boys clothing : British royalty Victoria
Figure 1.--This painting of an 11-year old Victoria was painted about 1830. Her favorite dog Fanny is also in painting.
Queen Victoria was Britain's longest serving monarch. The generally uneventful
reign of George IV 's brother, William IV (1830-37), was followed by that of Queen
Victoria (1837-1901). Only 18 years when she came to the throne, innocent,
self-centered and poorly educated--few expected very much. Victoria was, however,
to oversee England at the
height of its overseas power as well as an extraordinary explosion of technological
advances which ushered Britain into the modern age. The British Empire was
her reign, and it reached its greatest expanse under her. Perhaps even more
importantly, major social and political reforms were initiated. The one major decision
she made by herself was her choice of Albert of Saxe-Coburg for her husband. It was
the love story of the 19th century. Victoria and Albert set the moral tone of the nation
and helped shape Britain's emergence as a truly democratic nation. Victoria witnessed
an extraordinary development of British power and influence. She and Albert changed
how Britain's looked on their monarch. She became in many ways the grandmother of
Europe, forging dynastic ties throughout the Continent. She also played a major role in
influencing boys clothing around the world by the garments she selected for the young
To fully understand Victoria and Albert, it is necessary to understand the world in
which they lived. One observer once commented that the world in 1819, the year of
Victoria's birth, was more like that ancient Greece than that of the modern world.
Britain's population still largely lived in rural areas and Britain largely fed itself. Most
people lived and died close to where they were born. Education was limited to the
privileged and wealthy. Power was largely based on human or animal power. The
fastest form of transportation was by horse. Marine transport was sail powered.
Travel to America could take 3 months and to Britain's Asian dominions more than
twice as long. During the life of Victoria, most of it as Queen, the world underwent the
industrial revolution which was to usher in the modern age. It was in Britain that these
forces were first unleashed and the impact on the country and its people were the most
pervasive in British history.
Victoria's father was Edward Guelph, Duke of Kent, one of 15 children of George III and Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz. Two of his older brothers became king as George IV and William IV. Edward died, however, before his brothers, leaving Victoria in line to inherit the throne.
Victoria's mother was Victoria Mary Louise Saxe-Coburg of Leiningen. The Duchess's father was Duke Francis Frederick of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld (1750- ). Her mother was Countess Augusta
Caroline Sophia of Reuss Ebersdorf (1757- ). She had been married before in 1803 to Prince Emich Karl of Leiningen. They had two children, Prince Charles Frederick William (1804- ) and Princess Anne Feodora Augusta (1807- ). After the death of her first husband, she married Edward Augustus, Duke of Kent and son of George III, in 1818 at Kew Palace.
Victoria was raised in isolation. She was not broughup at court. And it was not initially apparent that she would be queen. Money was tight and she was not indulged as a child. There were family fuedes about residence in Kensington Pallace. Her world for many years was restricted to the nursery. Her mother has been portrayed as taking little interest in her, in part because the young Queen became estanged from ger mother and stepfather. When her mother died, Victoria found that she had saved a treasure trove of childhood memorabilia--suggesting that the Duchess had taken a great interest in her daughter. [Wilson, p. 242.] She was closeted and guarded from the sweeping change that was affecting her nation and world. She was described as stubborn and bad tempered, but with a kind and gentle side. She was subjected to a strict moral regime. She kept a behavior book where she recorded many incidents of naughtyness. She was also very spoiled, a tendency which was to endanger the relationship with her future husband. She was also very innocent, with am idealized romantic view of life.
Two of Victiria's uncles ruled as kings. As a child and teenager she had a relationship with both. She was especially fond of George IV. The personal life styles of her uncles, however, had brought the monarchy under increasingly critical public scrutiny.
Princess Victoria's relationship with her uncle, George IV, began with her christening at Kensington Palace on June 24, 1819. The King was her godfather. Her parents asked him to
name the Princess, but he refused to reveal his choice before the actual event. He named her Alexandrina Victoria, in honor of Tsar Alexander I, who was unable to attend the service, had was the Princess' second godfather. Victoria was called Drina as a child. Her name for her uncle was suitably "Uncle King." On one celebrated occassion in 1826 the Duchess of Kent took the Princess to Windsor. Victoria was 7 years old at the time. George IV gave her a miniature doll of himself. During the visit the King directed an attendant to "pop her in" beside him in the royal carriage. Victoria later wrote, "[We] stopped at the Fishing Temple. Here there was a large barge and everyone went on board and fished, while a band played in another." Princess Victoria's always remembered George IV affectionately. She wore his diadem at her Coronation. Even so, Victoria as Queen with Prince Albert rejected the loose moral standards that George IV's reign had come to symbolize.
Princess Victoria had a correct relationship with William IV who was quite fond of her. The problem here was her mother, the Duchess of Kent, who wanted to be Regent in case of the King's death. William came to despise the Duchess.
Victoria was not close to her mother, but developed an intimate relationship with her Hanovarian-born governess--Baroness Lehzen. No great care was taken with Victoria's education, in part because in her early years it was not clear that she would be queen. The Baroness pursued a limited educational program for her charge, but in
part because of Victoria's mother lack of interest, Victoria confided in the Baroness and grew to depend upon her. Lehzen who was a spinster came to look on Victoria as a daughter. Lehzen had undermined the position of others close to Victoria, including the Duchess of Kent, Victoria's mother. Lehzen was determined not to share her royal
charge. Thus conflict with Prince Albert was inevitable. Victoria retained Lehzen as Lady Companion after becoming Queen. Prince Albert took an immediate dislike to Lehzen after the marriage and especially disliked her freely interrupting private time with his new wife and taking her off on "state business" as well as constantly gossiping in the nursery where she had no role. Worse still, two nearly fatal accidents He also objected to her role in the nursery. Lehzen for her part was probably the source of many unkind, if not vicious, and largely untrue reports that appeared in the press. She had earlier spread harmful rumors about Victoria's mother. Albert after only a two years had to demand that she be dismissed. A terrible dispute resulted, but this proved to be a turning point in the Royal relationship.
A HBC reader suggests that Elizabeth Longworth's biography of Victoria would provide a good perspective on Victoria's temperament and education. We have not had a chance to go back to this source, but hope to do so eventually.
Her cousin Princess Charlotte had died in child birth in 1817, only 2 years before her birth. As her uncles George IV and then William IV had np surviving heirs, it gradually dawned on the British public that this young princess would be their new queen. Few help out much prospect for the young queen. Her predecessors were held in little regard. Her grandfather King George III had been described as "Mad"
and had lost the American colonies. Her Uncle George IV (Prince Regent) was universally despised by the British public. Her other uncle, William IV, was widely seen as a womanizer and drinker. Some had begun to question whether Britain still needed a monarchy. Unlike her uncles, as it became clear that she would be queen, Victoria was determined that she would o good for her people. She had no idea, however, how to go about this. Few thought that the sheltered, poorly educated young princess would be up to the job of overseeing the world's most powerful country as it entered the most wrenching period of social change in its history--the industrial revolution. One noted writer of the day phrased it succinctly when he question whether the young princess could be trusted to choose a new bonnet. Most assumed she would be overwhelmed. It is clear now that if Victoria had ruled poorly, that the monarchy may not have survived in Britain.
Victoria was not born into tranquil times. By the 1830s Britain had launched itself
on the industrial revolution. Changes were occurring elsewhere in Europe, but no
where was it as advanced as in England. For many English, the "green and pleasant
land" had given way to the Dickensian night mare of crammed, disease ridden cities
towered over by belching chimilies. A expanding class of disposed and disaffected
workers posed a threat to the established social order and the monarchy itself. The
Princess had been shielded from much of the misery and squalor, but by the time she
was queen she had seen distressing sights and was distressed by it. As a young, poorly
educated girl, however, she did not fully appreciate the problem, the danger it
presented, or how to deal with it.
Victoria became Queen in 1837 with the death of her Uncle William IV and was
crowned in 1838 at Westminster Abbey, a month after she came of age. For Victoria
it was if she emerged from a cocoon. Her mother was no longer in charge. Think for a
moment what this would mean for a modern 18-year old. She released the country
from a Regency by her unpopular mother. When the inexperienced, dowdy Princess
Victoria ascended to the throne in 1837. The young queen was poorly educated,
without knowing it, and extremely self centered. Few of her subjects expected that she
would become a very successful sovereign, let alone reign until 1901 and to virtually
define a critical era of the British historical experience. To no small extent, her success
was made possible for two reasons. First Victoria was a Christian. While not a deep
thinker, she saw herself as a benevolent country squire and believed it was her
Christian duty to look after the welfare of her subjects. While she had not thoroughly
assessed this belief, it was in fact a very significant departure from the ribald behavior
of her predecessors. Second, she chose an enormously talented husband--a choice
the young Victoria made herself despite the objections of many of her closest advisers.
Again Victoria had no planned this and at first excluded Albert from state affairs, but
Albert was in effect would teach her to be a queen.
Prince Albert was the born into the royal family of Prince of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha,
a small German principality. Albert was the younger son and along with his brother
strictly raised and very well educated. He and his brother Ernest came to visit their
cousin at Victoria's invitation. Behind the scenes
King Leopold had been promoting Albert behind the scenes as a suitable
husband for the young Queen. (It is no accident that Germany's invasion of Belgium in
August 1914 was the reason that Britain declared war on Germany and came to
France's defense.) Leopold as the husband of Princess Charlotte, who it was assumed
would be Queen after her father George IV, was on intimate terms with the Royal
family. Leopold had discussed the idea with Albert, but he had no idea if the Queen
would be interested. The young Queen, however, was immediately smitten with
handsome and elegantly dressed Albert upon first seeing him. It is interesting that she
chose the more serious and shy Albert rather than his more outgoing brother. It was
not Albert's mind which attracted her, but his handsome appearance--she described in
her diary the blue eyes and other physical features which immediately struck her. She
immediately began discussing marriage with her confidants without a word first to
Albert! Finally she tactfully proposed to him. As the sovereign, protocol obliged her
to male the proposal.
Four months after proposing, Victoria married Albert in February 1840. Some
mocked the irony of wedding vows when Albert pledged to endow the queen with all
his worldly goods. The royal couple honeymooned at Windsor. Albert's marriage to
Victoria brought him to the throne of the most powerful country of the day, a huge step
for an impoverished German aristocrat. The marriage was not at the time popular with
her advisers or subjects. Many objected to the Queen marring a poor noble--and a
foreign one at that. Parliament refused to grant Albert a title. The young Queen was
however, determined on the marriage and insisted on it. Victoria was in some ways
very un-Victorian. She was deeply in love with Albert and had a passionate love affair
with him. Albert's initial thoughts are less clear. They must have been influenced by the
improvement in his dynastic status, although he could hardly commit such thoughts to
paper. The union proved a most felicitous one, marked by a degree of mutual affection
rarely found in unions of state. Although Victoria believed that women had little place
outside the home, she played an active, even aggressive role in public life, especially in
foreign affairs. Albert was only to become the Prince Consort and not a co-ruler with
his wife. His untimely death was to devastate Victoria.
At first Albert was given no official duties. Victoria did not want to give up any of
her royal prerogatives. He served as the Queen's secretary and at first his duty was to
blot her signature. Gradually the Queen came to increasingly rely on her advice.
Albert quickly learned English, read voraciously. The Queen's advisers came to see
him as thoughtful, and more flexible, easier to approach than Victoria. It was Victoria's
pregnancies, however, that forced Victoria to rely on Albert who gradually became a
defacto monarch without the title. Albert read the ministerial red boxes
carefully and carefully without upsetting Victoria took charge. He help to expose the
Queen to new ideas and make her aware of the social and technological developments
that were sweeping Britain. Albert was a social liberal and brought Victoria along to
his point of view.
Albert's tactful advise to his poorly educated wife proved to be of great value to
England. Perhaps the most important was his success in convincing the Queen to
support of the Corn Laws. England's landed gentry imposed high tariffs to keep food
(especially grain) prices high. This meant that cheap grain could not be imported from
America. It almost meant great hardship among the urban working class, many of
whom lived on the edge of starvation. There were many other examples, the final one
was his advise that England not support the South in the American Civil War.
Albert took the education of their heir, the future Edward VII very seriously.
Despite the attention given to the care and education of the children, many serious
mistakes were made and a program was pursued that was not suitable for a boy of
limited intelligence and volatile temperament.
Victoria and Albert had nine children, four boys and five girls. They saw
themselves and in many ways were suitably enough an ideal Victorian family. The
marriages and offspring of these children are truly remarkable. Victoria in more than
name was the grandmother of Europe. Ties were forged with Denmark, Prussia and
other German states, Russia, and Spain. Notably France was exempted from
Victoria's dynastic web.
The way Victoria and Albert's children were dressed had an enormous impact on children's fashions for generations. I'm not sure who decided on these fashions. Perhaps it was Victoria. But the use of the kilt made good political sense for the monarch, just the astute step that Albert was likely to have suggested to Victoria.
HBC has no details yet, however, on just how the children's clothes were selected and the role of Queen Victoria Prince Albert, or others. We also do not know to what extent the children's clothes were made in the nursery by staff of the royal household or
ordered from outside seamstresses and garment shops. HBRC was somewhat surprises that at least some of the children's clothes were made in the nursery, but it is known that Prince Albert obtained a sewing machine for the nursery.
After the dalliances of their predecessors, Victoria and Albert sought to set the standard for rectitude. Although historians vary somewhat the young family seems to nave been very happy. The children were not relegated to a nursery and rarely visited
by their parents. Albert delighted in playing with the children. He not only joined in their games, but invented many for them. [Bennett, p. 128.] I'm less sure about Victoria's role. It is clear that the family participated in many activities together. The
engaged in family theatricals. Albert taught them games. They enjoyed producing tableaux vivants. Albert would read from books they could all enjoy like Dumas' The Count of Monte Cristo. They also traveled together, taking may trips on the royal yacht, Victoria and Albert together. The children grew up thinking that papa knew how to do everything and Victoria her self with her limited outlook and education also came to look to her husband for guidance. In family maters after the Lehzen matter was resolved, Albert was the undisputed head of household.
Victoria gradually turned to Albert on matters of state. In this regard, Albert very tactfully gained her confidence. There were little tiffs from time between Victoria and Albert, but they appear to have been a wonderfully happy family. Most of the disputes
resolved around Victoria's frustration. She wanted him to be successful and admired, but as he rose in stature there were more demands on his time. This took him away
from her which she did not want. The standards set by the royal couple with the children and their family life was to set a standard that many of their descendants found difficult to meet. Edward in fact made no effort to do so and was a notorious philanderer.
The official London residences of the royal family became Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle. Victoria was the first British monarch to designate Buckingham Palace as a royal residence. The royal family needed, however, somewhere to go to
be away from the lime light. There two favored retreats were Balmoral Castle in Scotland and Osbourne House on the Isle of Wright. Both were designed and built under Albert's supervision. He did his best to avoid official duties at Osbourne and devote himself to the Queen and children. Several interesting group photos were taken
at Osbourne, but fewer images seem to exist from the other residences--perhaps an indicator that more family time was spent at Osbourne.
Prince Albert died in 1861, 4 years after being given the title of Prince Consort. He was only 42. Albert passed away on December 14, 1861, officially of typhoid fever. There were, however, many complications that do not correspond to typhoid. Incredibly, Bertie saw him just before he took to bed and had no idea his father was
not feeling well. A good example of how clueless the Prince of Wales was at this time. His father had traveled all the way to
Cambridge on November 22 to see him about his behavior. The two strolled in the country lanes around Cambridge and Bertie
managed to get them lost. Albert did not need to be outside after dark in his condition. [Bennett, p. 368] Victoria was later to
actually blame Bertie for Albert's death and would constantly throw it up at him when ever the two quarreled. Even Victoria,
however, had no idea that Albert was so sick. It was a great shock when the doctors told him how sick he was. Despite his
position, the prince got incredibly poor medical care. His was a long, protracted decline, yet the royal doctors, Clark and
Jenner, repeatedly gave hopeful prognoses, encouraging Albert to leave his sick bed and walk around Windsor Castle. Oddly
enough, neither doctor was able to recognize Albert's symptoms as typhoid, even though William Jenner was a noted pathologist who had recently distinguished the germs of typhus and typhoid. [Longford, p. 290] While the doctors kept issuing cheerful bulletins of the Prince Consort's health, Albert kept walking the cold stone halls of the
castle like a pale ghost. According to Lady Elizabeth Longford, "After wandering about the passages, occasionally rattling at a door handle, he at last decided to settle in the
Blue Room--the King's Room where both George IV and William IV died." Albert passed away there as well. He died on December 14, the Queen holding his hand and the children gathered around his bed. The loss of Albert devastated Victoria. The Albert Memorial in Kensington Gardens, designed by Sir George Scott, was erected in
his memory in 1871.
Prince Albert's death was followed by Bertie's marriage to the Danish Princess Alexandra. The beautiful and lively young princess let in a ray of sun light into gloom of a family still grieving over the loss of their husband and father. The Queen and Princess
were immediate friends. Over the years, the Queens meddling posed many problems for Alix. Luckily unlike her son Prince George, Alix's home at Sandringham was located at some distance from the Queen's residences. Alix insistence on a separate life for her family frustrated the Queen who made some some hurtful comments,
especially in her letters. In person, Alix was almost always able to charm the Queen. The bonds between the two were never broken and the Queen came to rely on Alix more than any of her daughters. Certainly few could have tolerated and handled Bertie better than Alix, the Queen must have realized this.
Historians have tried to interpret Queen Victoria's dreams. It would seem that the dreamer has given away her childhood to a very strict, yet maternal authority figure (Queen Victoria). The dream is telling the dreamer that she has either already started
the task of finding the lost masculine aspect of herself (the baby's father). This dream is a description of the path that the dreamer has already taken in life to bring back together aspects of the dreamer's fragmented selves. The barbershop signifies a giving
away of personal strength through a rigid social network of youth. The dance hall signifies the dreamer's enjoyment in life (dancing), but this enjoyment is curtailed again by the rigid social youth network. When it comes to expressing one's own self, the
dreamer feels bound up by the social expectations of the youth network. Victoria's attitude to her working-class subjects was a mixture of contempt, fear, and romantic idealization. She gloried in her elevation to the title of Empress of India, but the Indian
people were either unrealistically idealized for their spirituality or furiously vilified as the fiendish murderers of white women and children during the 1857 Mutiny. Victoria's narrow view of the world had important political consequences that Erickson ignores,
notably in the case of Ireland. By her stubborn opposition to political rights for the Irish, Victoria helped to block the far-sighted attempt by her prime minister, William Gladstone, to grant them greater autonomy. The consequences of that failure have been tragic.
One of the interesting aspects of Victoria's life was the relationship with her servant, John Brown. Their relationship scandalized 1860s England, divided the royal family and provided the Tory government's enemies -- and its leader, Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli -- with a stack of political cannonballs. Still, the actual nature of what transpired between the queen and the commoner remains a mystery. All that is known for certain is that Brown exerted control over the Queen and her activities, allowing and denying access with impunity--astonishingly even to her eldest son the Prince of Wales who detested him.
Figure 2.--This photograph shows the extent to which the soon to be George V dressed his children in sailor suits. He probably would have liked to put the baby in a sailor suit if it was possible. The two older boys, who were to become Edward VIII and George VI, and their sister Mary all wear sailor suits. They were photographed with their Great-Grandmother, Queen Victoria, in 1900. Notice Princess Mary's hat. I'm not sure why only Princess Mary wears a hat.
Victria's reign is the longest in English history. She witnessed an extraordinary development of Imperial Britain as shown in the growth and political organization of the Canadian, Australian, New Zealand, and African colonies. Perhaps the great failure of
her reign was the acceptance of the Government's virtually genocidal policies during the Irish Potato Famine. Victoria was pre-eminent among English sovereigns in terms of her personal character, aided by Albert's tutelage. She for many years exerted an almost unbounded moral control over the larger policies of the British Empire. She
was industrious and methodical, patient and tactful, with a memory that was a great storehouse of knowledge of things past and present. The nature of the British crown changed during her reign as Britain emerged as a democratic country with monarch playing an increasingly ceremonial role, one of which was a symbol of Imperial unity.
The Queen's descendants suffered from a then strange delusional illness. George
III was the best example and passed the disease on to his granddaughter, Victoria. Certainly Victoria exhibited the monarch's traditional antipathy toward the Prince of Wales. According to Morris, She had never in fact entirely forgiven Bertie for what she
thought to be his part in Albert's death. The Prince Consort had caught a cold while scolding Bertie in the rain. Furthermore, Victoria found her first son to be "shiftless and irresponsible, and quite naturally, the Prince and his young wife, like all
Hanovarian heirs, formed their own court and society.
Victoria and Albert had a large family. When their marriages and children are added we have a very substantial number of people, making it difficult of keeping track of who is who. A complete tally shows why Queen Victoria became known as the grandmother of Europe.
Queen Victoria took a great interest in her grandchildren, especially the children of the Prince and Princess of Wales. She did not, however, lose track of the others. Of course the Queen could exert special cconcern and attempt tp control the grandchildren close at hime. Here she was especially concerned with the children of tthe Pribce and Princess of Wales. They were in fact the major cause of the disagreements between the Queen and Princess of Wales who did her best to be tactful. The Queen each year raised objections to Alix taking the children to visit their Danish grandparents. She had no objections to her daughter Victoria bringing the grandchildren even from an early age from Prussia to see her, but did object to Alix taking the younger grandchildren to Denmark. She expressed concern over their health, but we suspect that this was not her major concern. The grandchildren often did not enjoy vists to their grandmother. Queen Victoria tended to be stricter and more formal than their parents.
Queen Victoria had ana amazing number of great grandchildren. The mourning and isolation, not to mention silence, with which Victoria surrounded herself even years after Albert's death must have made visiting "Gangan" an ordeal for the great grandchildren, especially as younger children.
News from South Africa improved in 1900 as British forces began to gain the
upperhand over the Boers, but the Queen suffered personal losses. Her son Prince
Alfred who had become Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha died in July. Her eldest
daughter Victoria was near death in Germany. Her grandson Prince Christian Victor,
son of her daughter Helena, died in South Africa. The Queen's health waned. At the
end on January 20, 1901, surrounded by her family. Notably it was Princes of Wales
Alexandra rather than one of her daughters that was kneeling by her bed holding her
hand. [Battiscombe, p. 213.] The Princess and Queen had had their differences, but
through the years their common bonds had grown very close. One could not have
asked for a more loving daughter-in-law..
The British royal family was related to each of the 20 ruling families in Europe. At
the time of Prince Albert's death, he was related to each of these families by birth or his
marriage to Victoria. There large family meant that dynastic links with many of these
families were strengthened. Queen Victoria was referred to as the Grandmother of
Europe for good reason. The most important of course was the marriage of The
Princess Victoria with the Prussian Crown Prince Friderich, a future German kaiser.
The British royal family was also directly linked to Russian Tsar and the kings of
Belgium, Bulgaria, Portugal, Romania, and Spain. When Bertie married Alexandria,
there were further links with the royal families of Denmark and Greece. The german
relations were almost to numerous to mention, but were especially strong with Prussia,
Württemburg, Hanover, Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, Hesse-Darnstadt, Mecklenburg-Strekitz
and Battenberg. Victoria called them "the royal mob".
The HBRC pages concerning Prince Albert, Queen Victoria, their children, court
staff, and other related individuals such as Government officials and European royals is
quite involved. It is sometimes difficult to follow this extensive suite of pages without
knowing who the different individuals are. We have thus created an alphabetized
biography page provide a thumbnail sketch explaining who the various individuals are.
Please let us know if we have omitted anyone who should be included are if you think
some note should be made on these pages about these individuals.
Battiscombe, Georgina. Queen Alexandra (Houghton Mifflin, Boston,
Bennett, Daphne. King Without a Crown: Albert Prince Consort of England,
1819-1861 (New York: J.B. Lippincott, 1977).
Bradford, Sarah. The Reluctant King: The Life and Reign of George VI,
1995-1952 (New York: St. Marin's Press, 1989), 506p.
Wilson, A.N. The Victorians (W.W. Norton: New York, 2003).
Woodham-Smith, Cecil. Queen Victoria: Her Life and Times (1972).
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