June 21, On This Day
Queen Victoria reigned over the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland from June 20, 1837 (shortly after she turned 18) until her death in 1901.
This 63-year-long Victorian era was longer than that of any previous British monarch and was marked by a great expansion of the British Empire (including winning her the titled of Empress of India).
Some even call her the most painted royal in British history, and she certainly had a wide range of portraits commissioned, from childhood to her old age.
There is a famous “secret” painting she is known to have commissioned for her husband, consort Prince Albert, as the couple was quite deeply in love. It was in 1843, on Albert’s 24th birthday, when they had been married for 4 years already and had had 3 of their 9 children. The special portrait was ordered from favoured royal artist Franz Xaver Winterhalter. It shows the queen with her hair coming undone from her chignon in a cascade over her bare shoulders — a rare thing for a 19th century woman, much less a queen, to do. The faraway look in her eyes makes her look languid and lovesick, also a scandalous thing to record at the time (remember those “Victorian sensibilities?”). For over 150 years, this painting was not displayed, till it finally became public.
But another fascinating aspect of the queen’s life is that she herself was a little bit of an artist, as outlined by Brain Pickings. Her art has been described as ranging from “subtle yet rich watercolors to her seemingly austere but remarkably expressive black-and-white ink sketches”.