Charles Robert Leslie Oil on Canvas 1838
“Farewell best beloved, here at last I shall rest with thee, with thee in Christ I shall rise.” On this day, January 22 of 1901, Queen Victoria died. She was 82 years old. Her reign as Queen of Great Britain, Defender of the Faith, and Empress of India was 64 years. Until very recently when Queen Elizabeth II reached her Sapphire Jubilee, she was the longest reigning monarch in British history. The above quote is inscribed above the mausoleum door that is the resting place for both Queen Victoria and Prince Albert.
I’ve always loved to learn about royal families, and Victoria and Albert rank just below Henry VIII and above Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip in my obsession. Victoria and I have in common our shorter stature, although for once I’m slighter taller than someone. I also always imagined we shared similar personality traits, as many of portraits show a stern expression that I read as logical, precise, and no-nonsense.
We also now share the nearly unendurable grief of the loss of a partner at the young age of 42. I used to find her seclusion after Albert’s death intriguing and romantic, but I never thought she lost her ability to lead without her partner. I now realize she didn’t lose her abilities, she simply lost her will. And although I don’t stand at the head of an empire that never sleeps, I can certainly relate to her withdrawal. She and I are more alike than I had imagined.
This portrait was painted shortly after her coronation in 1837. She kneels at the altar in Westminster Abbey in her coronation robes. Her hands are crossed over her heart in preparation to pour her soul into her country. Her eyes are lowered in a sense of solemnity. The luscious gold fabric engulfs her small frame, as many envisioned the task as monarch would similarly engulf her. Her critics were wrong.
Learn more about the reign of Queen Victoria here: Queen Victoria.
Charles Robert Leslie showed an ability for art at a young age and left Philadelphia to study in England. His most well-known works are scenes from great literature, like Shakespeare and Moliere. He was also a writer himself, as he wrote a biography of arguably the greatest (if not, certainly most beloved) English painter John Constable, and was also a prolific letter writer.
This painting is located (fittingly) at the Victoria and Albert Museum. See its listing here: V&A