Victoria's Self-Fashioning: curating the royal image for dynasty, nation, and empire

International Conference 20-21 May 2019

International Conference 20-21 May 2019

An international conference examining Queen Victoria's role in the fashioning of her own image, and the consequences of this for monarchy, nation, and empire from the nineteenth century to the present.

Queen Victoria by Franz Xaver Winterhalter, 1856. Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2019


Queen Victoria's name is used to identify an era. Over her long reign the British Empire covered a quarter of the globe. The birth of photography, and an explosion in print culture and the press, allowed her image to touch its furthest reaches. Her image, painted and sculpted, still dominates public spaces scattered across continents. Narratives of Victoria's life have been rehearsed continuously since her death, testament to a legacy of enduring significance.

However, these narratives have often presented her as a curiously inert figure, detached from public life and from the political shaping of the monarchy. As 2019 will be the bicentenary of Victoria's birth at Kensington Palace, this is an opportune moment to assess the myths that commonly circulate about her.

Victoria's creation of her own image

This conference seeks to challenge these orthodoxies by examining Victoria herself as a pro-active political agent in the construction of an image for nineteenth century monarchy, and therefore directly implicated in what would become the Queen Victoria phenomenon.

The ambition is to explore Victoria's creation of her own image, and the examine ways in which she managed her conflicted role, as a Queen Regnant, but also a wife and mother, including through painting, photography, sculpture and dress.

Queen Victoria, dressed in white, is seated in the Red Saloon at Kensington Palace at the head of a table covered with red cloth; she holds a declaration in her right hand and is confronted by her Accession Council; Lord Melbourne stands in the centre.
Portrait of Queen Victoria. She wears the ribbon and star of the Garter and the Crown of India.

Mapping the journeys of Victoria's image

It will also explore the journeys of this self-curated image from Victoria's private sphere to the public realm, and particularly across the British Empire, examining the ways in which the image has been both in her own reign and in the contemporary world, to challenge imperial power and to counter critical responses to Queen and Empress.

The conference includes a showing of film relating to Queen Victoria’s history complied by Bryony Dixon, Curator of Silent Film, the British Film Institute, and a Queen Victoria focused magic lantern presentation by Dr Jeremy Brooker.

There will be private views of two new exhibitions at Kensington Palace: Victoria: A Royal Childhood and Victoria: Woman and Crown.

Booking information

Keynote Speaker: Professor John Plunkett, University of Exeter.

Conference fee: £120

For tickets:

A limited number of tickets have been reserved for students at £30, on a first come basis.

For any information queries and to apply for a student ticket, please contact Dr Sara Ayres [email protected]

 Co-organized by Historic Royal Palaces and the University of Warwick, in partnership with the Royal Collection Trust, the Bodleian Library, the University of Oxford and the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, London, to mark the bicentenary of Queen Victoria’s birth.

AHRC Research Networking

This conference is part of a one year Research Network project funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council’s Research Networking scheme.

Portrait of Queen Victoria on a green background
Things to see Highlights

Explore Queen Victoria’s private life behind her carefully-managed public image in this major new exhibition at Kensington Palace.

Daily until 05 January 2020

Kensington Palace

Included in palace admission (members go free)

Full-length, standing, facing the viewer, head turned half to the right, wearing a white dress with a diaphanous blue wrap, holding a posie of flowers in her right hand; beside a path in a parkland setting, with Kensington Palace in the distance, on the right.
Things to see Highlights

Discover the story of Princess Victoria, the young girl destined to be queen, in the rooms where she was born and raised at Kensington Palace.


Kensington Palace

Included in palace admission (members go free)