, Princess Alice of Battenberg, along with Queen Victoria in considered one of her white caps, however on this pleasing picture, the by now aged Queen adopts a smile.

Queen Victoria’s mourning headdress, listed on Wikimedia Commons as ‘from 1883’ (By Jula2812 [CC BY-SA (], from Wikimedia Commons)

The Queen’s white ‘sad caps’ have been manufactured from tulle, though the place they have been manufactured just isn’t clear. By the late 1880s, she wore them pinned greater up than the slightly sunken trend of the 1860s, once they have been worn near the top, making a flat impression. In later years, these ornate creations had advanced into deep, stately frills of tulle or silk with streamers and should have been supported by wires (Staniland, 160). At about this time, the Queen’s bonnets have been being trimmed with black or white flowers, feathers, lace and ribbons (Ibid, 161). Princess Louis of Battenberg recalled that in her later years, the Queen habitually wore a ‘broad-brimmed straw hat in summer’ (Quoted in Duff, 270). Within the yr of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, she was photographed sporting a bonnet trimmed with white flowers, white aigrette and black lace (Ibid, 172).

Solely one of many Queen’s white widow’s caps was apparently recognized to have survived and was preserved on the Museum of London. A fragile survivor, it’s loaded with Queen Victoria’s private symbolism and dates from round 1899. This can be very uncommon and should have been discarded when it ceased to be in wearable situation.

A big portray commissioned by the Royal Agricultural Society in 1897, depicting the Queen with the Prince of Wales, Prince George, Duke of York and the longer term King Edward VIII, depicts Queen Victoria sporting one such widow’s cap. The artist, Sir William Quiller Orchardson, was permitted to borrow one of many Queen’s caps to color his image; the cap that he was given was subsequently bequeathed to the London Museum in 1917, by his widow (Staniland, 168). This cover doesn’t look like the widow’s cap belonging to Queen Victoria, which is now displayed in a glass case at Kensington Palace, listed as Historic Royal Palaces 3502037, ‘Widow’s Cap, 1864-1899, Tulle’, as this accommodates much more tulle frills and the London Museum (later to turn into the Museum of London) instance is significantly extra fragile, much more so, as a result of it has been washed. The Kensington instance should, subsequently, be a separate acquisition.

Any historic gadgets of clothes retain one thing of the presence of the wearer, while recreating their respective bodily dimensions in addition to offering a bodily hyperlink with an occasion or occasions at which they have been worn. This is the reason costume has such exact efficiency for the onlooker and the handler, outdoors of the needs of historic document. Loaded with private which means, such gadgets additionally protect a specific fascination, due to their worn contact with the historic determine and subsequently convey a way of ‘untouchable touch’ even when displayed underneath glass. On this approach, I discovered staring on the widow’s cap displayed at Kensington Palace, a singular expertise. Queen Victoria’s actual measurements aren’t recognized. Though, she is believed to have been someplace round 5 ft or beneath. Standing reverse it was like staring into the Queen’s lacking face. As an object, it’s unusually nonetheless filled with the Queen’s dominant character.

©Elizabeth Jane Timms, 2018