A major new exhibition, unveiled as part of the £12 million transformation of Kensington Palace by independent charity Historic Royal Palaces, will explore the extraordinary life and reign of one of the palace’s most famous residents - Queen Victoria. This intensely personal story starts with Victoria’s early years at Kensington Palace and will be told entirely from her perspective. This intimate account of Britain’s longest serving monarch will be told for the first time in her childhood home.
Over ten rooms, comprising nearly the whole first floor of the public side of the palace, visitors will get to know the woman behind the crown. They will be guided through the exhibition by Queen Victoria’s own words and memories. Quotes from her personal journals and letters will highlight the room in which she was born, the very spot where she first set eyes on her beloved Prince Albert and the place where she spent her first moments as Queen. Some rooms will explore an evocative moment which occurred at Kensington Palace such as her first day as Queen. The intimidating atmosphere of 18-year-old Victoria’s first official meeting with her Privy Council on 20 June 1837 will be brought to life in the beautifully restored Red Saloon. Other rooms evoke a particular theme such as the Queen’s public role or the quiet moments of family life.
The exhibition includes more than 300 magnificent items from Historic Royal Palaces’ own collections and eleven British lenders. Visitors will see childhood items such as the tiny black silk baby shoes Victoria wore as a Princess and an enchanting collection of dolls which the Princess modeled on court ladies and her idols from the stage. The simple and elegant ivory silk wedding dress she wore for her marriage to Prince Albert in 1840 will be displayed for the first time in a decade. Personal items such as the watercolour box Queen Victoria used to paint her favourite landscapes, Prince Albert’s impressive mahogany dressing case and a teething ring from the royal nursery will illustrate the day-to-day lives of the royal couple.
Gifts that Victoria and Albert exchanged with one another explore their famous romance. Exhibits include a manuscript of music that Albert composed for Victoria during their engagement in 1839, a stunning gold, pearl and ruby suite of jewellery which Prince Albert gave to Victoria on Christmas Eve 1842, and sketches they made of one another in the first year of their marriage.
Moving through the exhibition visitors will find Franz Xaver Winterhalter’s magnificent 1856 portrait of the Queen, wearing a striking red dress and a magnificent brooch in which is set the thousand-year-old Koh-i-noor diamond. The portrait will loom over an imposing, oversized desk containing personal letters exchanged between the Queen and her prime ministers. A bold red and gold military-style jacket that the Queen wore to review troops newly returned from the Crimean War further illustrates her official role. The rooms will display correspondence exchanged between Prince Albert and the commissioners of the Great Exhibition. Extraordinary items the royal couple lent and purchased from the 1851 festival will be seen together with quotes from a loving Victoria who was immensely proud of her husband’s greatest achievement.
Further on in the exhibition visitors reach a heartbreaking moment in Victoria’s life, Albert’s untimely death in 1861 would affect the monarch for the rest of her life. A leather-bound copy of Sir Walter Scott’s novel, ‘Peveril of the Peak’, the book being read to the Prince during the last moments of his life, marked with a black edged bookmark by the Queen - at the page they had last finished. The Queen’s unshakable grief is illustrated by a moving display of her earliest surviving mourning dress alongside mourning outfits worn by their two youngest children, Prince Leopold and Princess Beatrice. Poignant accessories worn by the Queen after his death will accompany the display, such as a bracelet containing commemorative charms, a crystal and gold heart pendant containing a lock of his hair and a handkerchief embroidered with black and white tears.
Queen Victoria’s colourful Diamond Jubilee celebrations in 1897 will be brought to life in the penultimate room of the exhibition, with rare archive moving film footage depicting the Queen in her carriage surrounded by adoring crowds, an animated interpretation of her procession through the packed streets of London and a modern interpretation of original Diamond Jubilee bunting. Finally, visitors will also have time to reflect on her remarkable legacy as Queen in the final room which culminates a selection of unique objects celebrating the Queen’s reign.
Historic Royal Palaces curator, Deirdre Murphy, said: “Victoria Revealed will offer truly personal insights into the life and reign of Britain’s longest-reigning monarch, through displays of some of her most treasured possessions in her childhood home. We chose to tell the story solely in her words, using extracts from the Queen’s journals and letters, to help bring the story to life. Visitors will discover more about the Queen’s isolated upbringing at Kensington Palace, her role as wife and mother, and the constant interplay between her private family life and her role as ruler of an Empire.”
Queen Victoria was born at Kensington Palace and spent her childhood there under the watchful eye of her mother. It was Kensington Palace where she was informed of the death of her uncle King William IV in 1837 and became Queen, and also the place where she first set eyes on her beloved Prince Albert. It was Queen Victoria who first opened Kensington Palace to the public in 1899.
Victoria Revealed is part of Historic Royal Palaces’ £12 million major capital project to transform the visitor experience of Kensington Palace in time for Her Majesty The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and the London Olympics. The re-opening of the palace on 26 March 2012 will also include an exciting new presentation of the magnificent State Apartments, an elegant installation of dresses worn by Diana, Princess of Wales, and improved visitor facilities including new public gardens, café, shop, and Clore Learning Centre.
OPERA Amsterdam were responsible for the interior and exhibition design for 'Victoria Revealed'.
Notes to editors
For more information please contact the Historic Royal Palaces press office: +44 (0)20 3166 6307/6166 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Historic Royal Palaces is the independent charity that looks after the Tower of London, Hampton Court Palace, the Banqueting House, Kensington Palace and Kew Palace. We help everyone explore the story of how monarchs and people have shaped society, in some of the greatest palaces ever built. We receive no funding from the Government or the Crown, so we depend on the support of our visitors, members, donors, volunteers and sponsors.
These palaces are owned by The Queen on behalf of the nation, and we manage them for the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport.
We believe in four principles. Guardianship: giving these palaces a future as long and valuable as their past. Discovery: encouraging people to make links with their own lives and today’s world. Showmanship: doing everything with panache. Independence: having our own point of view and finding new ways to do our work. Registered charity number 1068852