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Victoria's Sovereign Obedience Portraits of the Queen as Wife and Mother

This essay is a shortened version of "'To the Queen's Private Apartments': Royal Family Portraiture and the Construction of Victoria's Sovereign Obedience," Victorian Studies 37, no. 1 (Fall 1993).

1. Dorothy Thompson, Queen Victoria: The Woman, the Monarchy, and the People (New York: Pantheon, 1990), 98. The second epigraph to this essay is quoted from p. 38 of the same work. Subsequent citations are given parenthetically in the text. [BACK]

2. Adrienne Auslander Munich, "Queen Victoria, Empire, and Excess," Tulsa Studies in Women's Literature 6, no. 2 (1987): 265. [BACK]

3. Nancy Armstrong, Desire and Domestic Fiction (New York: Oxford University Press, 1987), 8. [BACK]

4. Thompson argues (98) that whatever popular dislike of Victoria there was arose chiefly from the expense of her growing family to the taxpayers (along with Albert's foreign birth); this point suggested to me the analogy between queen and wife. Thomas Richards argues, with reference to the Great Exhibition and the queen's two jubilees, that the monarch was constituted as consumer and as promoter of consumption: the culture of advertising and the success of the monarchy depended on each other; see The Commodity Culture of Victorian England: Advertising and Spectacle, 1851-1914 (Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1990), 17-118. While Richards does not focus on the monarch's gender, Nancy Armstrong argues specifically that Victorian women (but not the queen in particular) were seen as consumers, especially of goods coming in from the empire, whose desires were both dangerous and essential to commerce; see "The Occidental Alice," Differences 2, no. 2 (1990): 3-40. Putting these two arguments together, one might discuss how Victoria's identification with the middle classes came about through representations of her as consumer; this essay instead explores how she came to be constructed as middle class through another mechanism, that of marital hierarchy. [BACK]

5. See the discussion of the advantages and drawbacks of the assignment of "influence" to middle-class wives in Leonore Davidoff and Catherine Hall, Family Fortunes: Men and Women of the English Middle Class, 1780-1850 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1987), 149, 183, and passim. [BACK]

6. David Cannadine argues that in England royal ritual became elaborate and well staged in inverse proportion to the actual power of the monarchy; see "The Context, Performance, and Meaning of Ritual: The British Monarchy and the 'Invention of Tradition,' c. 1820-1977," in The Invention of Tradition, ed. Eric Hobsbawm and Terence Ranger (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983), 121 and passim. For the media's construction of the spectacular ordinariness of the present royal family, see Judith Williamson, "Royalty and Representation," in her Consuming Passions: The Dynamics of Popular Culture (London: Marion Boyars, 1986), 75-89. [BACK]

7. Letter of 29 October 1844, The Letters of Queen Victoria: A Selection from Her Majesty's Correspondence between the Years 1837 and 1861, 3 vols., ed. Arthur C. Benson and Viscount Esher (London: John Murray, 1908), 2:27. [BACK]

8. See Caroline Chapman and Paul Raben, eds., Debrett's Queen Victoria's Jubilees, 1887 and 1987 (London: Debrett's, 1977). [BACK]

9. Sarah Ellis, The Women of England: Their Social Duties, and Domestic Habits (London, 1838; Philadelphia: E. L. Cares' and A. Hart, 1839), 68. See also Elizabeth Langland's discussion of this and other passages in Ellis, in Nobody's Angels: Middle-Class Women and Domestic Ideology in Victorian Culture (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1995). According to Langland, Ellis uses Victoria to represent her own claims for domestic women's moral authority. [BACK]

10. Giles St. Aubyn, Queen Victoria: A Portrait (New York: Atheneum, 1992), 146. [BACK]

11. Entry dated 18 April 1839, The Girlhood of Queen Victoria: A Selection from Her Majesty's Diaries between the Years 1832 and 1840, ed. Viscount Esher, 2 vols. (London: John Murray, 1912), 2:153-54. [BACK]

12. Laurence Lerner, "Private Feelings: Public Forms (Are Elizabeth Browning's Letters Literature?)," in the manuscript "Disciplines and the Canon," ed. Jay Clayton, Jean Bethke Elshtain, and H.-J. Schultz. [BACK]

13. St. Aubyn, 130. [BACK]

14. Anne Hollander, Seeing through Clothes (New York: Viking, 1975), 425. [BACK]

15. See William Gaunt, Court Painting from Tudor to Victorian Times (London: Constable, 1980), 211-14. [BACK]

16. Marina Warner, Queen Victoria's Sketchbook (London: Unwin Hyman, 1987), 112. [BACK]

17. Warner, 112. [BACK]

18. Patrick J. Noon, "Miniatures on the Market," in John Murdoch, Jim Murrell, Patrick J. Noon, and Roy Strong, The English Miniature (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1981), p. 201; see also Peter Galassi, Before Photography: Painting and the Invention of Photography (New York: Museum of Modern Art, 1981), 12. [BACK]

19. The royal family's patronage had much to do with the rapid early development of photography, and by the end of her life the queen had amassed 110 albums containing 100,000 "photos" (Victoria's coinage), largely of herself and her family. See Helmut Gernsheim and Alison Gernsheim, Victoria R.: A Biography with Four Hundred Illustrations Based on Her Personal Photoqraph Albums (New York: Putnam, 1959), 256-66; see also Frances Dimond and Roger Taylor, Crown and Camera: The Royal Family and Photography, 1842-1910 (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1987). On the relation of oils to portrait photography at mid-century, see Lauren Chattman, "Pictures of Privacy: Femininity on Display in the Nineteenth-Century British Novel," Dissertation, Yale University, 1993. [BACK]

20. Gernsheim and Gernsheim report that "[h]undreds of thousands of Mayall's cartes were quickly sold" (261), and that the English craze for collecting and trading cartes began with Mayall's publications. [BACK]

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