Queen Victoria and Prince Albert by William Theed. c.1863-67. Plaster, 203.0 x 122.0 x 68 cm (whole object). Main image: Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2022. Detail: photograph by the present author. This is thought to be a preparatory work for the marble group in the Royal Mausoleum at Frogmore. It has been on long-term loan to the National Portrait Gallery, where the picture on the right was taken in 2016. [Click on the images to enlarge them.]
The Victorians loved dressing up, and the Queen and Prince Albert gave several costume balls. The early history of England also appealed greatly, and depicting the royal couple in these costumes had a patriotic purpose, as a reminder of the country's as well as the couple's shared ethnic origins (after all, Prince Albert was also Prince of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, and the Queen's mother was Victoria of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld). Anglo-Saxonism was something of a separate cult within the general medievalism of the period (see Parker on the "literary Anglo-Saxonsim" of the time, 633). That the idea for the costumes came from Victoria and Albert's first-born child Vicky, by now married into the Prussian royal family, may also be significant, suggesting a conscious tribute to the way this heritage was still being expressed.
But what strikes us most about the group is the way the Queen looks up to, and is supported by, her husband. She may be the monarch, but in the marriage relationship she seems to occupy the role of any ordinary Victorian housewife. Surely, though, her adoring, yearning look is also an expression of her deep mourning — indulgence in which was another aspect of Victorian age. Prince Albert had died at the end of 1861. Here, he seems to be pointing her the way up to heaven, where she can be reunited with him, or at least explaining that he has had to go in advance of her. The finished marble group is well suited to its position in the royal mausoleum.
Drawing on various sources for her discussion of the sculpture, Elizabeth Langland is not alone in finding such representations of Victoria, as Queen, wife and mother, "iconographically complicated" (16). This one perhaps is particularly so.
Links to related material
- Queen Victoria's family tree
- The Medieval Revival: An Influential Movement that First Met Opposition
Right-hand photograph, text, and formatting by Jacqueline Banerjee. [You may use this image without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the photographer and (2) link your document to this URL in a web document or cite the Victorian Web in a print one.]
Langland, Elizabeth. "Nation and Nationality: Queen Victoria in the Developing Narrative of Englishness." Remaking Queen Victoria. Edited by Margaret Homans and Adrienne Munich. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997. 13-32.
Parker, Joanne. "Anglo-Saxonism and the Victorian Novel." The Oxford Handbook of Victorian Medievalism. Edited by Parker and Corinna Wagner. Oxford: Oxford University Press [Review]. 632-53.
"Queen Victoria and Prince Albert." Royal Collection Trust. Web. 31 August 2022.
Created 1 September 2022