History from across the centuries, Royalty from the 21st.

Sat 17th August, 2019
 

Queen Victoria takes centre stage in Buckingham Palace’s summer 2019 opening

2019 marks 200 years since the birth of Queen Victoria, one of Britain’s most famous Monarchs; this year she is taking centre stage at Buckingham Palace for the summer opening, an exhibition entitled ‘Queen Victoria’s Palace’.

The Royal Collection is presenting what they describe as ‘an immersive experience’ in the Ballroom, to explore the history of Buckingham Palace as Victoria’s family home and the headquarters of the British Monarchy.

queen Victoria chose to make Buckingham Palace her home shortly after her accession (Datmater)

When Princess Alexandrina Victoria became Queen, she decided that the empty palace across London would be a better place to begin her reign, out from under the close eye of her mother at Kensington Palace. Her uncle, King William IV, had preferred to live at Clarence House than to follow his brother, George IV, and reside at Buckingham; George had refitted and spent a great amount of money with architect John Nash to make the residence a formal palace.

Victoria’s ministers advised her to stay at Kensington until Buckingham Palace could be brought up to a suitable standard. However, the headstrong young Queen decided to move into the unfurnished residence immediately.

Queen Victoria by Thomas Sully. In this portrait she wears the George IV’s diadem. It will be part of ‘Queen Victoria’s Palace’, the special exhibition at this year’s Summer Opening of Buckingham Palace. Royal Collection Trust/ © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2019

Some of the artefacts on display include Thomas Sully’s portrait of Queen Victoria, painted soon after she moved to Buckingham Palace. It is ‘one of the most striking early likenesses of the young Queen’, who wears the George IV diadem. The artist noted through their three sittings that Victoria laughed and talked, ‘a happy innocent girl of Eighteen’.

Soon after her accession, Victoria ordered a new set of personal insignia for each of the six British Orders of Chivalry (Garter, Thistle, St Patrick, Bath, Saint Michael and Saint George, and Victoria). Shown below is her Star and Collar of the Order of the Bath, which were made to be these were considerably lighter and longer than previous versions, so they could be worn just below the shoulders to complement the necklines of formal dresses fashionable in the era.

Queen Victoria’s Star of the Order of the Bath. will be on display this summer. Royal Collection Trust/ © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2019

Queen Victoria’s Collar of the Order of the Bath to be shown at Buckingham Palace this summer. Royal Collection Trust/ © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2019

Victoria and Prince Albert’s love story is well-known, with the couple marrying in 1840. Eight of the couple’s nine children were born at Buckingham Palace, but by 1845, with children, it was clear that Buckingham Palace was no longer large enough to accommodate the royal couple’s rapidly expanding family.

On 10 February 1845, the Queen wrote a letter to Prime Minister Sir Robert Peel, talking of ‘the urgent necessity of doing something to Buckingham Palace’ and ‘the total want of accommodation for our growing little family’. In the summer of 1846, Parliament granted Victoria £20,000 for the completion and extension of Buckingham Palace. A further £50,000 came from the sale of George IV’s seaside retreat, the Royal Pavilion in Brighton. This work saw a new wing added to the east (the front) of the u-shaped residence, creating a courtyard at its centre. Marble Arch, which acted as the formal entrance to the palace grounds, had to be removed and was relocated to Hyde Park.

a painting of buckingham palace in 1837, before the new front wing was added (engraved by J.Woods after Hablot Browne & R.Garland, wikimedia commons)

Buckingham Palace was once a u-shaped building; the front wing, seen in lighter stone, was added by Queen Victoria, creating this courtyard (Ilana Cohen)

Work on the palace during Victoria’s reign also saw the addition of the Ballroom, which – when opened in 1856 – was the largest room in Europe. This watercolour of the Crimean Ball by Louis Haghe shows the original Italian Renaissance-style interior. Notice Victoria seated on her throne at the far end of the room.

The Ballroom, Buckingham Palace by Louis Haghe will be shown in ‘Queen Victoria’s Palace’, the special exhibition at this year’s Summer Opening of Buckingham Palace. Royal Collection Trust/ © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2019

A lover of dancing, Victoria hosted a Stuart Ball in 1851, with a theme of the Restoration period. Guests had to dress in the style of Charles II’s court. Queen Victoria had a costume made by the artist Eugène Lami for the occasion; it has a bodice and full skirt of grey moiré trimmed with gold lace and an underskirt of gold and silver brocade.

Queen Victoria’s costume for the Stuart Ball, in the style of the Restoration. Royal Collection Trust/ © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2019

“I was so proud and pleased to see my beloved Albert looking so handsome, truly royal and distinguished, and so much admired. I must say our costumes were beautifully made,” the Queen wrote in her diary, and even illustrated it with a sketch of her and her husband, with Prince Charles Leiningen (Victoria’s half-brother).

Queen Victoria wrote about the Stuart ball in her diary and illustrated this entry, with a sketch of herself and Prince Albert wearing their costumes for the Stuart Ball. Royal Collection Trust/ © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2019

‘Queen Victoria’s Palace’ will run from Saturday, 20 July 2019 – Sunday, 29 September 2019. Get tickets here.

Written by

Victoria has a passion for British history and Constitutional Monarchy, hence her reasons for founding The Crown Chronicles. Her specialism is the Early Modern era, with particular emphasis on Monarchy, the Restoration and 18th-century social history. She is also a keen reader, baker and shopper. Her motto is to have a full bookcase, but a fuller wardrobe! Victoria is also founder of Replicate Royalty, our sister site.

Latest comment
  • Ce commentaire est tres bien écrit et illustré bonne continuation.mm

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