Friday, September 30, 2011

Queen Victoria, Artist

Victoria sketches her children in 1846

I found another treasure the last time I visited our library: Queen Victoria's Sketchbook, by Marina Warner. Ms. Warner wrote this lovely book in 1979. It is clear that she is English and that she had access to Queen Victoria's diaries and sketchbooks. Her prose is filled with insight, clarity, and detailed facts. All the illustrations are provided courtesy of Victoria's sketchbooks, with a few contributions from some of her teachers over the years.

Victoria's diaries and sketches fit together like hand and glove, and both date back to 1827 and chronicle Victoria's life through 1890. I'm still making my way through the collection of insights and sketches, so I thought I'd share some juicy tidbits with you from this week's reading.

One of Victoria's many sketches of Louise Lehzen

"The deadliest sin in [Queen Victoria's] view was sloth, and the parable most suited to her nature and the character of her times is that of the talents, with its stern warning that native gifts should never lie buried and unused." {p.7} "But Victoria was not puritanical, and she made her industry serve her pleasure." {p. 8}

"She was the monarch who ruled during the epoch of which we are the direct heirs, as beneficiaries and as victims, and her art forms a distant yet audible accompaniment to the policies that were carried out under her rule. Through her sketches of genre scenes and picturesque peasantry we see the age's bafflement at the reality of poverty. Her tender portraits of her children announces the clear ascendancy of the family as an institution to be given all protection--the Victorians were the first to legislate the rights of married women and children." {p. 8}

One of my favorites of her sketches. This is her music teacher, Lablanche. Her affection shines through in his expression, I think.

It occurs to me here to mention that many women and children who made it home safely the day the Titanic sank likely owe their lives to Victoria's sentimentality and tenderness toward women and children.

"Her attraction to exoticism, dark-eyed and dusky, is part of the dream that took the English to Africa, India, and all points far away." {p. 9} This final quote paints a glorious picture of Queen Victoria as the fantastical dreamer and lover of adventure and all things exotic. Isn't it cool that her dreams sparked the advancement and exploration of exotic places, putting them forever on the maps of the Old World and the New?


  1. A delightful read--really enjoyed the sketches you selected.

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