LONDON – An exhibition at Buckingham Palace will celebrate how Queen Victoria transformed the royal residence into a symbol of the British monarchy on the 200th anniversary of her birth.
Queen Victoria’s Palace will explore how the young monarch converted the building from a private house into a focal point for the United Kingdom.
Curator Amanda Foreman told EFE: “Since Queen Victoria came to power, what’s happened to Buckingham Palace is that the tradition of openness and inclusion and bringing the nation to this palace has only got stronger and stronger.
“I created this exhibition because I wanted to explore the nature of women in power and to me, Queen Victoria is one of the most important and misunderstood queens in history.
“The most important things she did was she created a sense of national unity and she used Buckingham Palace to do it.”
She added: “She totally redesigned and transformed this building and made it a place where the public could come and visit, they could go to garden parties, they could be invited to balls, so to do that she had to build a ballroom she had to build a ball supper-room, she built the balcony at the front of this palace, which has formed such an important part of the traditions of the modern monarchy.”
The exhibition, divided into three rooms in the vast complex, collects objects, costumes, instruments and works of art that tell the story of Britain’s second longest sovereign, behind her great-granddaughter Queen Elizabeth II.
Victoria was the first queen who made Buckingham Palace her official residence and turned it into not only a monarchical emblem, but also a family home for her, Prince Albert and their nine children.
Foreman described her as misunderstood because of the “caricature of her as this very sad-looking woman always dressed in black who never smiled.”
“That’s nothing really that tells us what she was really like,” she added.
“Yes, she was very sad because she lost her husband in her early 40s and spent the next 40 years on her own as a widow with nine children.
“So, of course, she was sad but that didn’t stop her from doing things, so this exhibition was about what she did, because so often we devalue what women do, so this exhibition is a celebration of everything Queen Victoria achieved as a queen at Buckingham Palace.”
The exhibition will include the ballroom that has been equipped with a digital projector that shows holograms of dancers along with music to show one of its usual events.
Visitors will also be able to see the dining room with the table set as it would have looked in Victorian times.
Two centuries after her birth, Queen Victoria’s legacy and her palace continue to be a reference in one of the most monarchical countries in the world.
“I’m not saying that Queen Victoria was a feminist because that would be anachronistic because that word wasn’t used in those days and she wouldn’t have thought in that way but we can look back and say, yes, this is a woman who used her identity and took advantage of her gender to create a new language of sovereign power,” Foreman said.
“One that’s based on family, duty, loyalty, public service, and patriotism. Not about kingly ideas of power which is military might, strength, wealth, birth.
“And so of course when we think about what does a king or queen do, it’s what Queen Victoria invented, it’s her language of power that has become universal in how we think about monarchies today.”
The exhibition will open on Saturday and run until Sept. 29.