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Sunday, 3 October 2010

Recording of Queen Victoria


On a radio programme yesterday (most of which, unfortunately I missed), Queen Victoria's biographer, Giles St-Aubyn was talking with the presenter of a wax cylinder of the recording of Queen Victoria's voice. The little I heard of the programme led me to believe it is a strong possibility that the recording is genuine and, what was definitely genuine, was a BBC archive recording of an interview with Queen Victoria's granddaughter, Princess Alice of Albany (later Athlone) beautifully describing her grandmother's voice which, to my slight surprise, she said had no hint of a German accent. The Queen's voice, she said, was light and bright and youthful, as indeed was the Queen herself - and not at all like the sombre woman of popular imagination.

This fits, of course, with Marie of Roumania's lovely description of her grandmother's child-like enjoyment of many of the events she organised to entertain her grandchildren, and Marie Louise of Schleswig-Holstein's mention of the warmth and humour of her grandmother.

It often seems that one of the most endearing characteristics of Queen Victoria, is that she never really lost a child-like heart. Perhaps that was due to insecurity and unhappiness of her own childhood but, rather than becoming a miserable old woman, she seems much more to me a tender and open-hearted person, with a sort of childlike innocence. Like a child, too, she could be petulant and stubborn but she was such a romantic, and sometimes quite naive in, for example, her wishing to publish the second 'Leaves from a Highland Journal' in which she wrote effusively of her servant, John Brown, in a way that less innocent people might interpret quite differently. It is interesting that the older she grew, the more tolerant and understanding she became. After the dreadful gaffe of the Flora Hastings affair (when she was still very young) perhaps she learned a lesson, or perhaps she stopped listening to advisors! She stood by her granddaughter, Marie Louise, during a scandalous divorce and she encouraged the Duchess of York (later Queen Mary) to go to Mecklenburg to ride alongside the disgraced daughter of a relative, who had been disowned for becoming pregnant by a footman. Again, she offered a home in England to a Hanoverian princess who had been refused permission to marry the man she loved, and who was cast out by her father for so doing; and she enjoyed what her daughter, Vicky, considered frivolous romantic novels.

I like to think that is Queen Victoria's voice on the recording - the snatch of it that I vaguely heard reminded me a little of the earliest recordings of our present Queen. She allowed herself to be filmed (albeit briefly) so it seems likely that she would be equally willing to allow herself to be recorded.

2 comments:

Matterhorn said...

Delightful post! I also get the impression that Queen Victoria had alot of liveliness and warmth that is too often overlooked.

I'm a fan of Victoria's aunt by marriage, Louise-Marie of Orleans, the first Queen of the Belgians:
http://crossoflaeken.blogspot.com/2010/05/queen-to-be-remembered.html

Apparently the two young queens were very close friends (although one usually hears more about Victoria's relationship with her uncle, Louise-Marie's husband, King Leopold.) They shared a keen love of fashion and a strong affection for one another, qualities which give further lie to the grim stereotypes of Victoria.

Christina said...

Thank you for your lovely comment, Matterhorn. Yes, I too like Louise-Marie of Orleans and cannot imagine how life must have been for French royalties in particular, when there was one revolution after another. I recall reading Queen Victoria's letter to 'Uncle Leopold" after Louise-Marie's death, and the devastation it brought to the family. Your posts about her on your wonderful blog are so interesting - thank you!