Brain Pickings

Queen Victoria’s Drawings

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An unprecedented look at the private journals of Britain’s longest-ruling monarch.

Queen Victoria may be best-known for lending her name to the historical era of social and sexual restraint, but she was also a lively intellectual, a reflective thinker, and a dedicated artist since childhood. Joining these noteworthy digitization projects are Queen Victoria’s journals, spanning the period from her childhood days to her rise to the throne, her marriage to Prince Albert, and her Golden and Diamond Jubilees. (She was the first monarch to celebrate a Diamond Jubilee — her reign of 63 years was longer than that of any other British monarch and any other female monarch in history.) The collection, digitized by Oxford University’s Bodleian Libraries and the Royal Archives, contains the surviving thirteen volumes penned in Victoria’s own hand; the remaining volumes were transcribed after Queen Victoria’s death by her youngest daughter, Princess Beatrice, on her mother’s instructions.

But perhaps most striking are the Queen’s drawings, a fine addition to these peeks inside the notebooks and sketchbooks of famous creators. From her subtle yet rich watercolors to her seemingly austere but remarkably expressive black-and-white ink sketches (with a style reminiscent of Wendy MacNaughton’s), the drawings complement her observations of daily life and capture everything from members of the Royal Family to foreign military uniforms to the people and places the Queen encountered during her travels, and even her faithful dog.

Queen Victoria's children in costume for a Twelfth Night performance: ink and watercolour sketch by Queen Victoria, Tuesday 6th January 1852

A French soldier (Garde Chasse): pen and ink sketch by Queen Victoria, Saturday 25th August 1855

Women and children of Cherbourg: pen and ink sketches with watercolor by Queen Victoria, Tuesday 18th August 1857

Poste Postillion: pen and ink sketch with wash and watercolor by Queen Victoria, Wednesday 6th September 1843

French charabanc: pen and ink sketch with wash and watercolor by Queen Victoria, Sunday 3rd September 1843

Belgian infantryman: pen and ink sketch with wash and watercolour by Queen Victoria, Friday 15th September 1843

Scottish fisherwomen: pen and ink sketch with watercolor by Queen Victoria, Saturday 3rd September 1842

Eos sitting: pen and ink sketch by Queen Victoria, Thursday 1st August 1844

Wounded soldiers at the military hospital, Chatham: pen and ink sketches with watercolor by Queen Victoria, Saturday 3rd March 1855

Princess Louise dressed as a Highlander: pen and ink sketch by Queen Victoria, Tuesday 18th December 1849

Victoria, Princess Royal and Queen Victoria in costume: pen and ink sketch with watercolor by Queen Victoria, Friday 6th June 1845

Prince Albert in Bal Costumé outfit: pen and ink sketch with watercolor by Queen Victoria, Thursday 12th May 1842

Queen Victoria in Bal Costumé outfit as Queen Philippa: pen and ink sketch with watercolor by Queen Victoria, Thursday 12th May 1842

See more of the drawings, alongside handwritten journal pages and a timeline of Queen Victoria’s life and times, on the project site.

@matthiasrascher

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