Queen Victoria, Prince Albert and The Princess Royal, Victoria pose in the outfits they wore to the princesses wedding on the 25th January 1858. This picture was actually taken a few days prior to the wedding in preparation. The figure of Queen Victoria is blurred because she moved during the exposure period.
An awkward family portrait – Prince Arthur poses with his mother, Queen Victoria, on his 21st birthday, 1871.
Note – This post originally said that this was Prince Alfred – It is actually Prince Arthur.
At half past one in the afternoon on the 18th of May, 1836, within the walls of Kensington Palace a 16-year-old Queen – then Princess – Victoria was playing the piano and singing as she awaited to be told of the arrival of her uncle and two cousins. Her uncle – her mother’s eldest brother Ernest, Duke of Saxe-Coburg – accompanied by his sons, 17 year old Ernest and 16 year old Albert.
Officially, the Coburgs had come to England for Victoria’s 17th Birthday celebrations, but anyone within the intimate court and family circle knew they were here on orders of King Leopold of the Belgians (Victoria and Albert’s uncle). He had from the births of his niece and nephew dreamed of an alliance between the British royal family and the Coburgs. 20 years before, Leopold had married the daughter – and heir – of the Prince Regent (later George the 4th), Princess Charlotte. However, Leopold’s dreams of being Prince Consort of England were crushed when Charlotte died in childbirth, after birthing a stillborn son. If Leopold could not create the house of Coburg himself, then he would have to look elsewhere in his family.
She recorded in her diary for that day that-
(Ernest ) has dark hair, & fine dark eyes & eye-brows, but the nose & mouth are not good; he has a most kind, honest & intelligent expression in his countenance, & has a very good figure. Albert, who is just as tall as Ernest, but stouter, is extremely handsome; his hair is about the same colour as mine; his eyes are large & blue, & he has a beautiful nose, & a very sweet mouth with fine teeth; but the charm of his countenance is his expression, which is most delightful; c’est a la fois, full of goodness & sweetness, & very clever & intelligent.
At around four o’clock all three came to Victoria’s rooms and stayed for just over an hour whilst they generally got to know each other. During this hour Victoria was also delighted when her uncle Ernest gave her a present of a tame rainbow-coloured lory (a type of parrot).
Once they had left Victoria was frustrated at having to change for the evening and leave her cousins for a dinner at the Archbishop of York’s home (which awkwardly her cousins had not been invited to). The whole evening thereafter was spent with the dinners guests at the opera. Victoria adored the opera, and in her diary entry for this day she goes into great detail of the performance (which is quite usual for her), but I wonder if her mind wandered to the two young men at home in that crowd of old aristocrats.
Queen Victoria’s Journals
Becoming Queen Kate Williams
‘1/2lb of butter beet to a cream, 1/2lb of sugar, 4 eggs ½ lb of currents ¾ of a lb of flour a few drops of almond flavour drop them on paper ‘.
½ lb butter
½ lb sugar
¾ lb flour
½ lb currants
a few drops of almond extract
Cream the butter and add the sugar. Mix well, before adding the sifted flour and eggs. Mix until light and fluffy and tip in the currents and almond extract. Using your hands or a tablespoon, drop equal quantities of the mixture onto a greased baking sheet. Don’t put them too close together as the mixture will settle and expand outwards – you will end up with a cross between a cookie and a cake. Bake at 180 degrees Celsius for about 10 minutes or until firm to the touch and cool on a rack. This mixture haves about 24 biscuits. Happy baking!
Source – English Heritage
The idea that Queen Victoria was absolutely inconsolable and locked away in seclusion for the rest of her life after Prince Albert’s death is a myth. It is true the Queen took residence immediately after Albert’s death in her more rural homes of Windsor, Balmoral and Osborne, and refused to appear in public for some years. Concern for her health rose, and in 1864, 3 years after the death of Prince Albert, that it was suggested that the Queens outside attendant at Balmoral, John Brown, be sent to Osborne House encourage the Queen to ride out on her pony. He arrived in December that same year, and some time after his arrival Victoria made his position permanent, presenting him the title of ‘ The Queen’s Highland Servant’.
John Brown was born in 1826, in Crathienaird, Aberdeenshire, Scotland, his father being a tenant farmer. He first came into the queens service in 1848 as a Balmoral gillie to Prince Albert, and within the next 10 years he had become her regular outside attendant, leading her pony out on the highlands and helping the royal party with their needs out on the moors, from lacing Victoria’s tea with whisky to cooking potatoes.
Although Victoria held much affection for her brash highlander, others found him rude and much jealousy surrounded him due to his relationship with the Queen; the Lord Chamberlin called him a ‘Course animal’.
John would address Victoria as ‘wumman’, whilst Victoria looked past her Highlander’s faults, saying that his independence on whisky made him ‘bashful’. Her relative seclusion and easy relationship with John led to much rumour in the 1870s to their relationship, from a secret marriage to a secret child. The name Mrs Brown was on everyone’s lips. However, the Foreign Secretary himself, the Earl of Derby did record that Victoria and John slept in adjoining rooms, ‘contrary to etiquette and even decency’. Biographer A N Wilson claims they slept together in the same bed but never consummated their relationship. Controversially, Victoria also used John for séances where they, with close courtiers, would attempt to contact the spirit of Prince Albert. These séances would go on in absolute secrecy in small closets, such as the Blue Drawing Room at Windsor Castle (where Prince Albert died) and the Horn Room at Osborne House.
Despite the rumours they faced, Victoria remained unmoving on any removal of John Brown from her side, whilst he continued his loyal and faithful service. On at least one occasion he disarmed an attacker to the Queen (in 1872) and Victoria relied on him more and more, writing –
‘I feel I have here always in the House a good, devoted soul… whose only object and interest is in my service, & God knows how much I want to be taken care of.’
For all their closeness and love, be romantic or otherwise, for one another, a life-long relationship was again not to be for Victoria. In March 1883 he caught a chill but refused to go to bed, continuing his devoted service to Victoria. Thus, on the 27th that same month, John Brown died, age 56, at Windsor Castle. Once again, Victoria found herself devastated at the death of the man she loved. She wrote –
‘It is not only the loss of a servant but of a real friend.’
Whilst her private secretary Sir Henry Ponsonby wrote of Brown –
‘He was the only person who could fight and make the Queen do what she did not wish. He did not always succeed, nor was his advice always the best. But I believe he was honest, and with all his want of education, his roughness, his prejudices and his other faults, he was undoubtedly a most excellent servant to her.’
After John’s death, Victoria commissioned a life-sized statue of her Highland servant, and had it placed in the grounds of Balmoral. She remembered her faithful John until her death in 1901, leaving strict instructions that shy must be buried, among much else, with a lock of his hair, a photograph of him, and wearing a ring given to her by John, that had belonged to his mother.
Although this request had been carried out, upon her death her son the new King Edward VII destroyed much material written by Victoria about Brown, busts and photographs of him, in addition moving Victoria’s statue of John to a less conspicuous site in Balmorals grounds where it remains today. Not only did Edward destroy as much evidence of Brown’s relationship with his mother as possible, Victoria had left her many diaries to her youngest daughter Beatrice to transcribe and edit for publication. This, of course, means much on John Brown, especially if explicit or inappropriate, would have been edited and the originals all burnt.
It seems we will never know the extent of Victoria and John Brown’s relationship, but from what we can piece together Victoria took much comfort, reliance and friendship from John, whilst he was a most loyal and honest servant to her.
Sources – English Heritage, A N Wilson
Morning dress worn by Queen Victoria, made in 1894.
The Met Museum
Beautiful pink silk and Honiton lace parasol, featuring an enamel hand wearing a bracelet inscribed with the words ‘I GOVERN’, acting as the opening mechanism.
Thought to have been presented to Queen Victoria at the opening of Prince Alberts Great Exhibition on the 1st of May 1851.