The Monarchy has contributed significantly to the prosperity of its people by its understanding and promotion of progress in the fields of art, science and industry.
As part of their fine and thorough education, based on continental humanist principles, Henry VIII’s children were all taught to write in the new Italic hand. His second daughter, Princess Elizabeth, wrote in a particularly elegant and legible style. The passage shown here also demonstrates her accomplished use of the English language: even a hundred years earlier, French – rather than English – had been the language chiefly used at court.
The English poem added by the Princess at the end of this small edition of the Psalms (in French) reads as follows: ‘No croked legge no blered / eye no part deformed out / of kinde nor yet so ouglye / halfe ca[n] be as is the inward / suspicious minde. / Your Louinge / maistres. / Elizabeth.’ The signature ends with a decorative flourish, which has at times been interpreted as an elaborate capital R, standing for ‘Regina’ (Queen). Comparison with documents known to have been written by her before her accession in 1558, however, shows that the flourish was used by her in that period. It is not known to whom the young Princess addressed this profound reflection that a twisted, suspicious mind is far worse than physical disability. Her difficult childhood, in and out of favour as royal policy changed, had given her ample experience of the effects of suspicion.
On the opposite page is a beautifully-drawn astrolabe, poised on a book inscribed: ‘VERBV[M] DO[M]INI’ (The Word of the Lord) [both Ms are represented by superscript lines]. In a cartouche below this is a sentence in Italian: ‘Miser é chi speme in cosa / mortal pone.’ (Wretched is he who places hope in a mortal thing.) Taken with the astrolabe representing astronomy, the message appears to be that it is only with the help of divine inspiration that Man can understand the universe.
The great star or octagon room at the Royal Greenwich Observatory. The Observatory was commissioned by Charles II in 1675 at the same time as creating the position of Astronomer Royal. In this room observations were taken using instruments including the sextant and telescope. Portraits of Charles II and James II can be seen on the wall.
Matthew Boulton & John Fothergill established a metalwork and luxury ornament manufactory at Soho, Birmingham in 1765, with the intention to apply industrial manufacturing techniques of production to the creation and sale of luxury goods. These were retailed in London, and in 1770 and 1771 he offered a selection of goods for sale at his friend James Christie's auction rooms. Another friend, the King's architect, Sir William Chambers, provided numerous designs for some of the ornaments, including, perhaps, that for the plinth of the 'King's Vase'. Two pairs of this vase-candelabrum, were purchased by George III and Queen Charlotte in 1770, along with a pair of 'Sphinx' vases and a 'King's' clock, following Boulton's three-hour audience with the King and Queen. Boulton's invention was to create a quantity of individually-designed ornaments, each of which could be employed in a wide range of objects. The lid on the 'King's Vase' is similar to that on another vase, and the foot is seen elsewhere. This ingenious system of manufacture, perhaps the finest demonstration of British gilt bronze in the 18th century, was supported by George III and its fashionable, glamorous style, was likewise enjoyed and supported by Queen Charlotte.
On 16 August 1858 the first official transatlantic message was sent by Queen Victoria to James Buchanan, President of the United States of America. The message in Morse code – recorded on the present tickertape – was sent via a submarine cable which ran from Ireland to Newfoundland in Canada. This paper tickertape records the text of the message:
‘To the President of the United States, Washington. The Queen desires to congratulate the President upon the successful completion of this great international work…The Queen is convinced that…the electric cable which now connects Great Britain with the United States will prove an additional link between the nations, whose friendship is founded upon their common interest and reciprocal esteem. The Queen has much pleasure in thus communicating with the President and renewing to him her wishes for the prosperity of the United States.’
The tickertape was presented to the Queen and kept by her at Osborne House as a souvenir of the occasion. It is clear that the Queen understood how transformative this new innovation was in the field of communications, reducing the amount of time it took to send a message across the Atlantic from up to ten days by ship, to a matter of minutes. Although the cable ceased to function three months later, after transmitting 732 messages, the Prince Consort wrote soon after to Benjamin Disraeli, then Chancellor of the Exchequer, urging him to make a government grant towards the cost of laying a new cable between the United Kingdom and North America. Despite the Prince’s plea this was not achieved until 1866.
A photograph taken at the first televised Royal Christmas Message, December 25th 1957 taken in the Long Library at Sandringham House. The Queen holds a copy of Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress which she quoted from during her Christmas speech.
In his capacity as President of the Society of Arts, Prince Albert set up a committee to organise exhibitions with the aim of improving British industrial design. An exhibition in Birmingham in 1849 was followed by the first truly international exhibition, the Great Exhibition of Products of Industry of All Nations, held in Joseph Paxton’s ‘Crystal Palace’ in Hyde Park, London, in the summer of 1851. Six million people visited the exhibition to see over 100,000 exhibits from around the world, divided broadly into raw materials, machinery, manufactures and the fine arts; Queen Victoria herself visited no fewer than thirty-four times. The substantial profits were used to establish the South Kensington Museum, renamed the Victoria and Albert Museum in 1899.
Prince Albert played a leading role in planning the Great Exhibition, and commissioned a series of watercolours to record the occasion which were then reproduced by lithogrphy and chromolithography, a new mechanical colour-printing process in keeping with the aims of the exhibition itself.
Learning resources to accompany the series have been developed in partnership with BBC Schools. These can be accessed on the BBC's Famous people website.
To listen to The Art of Monarchy series, please visit the BBC Radio 4 site.