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Victoria and Albert: Gifts Exchanged

The royal couple loved to present each other with artistic gifts

Landseer had his first interview to discuss this picture two months after the royal couple’s marriage in 13 April 1840; at this stage the painting seems to have been planned as a happy sequel to Queen Victoria Riding Out (Royal Collection), which wa
Windsor Castle in modern times; Queen Victoria, Prince Albert and Victoria, Princess Royal ©

Victoria and Albert shared a passion for art and during their time together they established a tradition of giving each other gifts of works of art on their birthdays, anniversaries and at Christmas. In this way, their relationship became a motive for extensive artistic patronage and collecting.

Painting of Queen Victoria and Victoire, Duchesse de Nemours (1822-57), first cousin to both Victoria and Albert. It was commissioned by the queen as a birthday gift for the prince. (RCIN 404875) ©

In 1840, Queen Victoria (1819–1901) married her first cousin, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha (1819–61). The marriage lasted 21 years, until Prince Albert’s untimely death in 1861. Although brought together by various matchmaking parties with dynastic interests and a shared genealogy, they truly did love and care for each other deeply. Victoria’s reaction to Albert’s acceptance of her hand was ecstatic: ‘Oh! To feel I was, and am, loved by such an Angel as Albert, was too great [a] delight to describe! He is perfection; perfection in every way – in beauty – in everything!' The gifts exchanged by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert express not only their individual artistic tastes but also a great sentimentality.

Pendant and earrings with milk teeth from Princess Beatrice (1857–1944), Queen Victoria's youngest child (RCIN 52541) ©

The tradition of gift-giving between the royal couple began with their engagement. When Prince Albert returned to England in the autumn of 1839 with the unspoken purpose of receiving a proposal of marriage from his cousin, now queen, he gave expression to his feelings through art: love lyrics by Friedrich Ruckert, portraits in miniature and in marble, and songs, verses and jewellery on the theme of orange blossom, a flower long associated in art with betrothal. Queen Victoria responded with portraits of herself and an emerald ring.

Queen Victoria and Prince Albert were very sentimental – they commissioned various pieces of jewellery using stags teeth from Albert’s first hunt, the baby teeth of their children and pebbles picked up from the seaside at Osborne together. They both took great pleasure in designing each other’s gifts, Albert perhaps more so than Victoria. Victoria had the ultimate reverence for her husband’s taste in all artistic matters: ‘Albert has such taste & arranges everything for me about my jewels’. Her own artistic inclinations can be seen in the portraits and paintings she commissioned for Albert, with subject matter including loved ones and shared moments.

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Related exhibition
Victoria & Albert: Art & Love

The first exhibition to focus on Queen Victoria and Prince Albert’s shared enthusiasm for art

William Essex (1784-1869)

Brooch of Victoria, Princess Royal

Emil Wolff (1802-79)

Prince Albert (1819-1861)

Franz Xaver Winterhalter (1805-73)

Queen Victoria (1819-1901)

Alfred Tennyson, 1st Baron Tennyson (1809-92)

The Princess: a medley

Prince Albert, Prince Consort, consort of Victoria, Queen of the United Kingdom (1819-61)

Dem Fernen

Sir Edwin Landseer (1803-73)

Eos

Sir Edwin Landseer (1803-73)

Queen Victoria at Loch Laggan

R & S Garrard & Co : Haymarket, London

Stag tooth brooch