Is the woman in the picture Queen Victoria?
June 29, 2011 9:35 AM   Subscribe

Blogger Steerforth of The Age of Uncertainty found an old picture which intrigued him, especially the figure in the center. He wonders in his blogpost if it might be Queen Victoria. Some commenters dissent. I'm curious about it myself. Can anyone shed further light on the image?

The crest behind the mystery woman is the Royal Coat of Arms.

One commenter says that he or she played in the ruins of Crystal Palace as a child and that's where the picture is taken.

Is the woman in the picture Queen Victoria? Another member of the royal family? Someone completely different?
posted by Kattullus to Society & Culture (12 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
 
One of the comments in the blog points out that QV was quite short and tiny. I'd tend to agree that the person in the photo looks too substantial (and also under-dressed) to be her.
posted by carter at 9:57 AM on June 29, 2011


Is there any information about the source of the image available?
posted by ryanshepard at 10:16 AM on June 29, 2011


Here is Victoria visiting Crystal Palace in 1855.

Nothing about that genuine image of the Queen bears any resemblance to the photo on the blog - not the figure, not the dress, not the entourage or the ceremony surrounding the Queen.

What evidence does the blogger have that this is Queen Victoria? It looks like a headmistress judging a flower competition at a school fete.
posted by fire&wings at 10:27 AM on June 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


The sign behind does bear the motto of the Royal Family, Dieu Et Mon Droit, so yes to that. But why the Crystal Palace? That was a huge green-house style building, whereas here the lady's apparently outside. Also at the opening of the Great Exhibition in the Crystal Palace in Hyde Park she was all of 32 years old: this lady looks quite a bit older.
posted by londongeezer at 10:42 AM on June 29, 2011


The larger photo in the first link makes it look like actors on a stage, or a demonstration of some sort (how the upper classes serve tea, perhaps?). QV would never let the public gawk at her like that. Definitely not her.

Also, up close in the second photo she looks like an old lady done up like a Juggalo. *shudder*
posted by orrnyereg at 11:01 AM on June 29, 2011


>It looks like a headmistress judging a flower competition at a school fete.
But a headmistress would not have the Queen's Royal Coat of Arms displayed behind her.

>QV was quite short and tiny. ...the person in the photo looks too substantial (and also under-dressed) to be her.
She was short, but hefty. Here's a photo of her underwear. As for being under-dressed, she wore simple black clothing for much of her life after Albert died. Here's a newspaper drawing and a photo, both of which show her in similar clothes.

I can't say if it's Crystal Palace, but compare the stone work in the image in question with the stone balustrades and stairs in this photo. They're very similar.
posted by cocoagirl at 11:38 AM on June 29, 2011


I didn't realize I couldn't link to blogposts directly, so here are all the images, including the ones I have already linked.

Original, unenhanced photo
Enhanced photo
The stage
Close up of mystery woman
Stonework and people behind the stage to the left
Women in front of stage
Stonework and people behind the stage to the right

ryanshepard: Is there any information about the source of the image available?

Steerforth works in a warehouse for used books. They also get quite a few old photo albums and loose photos. The blog often has selections of these. There's no info about the photographer.

fire&wings: What evidence does the blogger have that this is Queen Victoria? It looks like a headmistress judging a flower competition at a school fete.

He has no evidence, but it's the presence of the royal coat of arms plus the strange, deferential stance of the woman to the right of the mystery woman in the center. Oh, and I forgot to mention in the more inside but a commenter observed that the identical hats look like school hats.

londongeezer: But why the Crystal Palace? That was a huge green-house style building, whereas here the lady's apparently outside. Also at the opening of the Great Exhibition in the Crystal Palace in Hyde Park she was all of 32 years old: this lady looks quite a bit older.

This wouldn't be in 1855, but later, possibly at the same location as the Great Exhibition. An anonymous commenter said: "Having grown up playing in the ruins - I recognise that stonework is from the Crystal Palace."
posted by Kattullus at 11:39 AM on June 29, 2011


Didn't she always wear the blue sash of the Order of the Garter? There's no reason she would leave it a home for a public appearance.
posted by oneirodynia at 11:51 AM on June 29, 2011


Some salient points:
* The balustrade in the photograph could be the same as the one seen in the Crystal Palace view. But it seems to lack the large planters at each post and behind it are a row of mature trees (pines, or possibly chestnuts?).
* The Crystal Palace, beyond its use in the Great Exhibition, occupied its permanent grounds from 1853 to the end of her reign. There is no reason she could not have visited it many times.
* The photograph must be very early.
* There is definitely an upper class crowd in the official audience, with lower class persons milling about outside the railing. The central area is mainly schoolgirls in matching uniforms, many holding programs of some sort.
* The central figure could physically be Victoria and the coat of arms strongly suggests it might be. Albert died in 1861, and this photograph appears to be of or around that era. It is unclear to me whether she is in mourning clothes. She is wearing some sort of sash, but not over her shoulder. Around her neck may be some sort of identifiable vestment. It is unclear if she has any sort of crown on her head, but something like a tiara.
* To her right is a bearded man wearing some sort of ermine cloak and possibly a turban. He may be seated cross-legged on a dais; or he may be behind the seated body of a portly European gentleman.
* To her left is a male in very formal suit.
* On the table there definitely appear to be some potted plants.

I can surmise one scenario where a prince of India has sent some exotic plant species to be part of the Crystal Palace gardens, and the ermine-turban fellow is an ambassador of his. I can surmise other scenarios that explain the older-looking woman as some type of public figure, but not many that include an Indian.

I do feel that this is an early enough photograph that it would have been somewhat remarkable and thus traceable within the historical record, assuming this was in fact Victoria, and the fact that it's such an early photograph with such surroundings strongly suggests it would not have been a minor casual affair such as a flower competition. There was too much equipment to lug around, there were too many problems with lighting and movement, so for a long time -- say roughly the end of the 1860s -- photographs of public events like this were quite rare. After that shutter speeds were better and more compact cameras became available. The true candid photograph did not appear until almost the end of the 19th century.

I think you're on the right track, but verifying more about the source and any ancillary information accompanying the artifact itself might help more than our guessing.
posted by dhartung at 5:38 PM on June 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


I can surmise one scenario where a prince of India has sent some exotic plant species to be part of the Crystal Palace gardens, and the ermine-turban fellow is an ambassador of his.

I'm no expert on royal etiquette, but would an ambassador remain seated while the queen was standing?

Anyway, Victoria's coat of arms should have a helm and a crest above the shield. In this case, the crown is sitting directly on the shield, as it does for Her Majesty's Government. I think this may be an official, but not royal proceeding.

I also just can't believe that Her Majesty would show up to something like this and have no attendant but a woman and a couple of lazy random dudes. There should be far more officials and security and medals and swords and general pomp and circumstance. They didn't do little photo ops like Obama stopping at Five Guys to grab a burger in his shirtsleeves. I'm by no means an expert but I don't feel like this photo represents a Victorian Royal engagement. It would be exciting to be proved wrong, but I really think the coat of arms is not correct.
posted by oneirodynia at 7:54 PM on June 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


But a headmistress would not have the Queen's Royal Coat of Arms displayed behind her.

Why not? The Royal Coat of Arms has never been exclusive to appearances of the Royal Family in public, as far as I am aware.
posted by fire&wings at 2:59 PM on June 30, 2011


I do feel that this is an early enough photograph that it would have been somewhat remarkable and thus traceable within the historical record, assuming this was in fact Victoria, and the fact that it's such an early photograph with such surroundings strongly suggests it would not have been a minor casual affair such as a flower competition. There was too much equipment to lug around, there were too many problems with lighting and movement, so for a long time -- say roughly the end of the 1860s -- photographs of public events like this were quite rare. After that shutter speeds were better and more compact cameras became available. The true candid photograph did not appear until almost the end of the 19th century.

This is wildly misinformed. The photo looks like a standard albumen print mounted on card, you can buy 500 of these in a box at any bog standard auction for less than £50.
posted by fire&wings at 3:05 PM on June 30, 2011


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