Queen Victoria is perhaps most famous for her dour look, girthy waistline, mourning dress and life of widowhood – essentially her later years. It is this period of her life that is focussed upon in the updated ‘Victoria Revealed’ exhibition at Kensington Palace.
The exhibition takes inspiration from Victoria’s own journals, and using personal objects, recounts her life within the very rooms she once lived in, under the oppressive Kensington System of her mother, the Duchess of Kent, and Sir John Conroy.
Victoria assumed many roles in her life, perhaps the most important being Monarch: but she was also a wife, mother, patron of the arts, and widow.
We see items from her children’s early lives – all nine of them – including a dolls house and their portraits, in age order early on in the exhibit.
One powerful part of the story sees the visitor hear Victoria’s diary entry for the last few hours of her husband’s life. She noted how peaceful he looked in the glow of the sunrise.
Victoria’s famous widow’s cap – which became an ever-present element of her mourning wardrobe – will reflect how Victoria retreated from fashion, colour and liveliness in both her dress and persona. Shying away from public engagements and rarely in London (preferring instead the seclusion of her homes in Windsor, Osborne and Balmoral), Victoria’s focus shifted to organising the dynastic marriages of her younger children into the royal houses of Europe. It wasn’t until a decade after Prince Albert’s death that the Queen finally emerged from her deep state of shock, beginning – in her own words – a new reign.
There is, of course, a look at her Diamond Jubilee; Victoria was the first British Monarch to reach this milestone.
Original film footage from the even tin 1897 can be seen on a screen, complete with replica bunting, based on a surviving piece at the Victoria & Albert Museum.
And of course, the new showing of three tiaras at Kensington tops off the exhibition, as we move into the year (2019) that marks the 200th anniversary of Queen Victoria’s birth.
The emerald and diamond tiara is part of a parure, designed by Prince Albert for his wife.
Get tickets to the palace to see ‘Victoria Revealed’, alongside the updated ‘Diana: her fashion story’ exhibit, here.