Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

A MARRIAGE BASED ON GIVE AND TAKE; Design News

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

A MARRIAGE BASED ON GIVE AND TAKE; Design News

Article excerpt

Byline: Katie Law

STUPENDOUS is the word for this exhibition of more than 400 items thronging the royal galleries to celebrate the life, love and collecting habit of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, writes Philippa Stockley. A third of the items on show are gifts from one to the other, made between their 1839 betrothal and 1861, when Albert died.

When Queen Victoria proposed to her cousin, 19-year-old Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, she seemed inclined to love him without reserve. He was tall, slim and fair, she tiny and pretty. Victoria's unstinting admiration for her new husband is borne out in all her diary entries: for Albert's abilities as composer, pianist, architect, and later as the driving force behind the Great Exhibition of 1851, which drew six million visitors and impressed the world, and which the Queen visited 33 times.

In the exhibition, paintings, sculpture, metalwork, porcelain, jewellery, costume and furniture give a comprehensive idea both of their taste and of their patronage of British manufacture. Equally interesting is the picture it builds of the homes they made together for a rapidly expanding family of nine children. Thanks to Victoria's documentary zeal, watercolours record private apartments as well as public events, such as balls, while there is also a huge range of the actual items that furnished those rooms.

Their mutual gifts include a life-size marble sculpture of Albert in a very short kilt and bare legs that they had difficulty finding a home for, to touchingly youthful jewellery, such as the sprig of gold and porcelain orange blossom that Albert gave as a betrothal gift. So much more moving than the huge Timor Ruby that weighs in at 325 carats (bigger than the Koh-i-nur diamond that is also on display), or the diamondspangled garter from Victoria that Albert wore at his investiture. …

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