Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2014
Victoria, Princess Royal, Princess Alice, Princess Helena, and Princess Louise
Winterhalter was born in the Black Forest where he was encouraged to draw at school. In 1818 he went to Freiburg to study under Karl Ludwig Schüler and then moved to Munich in 1823, where he attended the Academy and studied under Josef Stieler, a fashionable portrait painter. Winterhalter was first brought to the attention of Queen Victoria by the Queen of the Belgians and subsequently painted numerous portraits at the English court from 1842 till his death.
The four girls are sitting in the grounds of Osborne House on the Isle of Wight, with a view of the bay in the background.
Victoria (1840-1901) was the eldest of the nine children of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. She met her future husband, Prince Frederick William of Prussia, when he came with his parents to the opening of the Great Exhibition on 1 May 1851. She was 11 years old and he was 21; they became engaged in 1855 and married in 1858.
Alice (1843-78) was the third child and second daughter. She was known for her sweet nature and often took on the role of peacekeeper in the royal household. In a popular edition of Alice's letters to the Queen, published in 1885, Princess Helena described her as ‘loving Daughter and Sister, the devoted Wife and Mother, and a perfect, true Woman’. In 1862 she married Louis IV, Grand Duke of Hesse.
Helena (1846-1923), nicknamed Lenchen, was the fifth child and third daughter. She was lively, outspoken and something of a tomboy. In 1866 she married Prince Christian of Schleswig Holstein and in 1916 they celebrated their Golden Wedding anniversary; she was the only child of Queen Victoria to do so.
Louise (1848-1939) was the sixth of Queen Victoria’s nine children. She supported the women’s movement and education for women, and was very artistic. Known for her beauty, flirtatiousness, unconventionality and wit, she was the first daughter of a sovereign since 1515 to marry a commoner – John Campbell, Marquess of Lorne – in 1871. The obituary published in The Times described her as ‘the least bound by convention and etiquette of any of the Royal Family’.
Signed and dated: Fr Winterhalter 1849. Inscribed on the back with the names of the artist and sitter and the date, 1849.