boys clothing: British royalty Victoria and Albert -- family life









British Royalty: Victoria and Albert--Family Life


Figure 1.--HBC is not sure about the date of this portrait at Osborne. One book suggests 1854, but it may well be 1857. Affie is on the left un a dark suit by Prince Albert. Bertie is on the right. The boy in the kilt and strap shoes is Arthur. We think the child by Bertie in the black dress may be Leopold. Note how differently the boys are dressed. The kilt here is clearly being used as a younger boys costume. Perhaps it is different when the family was at Balmoral in Scotland.

After the daliances of their predecesors, Victoria and Albert sought to set the standard for rectitude. Although historians vary somewhat the young family seems to nave been very happy. The children were not relegated to a nursery and rarely visited by their parents. Albert delighted in playing with the children. He not only joined in their games, but invented many for them. [Bennett, p. 128.] I'm less sure about Victoria's role. It is clear that the family participated in many activities together. The engaged in familt theatricals. Albert taught them games. They enjoyed producing tableaux vivants. Albert would read from books they could all enjoy like Dumas' The Count of Monte Cristo. They also traveled together, taking may trips on the royal yacht, Victoria and Albert together. The children grew up thinking that papa knew how to do everything and Victoria her self with her limited outlook and education also came to look to her husband for guidance. In family maters after the Lehzen matter was resolved, Albert was the undisputed head of household. Victoria gradually turned to Albert on matters of state. In this regard, Albert very tactfully gained her confidence. There were little tiffs from time between Victoria and Albert, but they appear to have been a wonderfully happy family. Most of the disputes resolved around Victoria's frustration. She wanted him to be successful and admired, but as he rose in stature there were more demands on his time. This took him away from her which she did not want. The standards set by the royal couple with the chikldren and their family life was to set a standard that many of their descendents found difficult to meet. Edward in fact made no effort to do so and was a notorious philanderer.

Victorian Family Life

The Victorian ideal was a father who supported and was involved in the lives of his children. The mother stayed home to care for the fashionably large family. In the middle-class family, activities led by the father and mother would be conducted at home. Readings were popular. Often the Bible was a main stay. Many wealthy people would, however, shut the children up in an isolated nursery and not want to be bothered with them. Albert and Ernest's father, for example, wanted little to deal with the boys. Albert hapily took a very different view anf the royal family was in many ways an idealized Victorian family.

Model Family

Victoria had increasingly realized by the time of the Great Exhibition just how widely the eoyal family ad begun to be seen as a model family, the term "Victorian" had also begun to appear at this time. Victoria met an elderly woman that had walked all te way from Corwall to see the Exhibition and er soverign. Cheering crowds greeted her every where. In many ways the royal family was te model for alarge properous middle class family in Britain.

Historical Controversy

Although historians vary somewhat the young family seems to nave been very happy. The children in particular had very tender memmories of Dear Papa.

The Nursery

The children were not relegated to a nursery and rarely visited by their parents. Albert in particular delighted in playing with the children.

Activities

It is clear that the family participated in many activities together.

Games

Albert not only joined in their games, but invented many for them. [Bennett, p. 128.] I'm less sure about Victoria's role.

Theatricals

The royal family often engaged in family theatricals which were a favorite among the children. Albert taught them how to do short plays. He also purchased a marionette theater in Germany for the children.

Sunday

Many Victorian families kept a very strict sabbath. Chikdren were often prohibited from playing games are having too much fun. A good example of this was the popular American ice cream treat the icecream sunday was invented because the popular icecream soda was considered to much of a treat to be served on sunday. The royal family took a more light-hearted approch to the sabbath.

Tableaux Vivants

The royal family enjoyed producing tableaux vivants. This was dressing up and staging the scene depicted in famous paintings. The children of course loved dressing up. The children once did a series on the Crimean War, with the girls wearing vivandiere outfits and the boys wearing little full uniforms. The Crimean War was waging at a time when the children were a wide rane of ages. The oldest, Victoria and Bertie, were teenagers.

Visitors

Popular figures of te day were invited to court. The children were often allowed to meet them. The Barnumb star Tom Thumn was a favorite. When Jenny Lind performed a song Albert composed, the children were allowed to stay up late to hear.

Circus

Albert had a pasionate love of the circus. He sought to covey his enthusiasm to the children.

Readings

Albert no matter what the official preocupations, always tried to spend some tine together with the whole family each day. Albert would read from books they could all enjoy like Dumas' The Count of Monte Cristo. Other books he chose included George Eliot's Adam Beade or astory by Wilkie Collins. The Bible was often used for family readings in contemprary families. This does not appear to have been the case in the rot\yal family.

Music

HBRC is not sire at this time what role music played in the life of the royal family. We do know that Albert loved music. He did some composing. We do noy know to what extent the children were taught to play musical instruments. They do seem to have been interested in music. They voted Jenny Kind their favorite singer.

Outdoor play

Various accounts describe outdoor play, running and climbing trees. Bertie was reportedly frestrated that Vicky could out run and climb him. Tere was also riding and the children had ponies. Bertie was also frustrated that Vicky could outride him. I do not know to what extent they played sports like cricket. Tere are accounts of bathing and playing along the beach. Obe account mentions "marine excurisons," I'm not sure what that meant.

Travel

They also traveled together, taking may trips on the royal yacht, Victoria and Albert together.

Sketches

Queen Victoria from childhood loved to draw. She was never what we would call a proficient illustrator, but her sketches provode us many charming scenes of family life, the children, and the clothes they wore. [Warner] As an older woman she also sketeched the grand children as well. Some of these sketches have been used on various HBC pages.

Albert's Image

The children grew up thinking that papa knew how to do everything and Victoria her self with her limited outlook and education also came to look to her husband for guidance. Prince Albert by most accounts was a wonderful father. Unlike many Victorian fathers, Albert was deeply involved in the lives of the young children. He delighted in watching the children play and even devised nursery games for them. The personal letters of the children both when young and as adults show that they looked upon him with great tenderness. I'm less sure at this time about the Queen's role. She was certainly involved with the children, but there is not the evidence of tenderness with which Albert delt with them. Both the Queen and the children looked up to him as the head of the household. Vicky was often quoted as saying, "Papa knows how these things are done." "Papa will do it," or "I will ask Papa." The other children echoed her in this regard. In family maters after the Lehzen matter was resolved, Albert was the undisputed head of household. Victoria gradually turned to Albert on matters of state. In this regard, Albert very tactfully gained her confidence.

Discipline

The royal family presented itself as the ideal Victorian family. In many respects they were. In one respect they were not. In the royal family it was the Queen that was the strict disiplinarian. It was Albert that was expected to actually discipline the children, but the Queen insisted that he be harsher than he preferred. Apparently Albert was hesitant to quarrel with her on the issue least she become excited. [Fulford, p. 261.] The royal children appear to have been subjected to quite severe punishments, alhough not unsual for the time. The children were spanked for infractions like telling lies. Another punishmrent was having their hands tied. Bertie and Alfred, the two oldest boys, were punished the most harshly. {Hibbert, p. 185.]

Queen's Frustrations

There were little tiffs from time between Victoria and Albert, but they appear to have been a wonderfully happy family. Most of the disputes resolved around Victoria's frustration. She wanted him to be successful and admired, but as he rose in stature there were more demands on his time. This took him away from her which she did not want.

Biography

The HBRC pages concerning Prince Albert, Queen Victoria, their children, court staff, and other related invividuals such as Government officials and European royals is quite involved. It is sometimes difficult to follow this extensive suite of pages without knowing who the different individuals are. We have thus created an alphabetized biography page provide a thumbnail sketch explaining who the various individuals are. Please let us know if we have omitted anyone who should be included are if you think some note should be made on these pages about these individuals.

Sources

Bennett, Daphne. King Without a Crown: Albert Prince Consort of England, 1819-1861 (New York: J.B. Lippincott, 1977).

Fulford, Roger. The Prince Consort (MacMillan: London, 1949).

Hibbert, Christopher. Queen Victoria: A Personal History (Basic Books: New York, 2000).

Warner, Marina. Queen Victoria's Sketchbook (1979).

Woodham-Smith, Cecil. Queen Victoria: Her Life and Times (1972).







HBRC








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Created: May 9, 2001
Last updated: September 2, 2003