Queen Victoria and Victorian America
My research trip to the Neville Public Museum of Brown County for my Victorian Era Through Literature class I couldn’t help but be impressed with the artifacts they have collected and displayed for Queen Victoria. I was excited to see part of the poem Crowned and Wedded by Elizabeth Barrett Browning being displayed in the case with the artifacts of Queen Victoria. For me this excerpt from from the poem and the picture of Victoria and Albert in the large hall with the even larger group of people surrounding them made me want to remind Prince Albert that Victoria was first and foremost to be his wife and not his Queen. All the pomp and finery surrounding them is just window-dressing for the queen, not for the wife. When I look at this picture I don’t see the young girl that is described in The Young Queen, but rather a Queen with all the “regal-ness” that I would expect from a Queen. It isn’t until I look at the picture of the older Queen Victoria that I see the woman that is described in The Young Queen. No longer a young girl, but a Queen worn down by the years of ruling and loss. This line that says, “Her thoughts are deep within her: No outward pageants win her” may be written for a new Queen, but these lines of poetry can be seen
in the face of the older Queen. All the wide-eyed youth is gone and it it’s place is the wisdom and knowledge that only years can bring.
In both these pieces Victoria’s role is the same, she is the Queen. Although the stages of her life have changed, youth and
aged, we still are reminded that she is a Queen. There is realism in the picture of Queen Victoria when she is older. Her dress is understated and perhaps would have been something she wore on a regular basis; unlike the larger picture that has everyone wearing their best. The larger picture to me seems less realistic and more of a public display of wealth and power. There is no “party” in the older picture, just the Queen by herself. This older picture makes me want to know more about her life, not the public version, but the private version. Was she lonely? What did she like to do when she was all alone? Who did she consider her true friends? It makes me want to know the woman in the picture, not the Queen.
The display for Victorian Americans for more interesting for me, possibly because it is more relevant to my personal history. The artifact/s that I found most interesting were the items on the table. Maybe because I collect vintage condiment sets like the one on the table and the one that was on display in the window. I have very similar ones that I display in my home. The table of items were from more of a middle to upper class home, less regal and more obtainable to me. Since I do collect these type of items there was not any one item that was mysterious to me. There were two items that I didn’t realize were from that era. They were the two water pitchers in the windows. Again, I collect vintage glass also, the one pitcher is identical to the glass that Fenton Glass Company makes. I did some research on it and found it in a reference book which dated it at 1939. I’ve seen these pitchers at antique shows and didn’t realize they were considered Victorian.
The table of items certainly show us without words the type of household they come from. These items represent a middle to upper class household, with some of them representing love, marriage, and family. The small pictures show us that family is important. The condiment set, fan and hankerchief all indicate a middle to upper class household. These are all items I would expect to see handed down from generation to generation.
Neville Public Museum of Brown County – Photos
Browning, Elizabeth Barrett. The Young Queen and Crowned and Wedded