A Victorian best bettered

QueenSteamDM_468x314Queen Elizabeth II is to mark the day she becomes Britain’s longest reigning monarch by opening the UK’s biggest new railway line for more than a century.

In a choice of engagement bound to invoke parallels with the reign of Queen Victoria, she will travel by steam train from Edinburgh to Tweedbank near Galashiels on September 9 to formally open the new Borders Railway, reviving a rail tradition dating back to the 1840s.

imagesThe journey, accompanied by the Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, will also be a powerful visible reminder of her love for Scotland on the day she surpasses her great-great-grandmother Queen Victoria’s record for the longest reign.

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Victorian Christmas created at Windsor

I have always imagined Queen Victoria’s Christmas would have been something to behold.

Well if you happen to be anywhere near Windsor Castle you will find that The royal residence has been transformed with decorations the monarch and her consort Prince Albert would have recognised complete with a Christmas tree suspended from the ceiling,

The ‘festive’ or Christmas tree was made popular by Queen Victoria’s consort (her husband) Prince Albert when he presented large numbers to schools and Army barracks.

In 1846 the Illustrated London News featured the above image and the tradition for the I have always imagined Queen Victoria’s Christmas would have been something to behold.

Well if you happen to be anywhere near Windsor Castle you will find that The royal residence has been transformed with decorations the monarch and her consort Prince Albert would have recognised complete with a Christmas tree suspended from the ceiling,

The ‘festive’ or Christmas tree was made popular by Queen Victoria’s consort (her husband) Prince Albert when he presented large numbers to schools and Army barracks.

In 1846 the Illustrated London News featured the above image and the tradition for the Christmas Tree became firmly established.

The exhibition will feature a tree hanging in place of a chandelier, as in Victoria’s day, in the Octagon dining room. The tree will be covered with items inspired by decorations featured on the Queen’s firs including swags (ornamental drapery) ribbons, replica candles and imitation snow and should be quite interesting and maybe present some good ideas for our own Victorian Christmas.

At Windsor two gift tables will be recreated with presents exchanged by Victoria and Albert.

Among them is a painting of a young nun and her suitor by Sir Charles Eastlake. It was commissioned by Victoria in 1844 as a gift for her husband.

Christmas Tree became firmly established.

The exhibition will feature a tree hanging in place of a chandelier, as in Victoria’s day, in the Octagon dining room. The tree will be covered with items inspired by decorations featured on the Queen’s firs including swags (ornamental drapery) ribbons, replica candles and imitation snow and should be quite interesting and maybe present some good ideas for our own Victorian Christmas.

At Windsor two gift tables will be recreated with presents exchanged by Victoria and Albert.

Among them is a painting of a young nun and her suitor by Sir Charles Eastlake. It was commissioned by Victoria in 1844 as a gift for her husband.

Victoriana: The Art of Revival

ef3ad2cf87fd6f07900eb52210436b9bThe Victorian Era is such a strong landmark in literature, politics, morality and aesthetics so it come as no real surprise that an exhibition featuring graphic design, film, photography, ceramics, taxidermy, furniture, textiles and fine art with multi-media show that explores work inspired by the 19th century and created over the last 20 years, highlighting the ongoing influence of the Victorian age.

‘Victoriana: The Art of Revival’ brings together 28 major contemporary artists who encapsulate the many forms and motivations of modern takes on Victorian style. These include Yinka Shonibare, Grayson Perry, Paula Rego, Dan Hillier, Paul St. George, Rob Ryan, Kitty Valentine and Jake and Dinos Chapman.

I have to say it looks interesting…so hopefully I will see you there!!

The exhibition is from Saturday 7 September to Sunday 8 December at the City of London Guildhall, London EC2P 2EJ. T 020 7606 3030 for further details.

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A culture of death

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Death is an ever present reality for us today and yet it remains at a distance because of the huge amount of coverage on television, the internet and various other media outlets.

The Victorians had death close up and personal so much so it created a ‘death culture’, a way to deal coping with death and the pain of grief.

How did the Victorians understand death, well they were surrounded by it. The Population in England is 53 million but back in 1851 it was 16.8 million but by the end of that century it more or less doubled. You could expect to live to the grand age of around 40 years and in 1871 the average woman was having 5.5 children with three out of every ten babies died before their first birthday. That’s a lot of death grief and pain for a nation.

The chances are you were more likely to die in a hospital than be cured, all in all people died regularly and they died in the home where everyone got to see the (some time) torment and pain of passing.

And the grieve…where might one look for an example but to your ruling monarch Queen Victorian who grieved for her beloved Prince Albert who died at the young age of 42, she mourned her deep loss and sadness for over 40 years and wore black the queen wore black at all times. This set a trend which in the end became etiquette all over the empire and world as the British Empire expanded.

STL31GRAVES_333766kThe example was set so women would follow with specially made black mourning attire for up to two years and spent much of that time alone, no entertainment, no joy just misery, and a visible misery for all to see. If you had visited, that is if you were able too you would’ve found mirrors, doorknobs. anything that could give levity like a piano or harpsichord covered in black mourning cloth.

Then after the appropriate time and this would really depend on whom had died shades of mourning would change from purple to grey, from grey to white and then to slowly show oneself back in society proper. Men of course just got on with the business of the day being stoic, straight backed and stiff upper lip.

Like now Victorians would have keep sakes remember their loved ones by but some and this seems quite gruesome to me, might even going to the extent of taking photos of dead propped up to look like they are alive.

In many ways maybe a show of grief would be good in our culture today, I feel that death is too hidden, for instance (and sadly) one in four women who get pregnant will experience a miscarriage and yet I know of very few women who have suffered this and suffer they do…in silence.

Maybe we could learn a little from our forebears.

Crystal Palace: revisited?

great-exhibition-03-gtyI like this idea quite a lot, in fact lots. Plans have been drawn up to build a replica of the Crystal Palace which housed the 1851 exhibition.

A billionaire Chinese developer has backed the plan to copy the cast-iron and plate-glass building designed by Sir Joseph Paxton in London’s Crystal Palace Park.

brett-ticketBuilt specifically for the Great Exhibition of 1851 and was the largest enclosed space in the world at the time.During the five months that the exhibition was open, over 6,000,000 people paid at least a shilling to visit and at its peak some 40,000 people were admitted each day from around the world who saw all manner of items brought back from the British empire, they would’ve seen stuffed elephants and Tunisian bazaars among the 7000 British and 6000 foreign entries.  

While the building, boasting 300,000 panes of glass, was first built in Hyde Park, it was moved to Crystal Palace in south east London, where it remained until it burnt down in 1936.

Shanghai based ZhongRong Holdings, which was set up by Ni Zhaoxing who has what is thought to be a $1.25 billion fortune, hopes to recreate the building, Property Week has reported.

I think it would be awesome and a huge attraction.

Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee

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This fountain is fairly near to where I live.

The stone was donated by Queen Victoria is granite and commemorates Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee. Clive of India (Major-General Robert Clive, 1st Baron Clive, KB MP FRS (25 September 1725 – 22 November 1774) built Claremont mansion which later became a royal residence used by Queen Victoria.

Queen Victoria lent Claremont to the exiled French King Louis-Philippe and his consort Queen Marie-Amelie after the revolution of 1848. Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg lived there until he became King of the Belgians.

So I think we can assume that Queen Victoria knew Esher quite well and thus the drinking was erected and takes the form of a statue of Britannia with a plaque of Victoria on the base.

The Diamond Jubilee…How things have chnaged

So my final piece on the Diamond Jubilee and we’ll take a brief look what was happening when Queen Victoria reached her 60th year.

Of course Victorian England was a very different place or was it!

There was coalition government. The coalition of 1897 was made up of the Conservative Party and the Liberal Unionists, sound familiar! The Prime Minister Lord Salisbury (a man with a mighty beard) an old Etonian just like our current PM, Deputy PM and most of the rest of the government.

The Government had a foreign policy which was termed as ‘splendid isolation’ during his tenure  as Prime Minister, this mean’t we entered into no formal alliances during the last two decades of the 19th century although were  bit chummy with Germany with informal agreement with Bismarck and Germany.

In 1897 we were at war in…Afghanistan, a fact hat was not overlooked in the rather excellent BBC series Sherlock.

This war culminated in the Siege of Malakand where British troops faced a force of Pashtun tribesmen, the British forces held out in their garrison for six days against a 10,000-strong Pashtun army before being relieved and was the first action a certain Winston Churchill saw.

Britain was also facing a period of economic bust, again sound familiar! Apparently a investment boom in the 1880s fed a massive financial bubble around United States and Argentine assets. The bubble burst in the Panic of 1890, leaving banks in London exposed which led to a banking bailout, this time not by the public but by  the Bank of England and the Rothschilds.

Natty (great name!) remarked at the time that the:

“entire private banking system in London would have collapsed”

So…Victorian England was a very different place or was it!