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Wednesday 14 September 2011

19th Century Royalties

I am gradually compiling a guide to the 19th centuries royalties, with particular emphasis on Queen Victoria's family. The intention is to provide information, links (to relevant sites and blog posts from all over the net) and book recommendations. This is very much in the early stages - merely an introduction and outline of Queen Victoria's children and grandchildren - over 3 pages so far (please check the links at the top of the 'About' page)but if I would welcome any recommendations of blog posts, the links to which might be added. If you have written a post about any of Queen Victoria's children or grandchildren, please feel free to contact me.

Queen Victoria & Other 19th Century Royalties

Saturday 10 September 2011

Queen Victoria's Favourite Authors

Alongside being a prolific letter-writer and lover of poetry, Queen Victoria greatly enjoyed contemporary novels, particularly those about the lives of ordinary people. Among her favourite authors were Dinah Craik, whose novel John Halifax, Gentleman was probably her most successful work (and, incidentally, made into a BBC television series in the 1970s).

Of Mrs. Craik, Queen Victoria wrote to her eldest daughter, Vicky,:
“Have you ever read two pretty, simple but very pleasantly written novels called ‘A Noble Life’ by the authoress of ‘J. Halifax’ and ‘Janet’s Home’? They have both been read to me of an evening and I like them so much. Not sensation novels but pretty, simple stories, full of truth and good feeling.”

Mrs. Oliphant was another of the Queen favourite authors and, with her love
of all things Scottish, she greatly enjoyed ‘Merkland’ which she described as ‘An old – but excellent Scotch’ novel.’ In 1868 the Queen met Mrs Oliphant whom she considered, “very pleasant and clever looking.’

Naturally, her friendship with the Prime Minister, Disraeli, led her to

greatly appreciate his novels, too, and when her own ‘Leaves from a Highland Journal’ was published, she was greatly flattered when he spoke to her as a fellow-writer, “We authors, ma’am…”

Marie Correlli - a writer of popular novels – also appealed to the Queen, as did Wilkie Collins, Dickens and George Eliot, regardless of the scandal of the latter’s private life. Harriet Beecher-Stowe’s biography of Byron, however, Queen Victoria considered shocking since it included information about the poet’s incestuous relationship with his sister.

“That Byron scandal is too shameful; I have not read it as I have a particular horror of scandal and gossip, and it is quite untrue. Mrs. Stowe has behaved shamefully.”

Friday 9 September 2011

Queen Victoria and Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Continuing the theme of royalties and the arts, Queen Victoria’s friendship with Alfred, Lord Tennyson is very fascinating. Being a neighbour on the Isle of Wight, Tennyson was sometimes invited from his home, Farringford (now The Farringford Hotel ), to Osborne House where Queen Victoria, who enjoyed his work, liked to spend time in his company, though, as she wrote to her daughter, Vicky, she found him rather dark and gloomy at times and described him as looking ‘very old’.

The rest of this post has been temporarily removed due to an agreement re. the recent publication of my book "Queen Victoria's Granddaughters 1860-1918".

Saturday 3 September 2011

Royal Patronage of the Arts

In the guidebook to Frogmore House and the Royal Mausoleum, there is a photograph of a fan designed and painted by Queen Victoria’s eldest daughter, Vicky, and presented to her mother in 1856. Alas, I cannot scan or post the photograph, and a description will not do it justice. The detail of flowers, an angel and a classical figure are so exquisite that it is difficult to believe that this was not created by a professional artist with many years of experience but by a sixteen year old girl (and it certainly puts many modern works of so-called art to shame!).
Although Vicky continued to paint throughout her life, it is not easy to find copies of her work and this is surely a great loss to the art world.

Many members of Queen Victoria’s family were gifted artists. Members of the Royal Academy said that Prince Albert, some of whose painting hang on the walls of Osborne House, could have been a professional artist had he not been a prince (and, incidentally, the composer Mendelsohn said he could have been a successful composer);

Vicky’s sister, Princess Louise, was an equally accomplished sculptor who created this statue of Queen Victoria, which stands in Kensington Gardens; and Queen Victoria herself was skilled in watercolours and oils as her painting of Prince Albert shows.

Artistic and musical themselves, Queen Victoria’s family – like many other royal families of Europe – were also great patrons of the arts and they were aware that their patronage was not simply a matter of personal gratification but that they were preserving some of the greatest works of art for the nation. The much-maligned Grand Duke Serge of Russia, husband of Grand Duchess Elizabeth, was renowned for his art collections and he made it clear that he wished to ensure that these treasures were being kept for Russia, not for his own pleasure (though he undoubtedly took pleasure in them, too). Queen Victoria, despite her initial reluctance to be seen on photographs,was also an early patron of photography as this article shows.

Queen Victoria and Photography

Kaiser Wilhelm – an enthusiastic archaeologist – was also eager to continue in the tradition of Frederick the Great in cultivating the art, poetry and literature of his country.

Another interesting article shows the importance of royal patronage for French artists and how their careers suffered during and after the revolution.

French Royal Patronage

It often seems to me that it is possible to judge the state of civilisation in a nation not only by the way it treats its animals but also by its contribution to art, literature and music and, alongside their many other contributions to society, I think the role of royalties in patronising the arts cannot be underestimated.