Thursday, 18 November 2010

For his eyes only.....

Britain is consumed in 'Royal Wedding' excitement, following the announcement of Prince William's engagement to Kate Middleton. (Me too, actually. I think it's lovely, a welcome change from gloom and budget cuts - and they both seem such nice young people.)  It seems a good moment to look back to another royal love story.

This is a well-known painting of the young Queen Victoria by Franz Winterhalter. Described by Richard Dorment in a review in the Daily Telegraph as  "... a love letter. In 1843, Victoria commissioned Winterhalter to paint her portrait in an oval format as a birthday present for Albert. In it the 24-year-old Queen is shown in what looks like her nightdress, with her loosened hair falling over one bare shoulder. In case the recipient missed the point, her eyes are raised in adoration, and her lips are slightly parted. We recognise at once the private signals a wife gives to a husband. This is how only Albert will see her."

When I was privileged to see this in an exhibition at the Queen's Gallery in Buckingham Palace, I did find it an astonishing painting, picturing Victoria as I have never though of her before.  It was touching to see her portrayed as an
open-minded young woman, passionate - sexy even. We so often see her as the older matriarch, dressed in her widow's black. The more I find out about Victoria and the Victorian era, the more intrigued I am. We sometimes think of it as a restrictive, stuffy, overblown period of our history and there are many aspects that we seem to feel (perhaps rightly) ashamed of. Yet it was also a time of enormous change and social and economic development that has bequeathed us a heritage to be proud of - in Saltaire and elsewhere.  It would be good to think that we might have another such creative time - under King William and Queen Katherine perhaps?

9 comments:

  1. What an interesting post. But isn't it strange that during an era in British history when so much changed, the monarchy should have projected images of such unchanging rigidity for most of the time.

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  2. When Diana and Charles got married, I was in front of my TV! Like a lot of young women of this time, dreaming I was at her place. Then, I saw the birth of William and Harry, and now William is getting married!and my daughter will look at tv with me! next year, here, we 'll have Albert of Monaco marrying Charlène..All that is so romantic!
    and I agree with you : Victoria is always shown as old, but she was young once, and lived a fabulous love with her husband. And her reign was very great for your country.

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  3. Lovely post Jenny - Queen Victoria was a fascinating person. xxxx

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  4. Lets hope this royal marriage will survive. Not a good track record in recent years.

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  5. What a beautiful portrait! Thanks for sharing with us. I'm also excited about Prince William's engagement. I think they make a very good match!

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  6. Love the picture of Victoria R!

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  7. Quite a special painting of Victoria and your observations of her seem spot on!

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  8. I just watched the movie "The Young Victoria" last week! I really didn't know all the details about her life, other than the usual, so it was interesting to learn!

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  9. This is such a beautiful and refreshing portrait of Queen Victoria, thanks so much for sharing! ~Lili

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