Princess Victoria’s interests
An unhappy beginning
Victoria’s childhood at Kensington Palace was not an entirely happy one. Her mother, the Duchess of Kent, and her ambitious adviser, Sir John Conroy, brought her up very strictly. They controlled who Victoria was allowed to see – she had very few friends her own age – and they kept her away from Court. Find out about Victoria and the Kensington System
Victoria had a vast range of hobbies and interests to brighten these lonely hours. She loved to sing, to draw, to play music and to ride her horse in Kensington Gardens. She also adored her little King Charles spaniel, Dash, who she showered with affection. She even dressed him up in a red jacket and trousers from time to time.
As a young princess, Victoria had several Shetland ponies, horses, dogs and even a parrot called Lory. Of all her pets, Victoria’s favourite was Dash, a King Charles spaniel.
Dash belonged to Victoria’s mother, the Duchess of Kent, but the princess soon adopted him. He remained her near constant companion throughout her teenage years. Immediately after her coronation in 1838, she returned home to give Dash a bath. He died in 1840, and is buried in Windsor Home Park under a tombstone bearing an inscription which Victoria wrote herself.
Victoria received instruction in music from a young age. As a teenager, she had 'delightful lessons' from the famous opera singer Luigi LaBlache. As a child, Victoria attended the ballet and opera as frequently as possible, and even dressed several of her dolls as her favourite characters from the stage.
In some respects Victoria was just like most little girls her age. She loved to play with her collection of 132 tiny wooden dolls. She made beautiful clothes for them, with a little help from her beloved governess, Baroness Lehzen. Victoria dressed her dolls to resemble well-known Society ladies and her favourite characters from the theatre. She scrupulously recorded her dolls’ details in a notebook, including their names and who dressed them.
Victoria was a keen amateur artist throughout her life. At the age of seven, she began receiving twice-weekly drawing lessons from the artist Richard Westall R.A.
These lessons continued until Westall’s death in 1836, but Victoria’s passion for sketching and painting stayed with her until her final years. As a child, she drew the things that surrounded her; her governess, her dog Dash, visiting ladies and stars of the stage all feature in her work.
Entrance to the exhibition is included in your Kensington Palace admission ticket and is free for members. Buy tickets