Behind the scenes: Queen Victoria at Kensington Palace
Queen Victoria was the leading matriarch of Kensington Palace and her 63 year reign has gone down in history as one of the most impactful, both for the way she was remembered and the way she kept peace in her court and country. Despite the demands of her duties, she wasn’t as stern or serious as it is commonly thought. In the exhibition, Victoria Revealed, at Kensington Palace you can explore Queen Victoria’s more human side and learn about the challenges this young monarch faced throughout her childhood, as well as read personal excerpts from her daily journal which she kept from the age of 13. Queen Victoria (who was in fact christened Alexandrina Victoria) was born on the 24th May, 1819 in Kensington Palace, and was fatherless before her first birthday. She led a lonely and unhappy childhood and had few friends except for her half-sister, Feodora, and her governess, Louise, with whom she was very close. Victoria also had a close bond with animals and kept many pets, including her favourite King Charles spaniel, Dash. In her personal menagerie she had Shetland ponies, horses and even a parrot called Lory. When she wasn’t entertaining her furry friends she, like any upper class girl, took lessons in reading, writing, languages and music. Later, during her teens and into adult life, Queen Victoria liked to express her artistic flair by writing short stories and painting water-colours. You can see some of her private works in the exhibition. Although Queen Victoria was born into the royal family – and grew up in Kensington Palace – she was every bit like a normal child. With a penchant for all things girly and fun, she had a huge play doll collection (132 in total) for which she made clothes and played dress up. Her favourite pastime was dressing up her dolls as esteemed Society Ladies, (which gives you a glimpse into Victoria’s early awareness of the importance of fashion and power). Crowned Queen of England in 1837, when she was just 18, Victoria was very keen to please those around her – and on the whole, was very successful. The only fault that people could find with her (if they were being picky) was her size – she barely measured 5ft! As she grew older and took on the responsibilities of her role, she was very aware of the importance of royal dress and used this innate sense of style to her advantage when dressing for the public. It was through her experiments with fashion that the ‘Victorian’ style was born – and she was respected and emulated by women across the country throughout the six decades of her reign. Did you know it was Queen Victoria who started the trend for white wedding dresses? She broke the mould, as it was tradition for royals to get married in royal gowns – not something as common as a white dress! Queen Victoria was admired throughout her reign (unlike some of the royals that followed her). Her popularity meant she had suitors vying for her hand left, right and centre, but no one stood out to her as much as Prince Albert – her perfect husband-to-be, and it was actually she who finally proposed to him! Their love blossomed over three years from their first encounter in 1836, and their devotion to one another lasted through a long and happy marriage until Prince Albert’s death in 1861. It took Queen Victoria several years before she was to make another public appearance, as she was left absolutely heartbroken and inconsolable. Even then, she only dressed in mourning black, gaining the nickname the ‘Widow of Windsor’. Although her reign and royal duties lasted nearly 64 years, she was a devoted (albeit strict) mother of nine. It was as though her frosty, unhappy and lonely childhood made her want to provide the world and more for her own children. From her upbringing as an only child with absent parents, she grew to be a firm matriarch in both her family and on the throne. Some say she was a controlling, micromanaging mother who had a tense relationship with her children. But, whose mother hasn’t been slightly controlling at times? And whose mother has had to contend with being a mother and a queen? At Kensington Palace, you can explore the life Victoria led as a child and revisit her past through personal tales and memorabilia. Walk through the rooms and chambers in which she played; step back in time, and take a Kensington Palace tour, as Victoria would have experienced it. Get to know this unforgettable monarch, from rascal to ruler. With The London Pass you can visit Kensington Palace without further payment and save time with VIP Fast Track Entry. Take a tour of Kensington Palace and explore the highly-rated Victoria Revealed exhibition for free.