Young Queen Victoria and the Arts


queenvictoriaTHIS PHRASE RECURS OVER AND OVER AGAIN in the engaging journals of Princess Victoria, who involved herself with vigour in the arts of her day. Taught from the age of eight by the artist Richard Westall, and later by many others including Edward Lear, throughout her life Victoria sketched and painted with warmth and verve, and with a true eye for colour and form.

VICTORIA WAS NATURALLY MUSICAL.. The year before her accession to the throne she began singing lessons with the operatic bass Luigi Lablache, whom she adored and with whom she sang many a duet form her favourite Italian operas. These lessons would continue for the next twenty years, and the Queen’s voice would be genuinely admired by Felix Mendelssohn. “She sang with very nice feeling and expression and the last long C I have never heard better, or purer or more natural”

IN THE WORLD OF OPERA she admired Giulia Grisi, greatest singer of her day and beautiful into the bargain. (Together with a keen eye, Victoria had a passion for beauty in all forms.) Much later she would enjoy music by Wagner, in particular LOHENGRIN.

victoriaYOUNG VICTORIA DELIGHTED IN THE BALLET, then in its full romantic flowering. She worshipped the celebrated Marie Taglioni, first ballerina to dance on points and to wear the knee-length ballet skirt.

AMONG HER FAVOURITE PERFORMERS IN THE THEATRE were the actress-impresario Lucia Elizabeth Vestris and her comedian husband, Charles James Mathews the Younger “the most delightful and amusing actor possible”. The Queen would remain their loyal supporter, and in later years would often invite them to perform at Windsor.

ON HER ACCESSION TO THE THRONE, Victoria retained all her enthusiasms, visiting the theatre, ballet and opera (often combined in an evening’s entertainment) several times a week. On occasion she would drag with her a reluctant Lord Melbourne, whose idea of a good evening was, he confessed, to lounge about on a sofa. He was, however, a rich source of theatrical gossip from the previous generation, which the young Queen recorded with great interest in her journal.

IN THE ROYAL LIBRARY AT WINDSOR are many delightful watercolours and sketches drawn by Victoria from her vantage point in the Royal Box at Drury Lane, of her favourite performers, scenes and characters in opera, ballet and theatre. There are drawings, too, of those around the Princess, often of her beloved governess Louise Lehzen, together with revealing sketches of herself.

THE QUEEN’S MARRIAGE TO PRINCE ALBERT would bring with it a wider and deeper involvement in all the arts.

The Queen still lives in her letters, diaries, sketches and watercolours.

With paintings and sketches by Queen Victoria from the Windsor Archives, together with other paintings, portraits and cartoons of the early l9th century.

This talk has been presented at numerous branches of NADFAS (National Association of Decorative and Fine Arts Societies) in England, Australia and New Zealand and at festivals in this country. “Ebullient and intelligent … accomplished actress and knowledgable historian” (from the Newbury Festival review)


“”I WAS MOST EXCESSIVELY DELIGHTED” was the intriguing title of a lecture at the Corn Exchange on Tuesday morning, given by an ebullient and intelligent Karin Fernald about the artistic life of Queen Victoria.

The lecture was illustrated with slides of drawings and paintings about and executed by the young princess, later Queen.

Karin, an accomplished actress and knowledgeable historian,delivered the lecture with wit and evident delight, taking us deftly through the minefield of Saxe-Coburg and Orange dynasties to show us the talented Victoria’s flowering as an artist.

Her poignant, delicate pencil self-portraits showed an acute observation of nature. With expert tuition from several prominent painters of the day, including Edward Lear, she learns the very English art of watercolour and makes many sketches and paintings of her experiences and surroundings.

A fervent lover of the ballet, opera and the circus, she faithfully records the costumes worn and the scenes performed by painting and drawing rthese at home the next day from memory.

I was waiting with enormous anticipation for the portraits of Victoria by Franz Winterhalter, which give such a gentle, natural look to the princess in love. I was not disappointed, and towards the end they came up on the screen and encapsulated all that the lecture had been about – a lovely, talented young artist, flourishing and experiencing all around her.”

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