British History 2:
From the French Revolution to World War II
Topic: "Majesties and Royal Highnesses"

by Laura Cenicola & Mareike Aumann

6.1) Material for Discussion

Below you can find various pictures, photos caricatures or eye witness accounts concerning Queen Victoria, Prince Albert and John Brown, which serve as material for discussion. Please look at them - you can click on each of the pictures to enlarge them.

 

Queen Victoria together with her husband Prince Albert and their children:


"Windsor Castle in Modern Times" by Sir Edwin Landseer, 1841-1845:

Task: Try to analyse this picture, focusing on Queen Victoria's and Prince Albert's position and expressions (and not putting the emphasis on the child or all the animals). Who seems to be depicted as the one who is higher in rank in this picture?

Our interpretation: The one who was higher in rank obviously was Queen Victoria - in reality. However on this picture it is not that obvious. The picture shows queen Victoria at the age of around 24, her husband prince Albert, one child of them and lots of animals (dogs, geese and ducks) in a Victorian-looking room. While prince Albert is sitting in an armchair, queen Victoria is standing beside the armchair. Albert is sitting in an 'easy-going' way, petting the dog that is sitting in front of him and tolerating that another dog is sitting next to him on the same armchair. Victoria's bearing does not seem as easy as Albert's: Her back is straight, her shoulders are well positioned and her arms/hands are in an appropriate position as well. In her hands Victoria has a flower, but it is not clear whether she just got it from Albert or not. Anyhow they are looking at each other: While Victoria is smiling and her gaze seems to be very strong and caring at the same time, Albert is looking at her rather 'normally', not really smiling. She seems to be the one that is seriously in love, while Albert appears to be a bit 'cooler' and not as romantic as the queen. To put it in a nutshell: Victoria is depicted as a young girl that loves her husband more than everything in the world, which probably makes her appear slightly naiive and maybe also easy to influence by Albert. However the fact that Albert is sitting and that Victoria is looking down on him weighs more heavily and thus our conclusion is that Victoria is nevertheless represented as the person who is higher in rank on this picture, although there are some details in the picture which could lead to another point of view.

 

Family Portrait of Queen Victiria, Prince Albert and five of their children:

Task: Try to analyse this portrait, focusing on Queen Victoria's and Prince Albert's position and expressions (and not putting the emphasis on the children). Who seems to be depicted as the one who is higher in rank in this picture?

Our interpretation: The one who was higher in rank obviously was Queen Victoria - in reality - and on this picture as well, to our opinion. This picture shows a family portrait of Queen Victoria and her husband Albert together with five of their children. Victoria and Albert are sitting on their thrones and the chidlren are playing around all over the place. It is striking that Victoria sits on her throne in a completely different way than Albert sits on his one. Although she was rather put in the background of the picture, she seems much more 'royal' to the viewer, being in a much more appropriate position - considering the rank she has as queen, which ought to be reflected in this family portrait. While Albert sits there in a rather easy way (almost nonchalant-like), Victoria has a much more serious position: Her back is straight, she put each arm on one armrest, the way she put her legs and hands: Eyerything just seems to be fitting and even her gaze reflects a high royal charisma. While Victoria seems to be looking at the viewer, Albert neither looks at the viewer nor at Victoria, but rather towards the back of the portrait, presumably at the child that is standing near the queen, who is nevertheless seeming to have the whole situation (with the children and everything) under control, in contrast to her husband who does not really do anything useful: He does not look royal, he does not seem to be taking care of his wife or of his children who are playing in the foreground of the portrait. As a result one can thus say that Victoria is depicted as the person who is higher in rank on this picture, although she was rather put into the back of it. On the contrary Albert does not really play any important role in this picture.

 

 

After Albert's death:

 

Victoria fell into a deep state of mourning. However, she visited Wolverhamption in 1866 as one of her first appearances in public again:

Queen Victoria's Visit to Wolverhampton on 30th November 1866:


Background:

In 1861 Queen Victoria's husband, Prince Albert, died and she went into a period of deep mourning. Led by their mayor, George Lees Underhill the people of Wolverhampton began a subscription to raise funds to erect a statue in his memory. Queen Victoria was consulted as to what form she wished the memorial to take and it was agreed that a statue of him mounted on his favourite horse and dressed in the uniform of a field marshall would be appropriate. Thomas Thorneycroft, a renowned sculptor was chosen to make the statue. Eventually the statue was finished in 1866.
It was decided that the Queen should be asked to come in person to Wolverhampton to unveil the memorial to her husband even though she had still not made any public appearances outside of London by 1866. Prominent men from Wolverhampton including the Mayor, two Aldermen and the Town Clerk travelled to London and put their request to the Queen through the Home Secretary. They expected Queen Victoria to refuse since she had rejected previous requests from Manchester and Liverpool. Surprisingly, she agreed and declared that she would visit Wolverhampton in 9 days time.


Preparations for the visit went ahead at full speed.
The Wolverhampton Chronicle reported that:

"Every man who could handle a pick, saw a board, or drive a nail, found employment,...gas fitters and professional decorators...thronged the streets. All business except such as was connected with the ceremony was suspended.
Houses were decorated and streets were lit with illuminations. Arches were decorated with tools to show the towns' main industries were erected in different parts of Wolverhampton.
Queen Victoria arrived by train with other members of her family and rode in a procession of open carriages through the town to Market Place where the statue was veiled by curtains in the national colours. A pavilion had been erected to protect the royal party along with a grandstand for two thousand people. The mayor John Morris, who read to her a speech of welcome and handed her a copy of it, received the Queen. Queen Victoria was so impressed with the reception she had been given that she asked John Morris to kneel and borrowing a sword from Lord Alfred Paget, astonished everyone by making him Sir John. She then signalled to Mr Thorneycroft the sculptor, who drew a cord to complete the unveiling and she walked around to inspect the memorial. After the ceremony the royal party took a different route back to the Great Western Railway where they had lunch before leaving for Windsor.
The day had been declared a public holiday by the Mayor and people flocked all over the Midlands to try and catch a glimpse of the Queen since she rarely visited the area. Schools and factories closed and the people of Wolverhampton thronged onto the streets to enjoy the illuminations and witnessed a grand firework display at the racecourse (now West Park)."


This is an eye witness account of the day Queen Victoria visited Wolverhampton from the reminiscences of a police officer who was on duty on the 30th November 1866:

The account has been transcribed from a manuscript as it was written with no alterations. Note that the date is incorrect and that his spelling and punctuation are 'unusual.'
Tit Bits on Police Life by Sergeant George S. Ray:

"Her Majesty Queen Victoria visited the Borough of Wolverhampton and and unveiled Prince Concerts Statue in Queen Square until then called the Market Square Since Wolverhampton as Been Wolverhampton there was ever so meney people in it in one day Every street lined with people the short route She went and the Greatest Respect shown to her and her party The police had a long and tyerson Day at it I was marched down to the out Side of the Low Levell Station with a Vast number of others and took up my position the whole Line of Route was Lined with policemen and Rifle Vollenteers - After the prossion had passed I followed up to the top of Queen Street and than made my way into the Square by the statue We where on duty up to a Late houre at night The people where very orderly but the pickpockets had a fare day One of street cleaners named Rogers informed me that he found upward of sixty purses in cleaning out the Gulley holes on his Round."   (Source)

 

 

Victoria and her relationship to John Brown:


1863: Queen Victoria on 'Fyvie' with John Brown at Balmoral Castle:

This photograph was originally conceived by Queen Victoria as a tribute to her late husband, Prince Albert, taken on the second anniversary of her last 'Great Expedition' with him into the Highlands. G.W.Wilson (the photographer) subsequently gained permission to distribute it as a carte de visite, cropping out another figure to focus attention on the mourning Queen's relationship with her faithful servant, John Brown. In its first year of publication, this and a few similar images sold near 13,000 copies, their popularity doubtless heightened by the rumour-mongers who referred to the Queen as 'Mrs Brown'. (Source)

Task: Please look closely at the photo above and describe Queen Victoria's and John Brown's facial expressions. What mood does the photo express?

Our opinion: The facial expression of Queen Victoria reflects the strong feeling of pure sadness. The photo was taken in 1863, two years after Albert's death. Victoria fell into a deep state of mourning, which the position of her body expresses as well: Her shoulders are hanging down and her whole body seems to be 'crouched down'. She is sitting on the horse with no vitality or pleasure at all. Her blank and 'empty' face shows that she must be feeling inconsolable and that she wants nothing but Albert back in her life. Deep sorrow and grief can be seen in her eyes, which are looking downwards. Also, her cheeks are hanging down and there is absolutely no smile on her face. She seems to be desperate and dull, as if the world does not really make sense for her without Albert.
John Brown is standing beside Victoria's horse and he is not able to comfort her either - and he seems to know that he cannot do anything for her but simply being present. John Brown's facial expression shows loyalty and faithfulness, but also sympathy. He seems to be doing his job on the one hand, but on the other hand he seems to be a caring person and to be able to understand the Queen's feelings, because he probably feels similarly.

 

Sir Edwin Landseer. "Queen Victoria at Osborne House". 1865-67.

Question: Can you identify what the Queen is doing on the horse?

Answer: The image at the top depicts Queen Victoria and John Brown at Osborne House, and was painted by Sir Edwin Landseer in 1866 (now in the Royal Collection). The Queen is reading dispatches from the box by the feet of John Brown; other letters litter the floor. On the seat to the left are the Princesses Helena and Louise. (Source)

 

Caricature: "Queen Victoria in her bath with John Brown in attendance"

 

 

Task: What is the caricature of Queen Victoria and her servant John Brown trying to ridicule?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Answer: The caricature ridicules the relationship between Queen Victoria and her personal servant John Brown, with whom she had a very special friendship after her husband Albert had died. There were many rumours and Queen Victoria even was referred to as 'Mrs. Brown', because John Brown was the only person she really turned to after Albert's death.
The picture itself shows Queen Victoria sitting naked in a bathtub, presumably at Windsor castle. She reads a book and she has her royal crown put on her head. Her facial expression is rather cross and 'po-faced' and she seems to be waiting for something, presumably for her servant John Brown to come, which the gesture of her hand indicates. In the background one can see John Brown just coming in. He is smoking a pipe and he has a glass, a bottle and a towel in his hands. He seems to be rather easy and relaxed in his way of entering the room where the Queen is just having a bath and is sitting naked in the bathtub. In prude Victorian times this would of course not have been possible at all, but the caricature is using exactly this fact in order to get the main message across. The caricature shows the kind of relationship Queen Victoria and her servant John Brown are said to have had by rumours: A love affair of the non-typical Victorian manner.