Queen Victoria’s Prowess Depicted Through Artwork
The portrait of Queen Victoria composed by Elizabeth Barrett Browning portrays Queen Victoria as a child who has been called to the throne in a city that still mourns its previous monarch, her uncle. Undoubtedly a bundle of nerves, Queen Victoria must inhabit the throne which was once held by her father and three uncles; to portray the young Queen’s disquiet about measuring up to the previous monarch’s standards and the abrupt ending to her childhood, Elizabeth Barrett Browning writes of Queen Victoria:
“A royal maiden treadeth firm where that departed trod! / No outward pageants with / From memories that in her soul are rolling wave on wave — / Her palace walls enring / The dust that was a king– / And very cold beneath her feet, she feels her father’s grave” (21-24).
In “The Young Queen,” Elizabeth Barrett Browning addresses the solicitude Queen Victoria must have felt during her coronation, (as well as the days and hours beforehand) but emphasizes her strong faith as the force which calmed her nerves and carried her through her coronation:
“The deathly scented crown / Weighs her shining ringlets down; / But calm she lifts her trusting face, and calleth upon God” (16-18).
Knowing that the young Queen utilized her faith to carry her through her coronation, I could better
appreciate Edmund Thomas Parris’ painting of Queen Victoria’s coronation. Parris chose to represent in his work the moment right before Victoria is crowned; to me, Victoria looks calm and collected amongst the large crowd gathered to witness Queen Victoria’s crowning. Some in the crowd look excited, while others look, to me, as if they doubt the potential of the Queen’s success; no matter how people may appear around her, however, Queen Victoria seems perfectly comfortable.
I was only able to appreciate the warm tone and exciting color palette of Parris’ painting after reading “Crowned and Wedded;” if I were to research Queen Victoria’s coronation elsewhere, I may have imagined a different portrait with a more serious tone. The idealism present by Barrett Browning in “Crowned and Wedded” is that of optimism among the London population; this perception is corroborated in the other pieces presented in the Queen Victoria exhibit at the Neville Public Museum in Green Bay, WI. The saucers which bear both Queen Victoria’s face and that of Prince Albert seem cartoonish in nature, depicting a content couple. The respective paintings featuring Queen Victoria and Prince Albert separately depict two attractive, charming people surrounded by beauty. The only artifact present in the exhibit which bore a darker nature was a photograph of Queen Victoria in her old age. I found this photograph to be quite telling of how much stress can affect one throughout the years.
Just as many past presidents of the United States aged so quickly during their presidency, Queen Victoria began to decline after the passing of Prince Albert. As she ages, her features become more solemn and her eyes lose their luster; she wore black until her death as a sign of forever mourning Prince Albert’s death. Though she held herself well as Britain’s longest-reigning monarch, the stress of ruling a country from such a young age shows itself on her face. Of course, I could be attributing an appearance of sadness to Queen Victoria for the wrong reasons; with how long it took for pictures to be taken in her day, I’d probably look pretty pissed, too. No matter what the cause, however, her natural ability to keep her composure and remain objective throughout personal crises is, to me, amazing.
I can now better appreciate the exhibits I encountered because each artist chose to portray Queen Victoria as content and composed no matter what she was overcoming during various stages of her life. Though she is represented in her older age as being more solemn, the face she bears in her later photographs represents strength and wisdom. The ability of artists and poets to capture Queen Victoria’s composure and fortitude is what enables people from today to better understand Queen Victoria and take note of her accomplishments and endurance.
Browning, Elizabeth Barrett. “Crowned and Wedded.” Athenaeum. University of Guelph ENGL 37-332 course website, 15 February 1840. 2 October 2014. <http://www.uoguelph.ca/englit/victorian/HTML/crowned.html#55>.
Browning, Elizabeth Barrett. “The Young Queen.” Athenaeum. University of Guelph ENGL 37-332 course website, 1 July 1837. 2 October 2014. <http://www.uoguelph.ca/englit/victorian/HTML/yqueen.html#2>.