Tag Archives: Great Britain

Queen Victoria in Her Coronation Robes

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

 

 

 

 

 

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Her Majesty the Queen

Lydia de Burgh  Oil Painting  1955

Happy 90th birthday, dear Queen!  I could spend days and days writing about Her Majesty, but instead I’ll just hit some highlights.

HRH Princess Elizabeth of York was being raised to be a royal princess, the niece of King Edward VIII.  It wasn’t until she was 10 years old that her future changed.  The King abdicated for the love of a woman (certainly worthy of a post of its own in the future.)  She would now become the daughter of the King and heir to the throne.

At just thirteen she met the man she would marry and never had eyes for anyone else.  He was the extremely handsome and downright dreamy navy man, Philip, Prince of Greece and Denmark.  Not a bad catch.  This wasn’t an arranged marriage and was discouraged by her father, the King.  Again, look out for a future post about their lives together.

At 18 years old, after much persuasion, her father allowed her to join the war effort.  She joined the Auxiliary Territorial Service with the rank of subaltern.  She was trained as a mechanic and ambulance driver during WWII.  To this day, she still loves to drive.  She is the only female member of the royal family to join the military in history.

In 1947 she wed her prince, who gave up his titles, his religion, and his navy career to become a naturalized British citizen and the Duke of Edinburgh.  She used her war rations to purchase her wedding dress.  The ingredients for her cake were donated by the Australian Girl Guides.  She would send a layer of her cake to Australia in appreciation.

Just a few years later at the young age of 25 she would ascend the throne after the death of her father.  Officially, her title was by the Grace of God, of Great Britain, Ireland and the British Dominions beyond the Seas, Queen, Defender of the Faith.  She was Queen not only of Great Britain, but also Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and numerous islands and smaller countries.  Throughout her reign she has been the Queen of many countries and territories, including Pakistan, Kenya, Jamaica, Malta, and many others.  Her reign is now the longest in British history.

Lydia de Burgh was the first resident Irish artist commissioned to paint Her Majesty the Queen in 1955.  She was a student of the masters, and I believe that shows in this portrait, which I love.  The coloring of her skin is lovely, and the detail in the fabrics and the wall are subtle but intricate.

The queen is young and pensive, but somehow strong and determined.  I think her face has a hint of sadness at the loss of her father while he was so young, and also the loss of the freedom she would have enjoyed as the niece of a king as opposed to a queen at 25.

You can send Her Majesty a birthday greeting here: https://www.royal.uk/messagetothequeen