Miniature portraits of Queen Victoria and family

3 March 2012

Miniature portrait of Princess Louise, Marchioness of Lorne, Annie Dixon, 1873. Photo: Royal Collection.

I absolutely love miniatures. I love their small but perfectly formed nature; their bright vibrant colours and, above all, I love the intimacy of them. You see, the big bombastic sumptuous portraits of Van Dyke, Gainsborough, Winterhalter and Vigée-Lebrun were designed for public display and admiration but miniatures, on the other hand, were an altogether different kettle of fish and were intended to be collected, kept privately or, thanks to their portability, given as treasured gifts to loved ones.

The Royal Collection, unsurprisingly, has an IMMENSE collection of miniatures, most of which were collected by Queen Victoria who seems to have loved them as passionately as I do. Not only did she collect miniatures of her own immediate family, but she also acquired earlier miniatures from the reigns of Charles II, Queen Anne et al. Not only that but she appears to have commissioned sets of contemporary imaginings, if you like, of earlier monarchs, their consorts and families, possibly for the sake of completeness.

Photo: Royal Collection.

I particularly love this miniature portrait by William Plant of Princess Louise of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg, the unfortunate mother of Prince Albert. Queen Victoria acquired this copy of an earlier 1817 portrait by William Corden the Elder in 1851 and gave it to Prince Albert, who had been separated from his mother at an early age, as a gift.

Of her own family, there are hundreds of images and it is fascinating to work your way through them year by year, watching her family increase and then disperse and diminish. Judging by the dates, it appears that there was a sort of ‘school photograph’ system going on with annual miniature portraits being made of each of her children and they make for delightful viewing.

Her interest was not just restricted to immediate family though, there are also dozens of portraits of more distant relatives in the courts of France, Belgium, Germany and Russia. While Queen Victoria has been called with much justification, the ‘grandmother of Europe’, it seems that she also had a mania for collecting the images of everyone connected with her and keeping them close.

Now, feast your eyes on some rather lovely miniatures of Queen Victoria and her family from the Royal Collection. A lot of these works were commissioned either by the Queen or Prince Albert as a record of their growing family but several others were also intended as gifts either between the royal couple or from their children.

Princess Victoria, Henry Collen, 1836. Photo: Royal Collection.

Queen Victoria, Henry Pierce Bone, 1840. Photo: Royal Collection.

Queen Victoria, William Essex, 1841. Photo: Royal Collection.

Prince Ernest and Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, Sebastian Eckhardt, 1831. Photo: Royal Collection.



Queen Victoria, William Essex, 1843. Photo: Royal Collection.

Prince Albert, Henry Pierce Bone, 1841. Photo: Royal Collection.

Victoria, Princess Royal, Guglielmo Faija, 1844. Photo: Royal Collection.

Victoria, Princess Royal, 1845, John Simpson. Photo: Royal Collection.

Princess Louise, William Charles Bell, 1851. Photo: Royal Collection.

Princess Alice, William Essex, 1850. Photo: Royal Collection.

Victoria, Princess Royal, William Essex, 1851. Photo: Royal Collection.

Prince Arthur, Guglielmo Faija, 1852. Photo: Royal Collection.

Queen Victoria, John Simpson, 1851. Photo: Royal Collection.

Queen Victoria, John Simpson, 1851. Photo: Royal Collection.

Prince Leopold, William Charles Bell, 1854. Photo: Royal Collection.

Princess Helena, Princess Louise and Prince Arthur, Sir William Charles Ross, 1853. Photo: Royal Collection.

Victoria, Princess Royal, Henry Charles Heath, 1858. Photo: Royal Collection.

Victoria, Princess Royal in her wedding dress, Henry Charles Heath, 1858. Photo: Royal Collection.

Queen Victoria, Guglielmo Faija, 1856. Photo: Royal Collection.

Princess Helena, Guglielmo Faija, 1852. Photo: Royal Collection.

Prince Leopold, Sir William Charles Ross, 1857. Photo: Royal Collection.

Prince Arthur and Prince Leopold, William Charles Bell, 1857. Photo: Royal Collection.

Princess Beatrice, William Charles Bell, 1859. Photo: Royal Collection.

Princess Louise, Annie Dixon, 1860. Photo: Royal Collection.

Princess Helena, Annie Dixon, 1860. Photo: Royal Collection.

Princess Beatrice, Annie Dixon, 1860. Photo: Royal Collection.

Princess Helena, Anton Hähnisch, 1861. Photo: Royal Collection.

Princess Beatrice, William Charles Bell, 1862. Photo: Royal Collection.

Princess Beatrice, 1863. Photo: Royal Collection.

Princess Beatrice, Edward Tayler, 1864. Photo: Royal Collection.

Queen Victoria, Eduardo Moira, 1873. Photo: Royal Collection.

Princess Helena as Princess Christian of Schleswig-Holstein, Annie Dixon, 1873. Photo: Royal Collection.

Princess Victoria Mary of Teck, the future Queen Mary of England, Annie Dixon, 1873. Photo: Royal Collection.

Queen Victoria with Prince Edward of York, the future Edward VIII, Mrs Gertrude Massey, 1901. Photo: Royal Collection.

All images are owned by the Royal Collection.

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