A major new exhibition marking the 200th anniversary of Queen Victoria's birth, opening on 24 May 2019
On 24 May 1819, Princess Victoria was born at Kensington Palace, an infant who as Queen would one day rule over the largest empire the world had ever known.
To mark the bicentenary of this historic event, Historic Royal Palaces announces a major new exhibition at Kensington Palace in 2019, alongside a re-presentation of the rooms the young Victoria called home.
As the birthplace of the Victorian era, Kensington Palace played a central role in the shaping of this important monarch.
It was at the palace that Victoria spent her formative years under the gaze of her ever-present mother the Duchess of Kent, and it was in her apartment at Kensington that she went to bed a princess and woke up a queen.
Image: The First Council of Queen Victoria by James Brooks. This meeting took place in the Red Saloon at Kensington Palace on 20 June 1837, just a few hours after the Queen's accession to the throne.
Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2018.
Now, using new research by curators at Historic Royal Palaces — the independent charity which cares for Kensington Palace — the suite of rooms Victoria and her mother occupied will be reimagined in an evocative and family-friendly exploration of royal childhood.
Through a display of remarkable objects relating to her early years — including a poignant scrapbook of mementos created by her German governess, Baroness Lehzen, which goes on public display for the first time — the newly presented visitor route at Kensington Palace will reveal the story of the girl destined to be queen.
From the rapid conversion of a dining room into a birthing room, visitors will experience how Victoria's idyllic childhood became governed by the strict rules of the 'Kensington System', and how she escaped isolation and family feuding into a fantasy world of story writing, doll making and drawing inspired by her love of opera and ballet.
Her education, family life, closest friendships and bitter struggles will all be explored, charting how an indulged young princess blossomed into the independent and iconic monarch we remember today.
As head of an ever-growing family, Victoria had the unique challenge of balancing the role of wife and mother with that of Queen of an expanding empire.
In the palace's Pigott Gallery, a new exhibition will consider the private woman behind the public monarch, and re-examine her later life and legacy.
This new exhibition will see rare survivals from Victoria's private wardrobe go on display at Kensington Palace for the first time — including a simple cotton petticoat dated to around the time of her marriage, and a fashionable pair of silver boots recently acquired by Historic Royal Palaces with support from Art Fund.
These items will provide a stark contrast to the exquisitely made, black satin gowns she was so famous for wearing.
The exhibition will assess Victoria's power and influence following the death of her beloved Albert, and how she carefully curated her own public image.
As the most famous woman in the world at the dawn of the photographic age, Victoria understood and consciously harnessed this new technology, using it both to project an image of Imperial power across continents and document the minutia of family life.
The display will consider how Victoria's organisation of the marriages of her nine children — and those of her 42 grandchildren — into the ruling families of Europe marked a deliberate exercise in shaping dynastic politics across the continent, and earned her the nickname ‘the Grandmother of Europe’.
Victoria's complex love affair with India will also be explored, from her Anglicisation of the deposed Maharajah Duleep Singh to the role played by her Indian servant Abdul Karim, on whom the Queen bestowed the title of "Munshi" or "teacher". Under his tutelage, she learned to read and write Urdu and examples of her diaries carefully inscribed in the language form a centrepiece of the display, set alongside items showcasing the finest craftsmanship of an empire.
Both the exhibition and newly presented young Victoria route will open on 24 May 2019 and will be included in standard admission to Kensington Palace. Historic Royal Palaces members and National Art Pass members get in free.
Tickets will be on sale in early 2019.