Sunday, May 31, 2015

Victoria and Albert: A Royal Love Story

I must admit. I'm in love too. . .with the fantabulous (no other word for it) Victoria and Albert Museum! Due to a misinterpretation of late Friday hours at the V&A, and prohibited access to many galleries, we returned to visit our best-loved English history exhibits. Here is the museum's website description of the museum and its origin:

”The Victoria and Albert Museum's collections span two thousand years of art in virtually every medium, from many parts of the world, and visitors to the museum encounter a treasure house of amazing and beautiful objects. . .The Museum was established in 1852, following the enormous success of the Great Exhibition the previous year. Its founding principle was to make works of art available to all, to educate working people and to inspire British designers and manufacturers. Profits from the Exhibition were used to establish the Museum of Manufactures, as it was initially known, and exhibits were purchased to form the basis of its collections."

Simply put, it's a place where you discover how people lived in a time different from your own. How they ate, worked, played, and what they wore and thought. But, instead of focusing on the history itself, they SHOW it to you, (good for a visual learner like me), and while you are soaking it all in, you are infused with its history as well. Brilliant!

Here are some of the highlights of our tour:

First, to have the energy for this feat, it's imperative to refresh yourself with a tea and scone in the gorgeous V&A Café. The place is enormous. After today's visit (our third) there will still be things left to see. . .

Yes, yes. . .Olivia and I did break our health diet here (but, please don't tell our doctor). Can't come to England without having a proper tea and scone. They were, in a word, scrumptious!

. . . then visit the toilet (common word 'loo') which is a work of art on its own. The British use the word 'toilet' even in the most proper situations, because of course, they don't take a ’bath' or truly 'rest' here. I'm sure they think Americans are a bit odd in their label for this necessary room!

So, on to the galleries. Where shall we begin?

Dress of the 1800’s, around Jane Austen's time?

Or the mutton sleeve era (Anne of Green Gables ADORED these)?

Our how about the 'Luxury' exhibition, which featured a coat made from laser cut polyester?

Or, a stroll though the ironworks gallery. I never though gates could be so handsome . . .

This is the last (I mean first) straw. Germany, between 1500 and 1700. One would drink through the deer's mouth!

Or, these well crafted doors. . .

An angel was on guard as well descended the stairs to the next floor:

This always amuses me: the 'Bed of Wares', mentioned in Shakespeare's 'Twelfth Night'. Evidently this bed was so large, that the inn would place numerous people in it for one night's rest (!) 

They would carve their initials, or leave their seal on the nightstand as if to say, "I was here".

Who would have thought hardware could be so beautiful. They took their craft seriously in those days.

How about a pair of shoes?

This is a dress which Jane Austen would have worn to a dance. Fashion left the ornate, and moved to the Grecian model at this point:

Wouldn't you like to wash your dishes in this decorative sink?

Or have a cup of tea from one of these pots? 

Did you know that tea became popular in England only in the 1800's? Before that, it was gin and hot chocolate. The government took advantage and began charging tax (and we Americans know where THAT lead), so the mistress of the house kept it under lock and key (literally) in a tea chest. She was the one who would prepare the tea for her guests. And only in the morning. Never after lunch or in the evening. Then it would be coffee or hot chocolate.

If one became too sick to eat, they would be given beef broth and tea from this feeding pot. Olivia and I remember seeing this one in the series, "North and South'.

This one struck my fancy. . .it was entitled, "King René's Honeymoon. How sweet! Can't remember ever seeing a stained glass like this before.

I love the story of Victoria and Albert (Prince Of Saxe-Coburg). They were so dedicated to each other, that Victoria insisted that Albert be recognized as a royal in England and received the title 'Prince Consort'. The Queen gave him a desk across from hers so they could work side by side each day. . .how romantic! 

And work, he did! Being a good German, he oversaw the planning for the Great Exhibition in 1851:

They actually built the frame around the mature trees without harming any. Victoria presided over the opening of the Exhibition, and pronounced it one of the happiest and proudest moments of her life.

Here are a few things featured at the Exhibition:

Latest shoes and sock for children. . .

Unique furniture . . .

Gorgeous fabrics and embroidery. . .

Unusual items:

The first 'ice cream cone' made of glass!

Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee, or 60 years of reign, rarely comes for a Monarch (the present 
Queen Elizabeth is nearing hers). It came in 1897 for her, and invitations were sent out to the honored guests.  

They even had souvenirs made for the occasion. Here is an apron honoring the event.

Look closely at the print:

It was sad that her beloved Albert never lived to see this day. When Victoria and her Prince were married, the bride wore white, evidently not common in those days. But, as it happens, white became the fashion for brides because of it.

On a sadder note, when Albert died in 1861, and for the next 40 years, Victoria mourned and wore black. This too, became the fashion, so many people felt free to wear the color on other occasions.

At the end of our tour, we saw some incredible casts of famous monuments and pillars from all over the world. Since Victorians didn't have the chance to travel as we do these days, the V&A, being all about education, brought the world to Britain. Even a casting of Michelangelo's David was there!

I could go on and on, but hopefully you understand my love for this place. If you ever get to London, you MUST visit the V&A!


  1. Thanks for the tour through the V & A museum!

    1. You are welcome, Tina! Thanks for tagging along. ;-)


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