Queen Victoria (Biographical details)

Queen Victoria (ruler; British; Female; 1819 - 1901)

Also known as

Victoria (reigned); Alexandrina Victoria; Queen Victoria; England, Queen of; V R ((Victoria Regina))

Biography

Daughter of Edward, Duke of Kent. 1837, succeeded uncle, William IV; 1840, married Prince Albert; 1877, declared Empress of India. An important collection of portraits of Queen Victoria and her family together with a great deal of related ephemeral material was bequeathed to the British Museum in 1902 by William Meriton Eaton, Lord Cheylesmore (see 1902,1011. 8475 to 9919). The main series is stored according to date of publication.
A set of prints made by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert was presented to the British Museum by King George V, their grandson, in 1926. Queen Victoria and Prince Albert were talented and enthusiastic amateur artists. Prince Albert introduced the Queen to the practice of etching soon after their marriage on February 10, 1840. For her there was the added pleasure of working together, often on the same plates. She had already received etchings as presents from her Saxe-Coburg relations (Albert's uncle Leopold King of the Belgians and a cousin of them both, and Ferdinand of Saxe-Coburg, later King of Portugal, whose etching was given by King George V with the set by Victoria and Albert, see 1926,0109.92) and she quickly saw the prints as useful presents for family and friends. A number of duplicates were kept in the Royal Library for this purpose and it is possible that the British Museum set may have been made up from this source. The listing follows the order of catalogue entries of the prints in the Royal Collection by Aydua Scott-Elliot, Keeper of Prints and Drawings, Windsor Castle Royal Library. There are six further prints in the Royal Collection; three of the prints in the BM collection were presented by Miss Scott-Elliot in 1960 to fill gaps. This set includes some duplicates, some acquired later, one presented by Miss Scott-Elliot in 1960 (1985,u.1309). Sir Edwin Landseer's etching of Queen Victoria's Skye Terrier, Islay, made during one of the sessions of advice from the artist and his print-maker brother Thomas, was included with the gift from George V (1926,0109.62).

Queen Victoria and Prince Albert etched frequently for about four years, the Queen producing sixty-two plates and the prince a more modest twenty-five. They turned latterly to lithography, clearly with less enthusiasm, and a few subjects resulted, four in this collection. After 1846 the Queen made just two of the etchings in the British Museum set, in 1847 and 1849. Both Sir George Hayter and Sir Edwin Landseer taught the royal couple. A set of annotated proofs of the prints once owned by Sir George Hayter came up for sale at Christie's in London, 13 May, 1986, lot 50, revealing the extent of his interventions. Notations include "re-etched & bit by GH" in September 1840. Eventually a system was devised by which the compositions by the Queen and Prince Albert were handed over to Marianne Skerrett (the Queen's Dresser) or to the publishers Colnaghi & Co., to be bitten in an acid bath and printed. Queen Victoria wrote in her Journal on 1 March, 1843: "Landseer again gave us a lesson in etching, making us try various new points & showing us the great advantage of changing points for different stages of the work, in which we have hitherto been very deficient." The prince's etching tools comprising eleven points survive in the Royal Collection (RCIN 55300).

The etchings offer a picture of the interests of the royal couple in their early married years. The prince had a keen interest in art and the Old Masters; he introduced Queen Victoria to German romantic literature and Goethe and Schiller in particular. Prince Albert read to the Queen from Schiller's works. Their family absorbed them and the children and dogs play an important role in the etching subject-matter. Landseer's inspiration recurs over a range of subjects and in the many prints after his works. The first etching by the Queen includes a copy of a drawing of a head by the Florentine artist Stefano della Bella as well as two imaginary heads in costume. Prince Albert made two of his subjects the basis for oil-paintings, A Scene from Götz von Berlichingen, based on Act IV, scene III of Goethe's play and Romeo and Tybalt, from Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, Act III, scene I.

An account of the important copyright case against William Strange (q.v.) that followed pirating of some of the prints can be found in Roberts (see below; pp. 96-7) and Jonathan Marsden (ed.) Victoria and Albert as Collectors, London, 2010, p. 43.

All the prints have been catalogued by Aydua Scott-Elliot, New York Public Library Bulletin, and a selection by Keppel, Grollier Club exhibition. Queen Victoria's Journals in their entirety are on-line, www.queenvictoriasjournals.org

For the material in the Royal Collection, identified by inventory numbers (RCIN = Royal Collection Inventory Number, followed by a number; RL = Royal Library, followed by a number), see detailed catalogue entries and further discussion in Oliver Millar, The Victorian Pictures in the Collection of Her Majesty The Queen, London, 1992, and Delia Millar, The Victorian Drawings and Watercolours in the Collection of Her Majesty The Queen, London, 1995; Jane Roberts, Royal Artists from Mary, Queen of Scots to the Present Day, London, 1987; Marina Warner, Queen Victoria's Sketchbook, London, 1979.

Bibliography

For catalogues of prints by Queen Victoria and Pirnce Albert, see Scott-Elliot and Keppel