To mark the 200th anniversary of Queen Victoria’s birth on 24 May, we look at some of the Special Collections that we hold relating to the monarch known as the Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and Empress of India.The most notable material is a cache of several hundred letters between Queen Victoria and Lord Palmerston, 1837-65, which is part of the Broadlands Archive. This provides an insight into the duties of being queen. Early letters seek Palmerston’s advice on matters such as diplomatic protocol, but from the 1840s it focuses more fully with foreign affairs, especially with regard to Europe. The letters discuss matters such as unrest in France, developments in Spain and Italy and diplomatic appointments. Speeches of Queen Victoria can also be found amongst this correspondence, such as one written in the hand of Lord Melbourne on the Treaty of London and relations between Britain and France.
Other informative items in the Palmerston Papers include a letter from Sir G.C. Lewis to Lord Palmerston, regarding allocation of an allowance to the Princess Royal, dating 25 May 1857, and a letter discussing arrangements for security for the Queen’s home in the Isle of Wight, Osborne House. In Lord Palmerston’s miscellaneous and patronage correspondence, we are applications for appointments to the Queen, such as to be performer to her at Brighton, or to be her perfumer or hairdresser.The First Duke of Wellington Papers include bundles of papers from the Duchess of Kent discussing Queen Victoria’s education, correspondence discussing the preparations for the Queen’s confinement with her second child, her speeches and addresses, and her visits to European countries such as France and Belgium.
The Special Collections contains material on various events relating to Victoria’s reign from her accession to a golden jubilee visit in 1887.In Lord Palmerston‘s papers as Foreign Secretary, for instance, are copies of letters from foreign diplomats in London to their respective courts announcing the occasion of Victoria’s accession. Queen Victoria by Richard R. Holmes, F.S.A., who was Librarian to the Queen, contains illustrations of the Queen’s First Council, and provides interesting information about her accession, such as quotes from letters of congratulations from correspondents such as Queen Victoria’s cousin, and future husband, Prince Albert:
“My dearest cousin – I must write you a few lines to present you my sincerest felicitations on that great change which has taken place in your life. Now you are the Queen of the mightiest land of Europe, in your hand lies the happiness of millions.” [Queen Victoria by Richard R. Holmes, F.S.A., p.48]While The Progresses of her Majesty Queen Victoria and his Royal Highness Prince Albert in France, Belgium, and England with One Hundred Engravings by William Frederick Wakeman (1844) provides illustrations and descriptions of the visits by the Queen and her husband made in the 1840s. For her coronation, there is correspondence between Lord Palmerston relative to the coronation and we hold rare books in our printed collections which describe the event. In the 1838 issue of The Gentleman’s Magazine, the crown is given particular attention:
“The new State Crown, made for her Majesty by Messrs. Rundell and Bridge, is exceedingly costly and elegant. The old crown, made for George IV. weighed upwards of seven pounds, and was much too large for the head of her present Majesty. The new crown weights little more than three pounds. It is composed of hoops of silver, enclosing a cap of deep purple, or rather blue velvet; the hoops are completely covered with precious stones, surmounted with a ball, covered with small diamonds, and having a Maltese cross of brilliants on the top of it.” [The Gentleman’s Magazine, 1838, p.200]
We also hold the publication released by Queen Victoria’s printers that details the form and order of the coronation. The volume goes into great detail, with chapters on the ‘investing with the Royal Robe’ and the ‘putting on of the Crown’.Material relating to Queen Victoria can also be found in the Wellington Pamphlets, such as “a letter to the people of Great Britain” relating to the Queen’s marriage to Prince Albert. The letter concludes with urging the reader to welcome Prince Albert, and to treat him “with that consideration… the Queen’s Consort is entitled to expect from her people.” [The marriage of the Queen to Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg: considered, in a letter to the people of Great Britain by Fair play (1840) Rare Books Well. Pamph. 1201/7, p.23.]
We also hold items referring to Queen Victoria’s visit to Southampton and celebrations that took place in the city to mark the Queen’s Jubilee in 1887. Here is a quote describing the Queen’s visit to Southampton:
“The Queen and Prince Albert, in a carriage-and-four, and escorted by a detachment of the 7th Hussars, proceeded to the town. An immense assemblage had congregated outside the railway station, and when her Majesty and the Prince issued from it, they were received with a loud burst of cheers from the persons assembled. Throughout the whole line of route the streets were decked with flags and banners, and upon entering High Street from Above-Bar the sight was very splendid.” [The Progresses of her Majesty Queen Victoria and his Royal Highness Prince Albert in France, Belgium, and England with One Hundred Engravings by William Frederick Wakeman, p. 3]As we now celebrate another anniversary – this time the bicentenary since the birth of Queen Victoria – there are many events being planned, including at Osborne House on the Isle of Wight. We wish you a very happy birthday Queen Victoria!