Meet the real woman behind the public monarch
This major exhibition at Kensington Palace explored Queen Victoria’s private life behind her carefully-managed public image in Victoria: Woman and Crown.
The display was created to mark the 200th anniversary of Victoria's birth and re-examined how she balanced her role as a wife and mother with that of Queen of an expanding empire.
Top image: Queen Victoria by Franz Xaver Winterhalter, 1856. Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2019
Victoria learned that she was to become Queen when she was 18 years old, while still living at her childhood home of Kensington Palace. She held her first council meeting in the palace’s Red Saloon just a few hours later.
Victoria: Woman and Crown re-introduced Victoria as a young woman and explored her roles as a queen, wife, mother and empress.
Rare survivals from the Queen's private wardrobe – including a simple cotton petticoat and a pair of fashionable silver boots – provided a stark contrast to the black gowns she was so famous for wearing later in life.
The display also explored Victoria's complex love affair with India, from the story behind the Koh-i-noor diamond to her friendship with the deposed Maharajah Duleep Singh.
Examples of Victoria's personal diaries carefully inscribed in Urdu formed a centrepiece of the exhibition.
With the death of her beloved husband Albert in 1861, Victoria adopted a wardrobe of black gowns as a potent and public symbol of her grief. Responding to this central theme of loss, a specially commissioned installation created by artist Jane Wildgoose titled In Sorrow Shut considered the enduring symbolism of Victoria’s widowhood.
"The measurements of the petticoat correspond almost exactly to the measurements of her wedding dress…"
Conservator Viola Nicastro describes the process of getting Queen Victoria’s delicate petticoat ready for display in this short film.
Learn how we worked with members of the local South Asian community to present a nuanced account of Queen Victoria, her reign and her title of Empress of India in the Victoria: Woman and Crown exhibition.