Friday, November 18, 2011

On a Good Note

Edge of the World
Photo Courtesy of She Deserves My Best

I have not dropped off the face of the planet, though that may appear to be the case. My grandma sent me an e-mail the other day. "I haven't seen you much on Facebook. Is everything all right?" I felt so bad. I have been completely absent from everyone. The last time this happened I was struggling with some very hard things. I'm happy to report that is not the case this time. Nope, this time I'm struggling with some very good things.

Can anyone say irony? Good and bad things both seem to create a tension, a type of turmoil that is difficult for me to navigate. The true irony is that I've actually found it harder to write about good things while I'm going through them than to write about bad things while I'm going through them. I am determined to come out of hiding this week and start writing again. Meet me at my other blog for news of a more personal nature. Here, I will proceed to keep my promise and wrap up our exploration of Queen Victoria's life.

"Cheeky" Young Victoria
Photo Courtesy of Eyes Wired Open

Determined to leave you on a good note with Queen Victoria, I have finally found some words that will bring happy smiles on our faces about our complicated monarch. Remember when I wrote about the film Young Victoria?* I would like to draw you back to that spritely young woman with her pixie naughtiness and her sharp wit. Brilliant, curious, dynamic, spirited, vigorous, vivacious. These words capture the essence of the true Victoria. She most definitely lost her spark for many years after Albert died, which makes sense given her intensity in every other sphere of life.

I am happy to have found some evidence that she did not fully remain tightly wound, stodgy, dreary silhouette we see in photos from her final years. She spent many hours painting and drawing scenes from her sanctuary at Balmoral, and she celebrated and doted upon her family and friends until her death in 1901. She sent every single one of her nine children and forty-some living grandchildren cards on their birthdays every year. She was faithfully fond of her grandchildren, especially Princess Alice's children, who lost their mother in their young childhood.

Victoria's portraits of her children
Photo Courtesy of Polyvore's Katfaerie

Speaking of her grandchildren, her royal legacy upon the earth is without precedent. She is the Great Mother of kings, queens, emperors, and empresses throughout Europe. She wrote and drew in blissful ignorance of the dramas that would unfold as her children and grandchildren rose to power and fell, sometimes very hard, as in the case of Princess Alexandra (Alicky). She wrote of Alicky's marriage to Nicholas: "How I thought of darling Alicky, and how impossible it seemed that the gentle little simple Alicky should be the great Empress of Russia.' Oh, the bliss of knowing only the beginning and not the ending for some of her family members.**

I promised to leave you smiling, so I will end with this quote from Marina Warner. It made me smile, and I hope it makes you smile, too: "Queen Victoria's curiosity and gaeity did not dminish with age (the principal reason we have for thinking her severe and mirthless is that photographs in the eighties and nineties were to be exposed too long to capture a smile): excursions were still a source of delight, and she became more adventurous as she grew older, visiting Switzerland for the first time in 1868, Italy in 1879, the South of France in 1882, Spain in 1889. Her travelling style reflects her roots in the eighteenth century and its traditions of the Grand Tour...Yet in the midst of her extravagant ways, the girlish gush of pleasure at new sights and new experiences remained....Up to 1890, she was still busy painting throughout her holidays, seeking out splendid views with the help of local guides, sometimes ambitiously covering a double sheet with an Alpine range 'glowing in the setting sun, what is called here Alpengluhen. It was glorious...'" (Queen Victoria's Sketchbook, p. 208-09)

*By the way, if you haven't seen the movie Young Victoria, I highly recommend it. The history is accurate to a fault, the images are brilliant, and the acting is stunning. Their portrayal of our queen was done with excellence, grace, and accuracy. I've linked you up to a clip so you can see a few scenes from the movie and hear actors Emily Blunt & Rupert Friend talk about their experience playing Victoria and Albert.

*To learn more about Alicky's sad end, I highly recommend Helen Rappaport's book, The Last Days of the Romanovs.


  1. Lovely way to end the series, Angela! Would like to follow up with seeing The Young Victoria. Thank you for filling in the blanks for this missing part of my history lessons.

  2. Thank you so much, Mom. I love a happy ending! And you will absolutely love Young Victoria!!