Don't you just adore a good love story? Since I am drawn to British history in particular, the fantabulous (no other word for it) Victoria and Albert Museum was high on our list during a literary tour of England a few years ago. And this, being the season for holidays, I am infected with wanderlust. Since travel overseas is not possible right now, I will live in the past with my memories, which I'd like share with you!
Here is the website's description of the museum and its origin:
”The Victoria and Albert Museum's collections span two thousand years of art in virtually every medium, from many parts of the world, and visitors to the museum encounter a treasure house of amazing and beautiful objects."
Simply put, it's a place where you discover how people lived in a time different from your own. How they ate, worked, played, and what they wore and thought. But, instead of focusing on the history itself, they SHOW it to you, (good for a visual learner like me), and while you are soaking it all in, you are infused with its history as well. Brilliant!
First, my daughter Olivia and I, needing the energy for this feat, refreshed ourselves with tea (what else?) and a scone in the gorgeous V&A Café. The place is enormous.
We then made a visit to the toilet (common word 'loo') which was a work of art on its own. The British use the word 'toilet' even in the most proper situations, because of course, they don't take a ’bath' or truly 'rest' here. I'm sure they think Americans are a bit odd in their label for this necessary room!
So, on to the galleries. Where shall we begin?
Here's a dress of the 1800’s, possibly around Jane Austen's time. What about these mutton sleeves? (Anne of Green Gables ADORED these!)
How about a stroll through the ironworks gallery? I never though gates could be so handsome. And look at these well crafted doors. . .
Here is a bit of amusement: the 'Bed of Wares', mentioned in Shakespeare's 'Twelfth Night'. Evidently this bed was so large, that the inn would place numerous people in it for one night's rest (!)
They would carve their initials, or leave their seal on the nightstand as if to say, "I was here".
How about a new pair of shoes? Or a dress which Jane Austen would have worn to a dance? Fashion in the regency period left the ornate, and moved to the Grecian model.
Wouldn't you like to wash your dishes in this decorative sink? Or have a cup of tea from one of these pots?
Did you know that tea became popular in England only in the 1800's? Before that, it was gin and hot chocolate. The government took advantage and began charging tax (and we Americans know where THAT lead), so the mistress of the house kept the precious stash under lock and key (literally) in a tea chest. She was the one who would prepare the liquid gold for her guests. And only in the morning. Never after lunch or in the evening. Then she would serve coffee or hot chocolate.
If one became too sick to eat, they would be given beef broth and tea from this feeding pot, above. Olivia and I remember seeing this one in the series, "North and South'.
This one struck my fancy. . .it was entitled, "King René's Honeymoon". How sweet! Can't remember ever seeing a stained glass like this before.
I love the story of Victoria and Albert (Prince Of Saxe-Coburg). They were so dedicated to each other that Victoria insisted that Albert be recognized as a royal in England and received the title 'Prince Consort'. The Queen gave him a desk across from hers so they could work side by side each day. How romantic!
And work, he did. Being a good German, he oversaw the planning for the Great Exhibition in 1851. They actually built the frame around the mature trees without harming any. Victoria presided over the opening of the Exhibition, and pronounced it one of the happiest and proudest moments of her life.
Here are a few things featured at the Exhibition:
Latest shoes and sock for children. Unique furniture. Gorgeous fabrics and embroidery. And the first 'ice cream cone' made of glass!
Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee, or 60 years of reign, rarely comes for a Monarch. It came in 1897 for her, and invitations were sent out to the honored guests. (The present Queen Elizabeth celebrated hers in 2012).
They even had souvenirs made for the occasion. Here is an apron honoring the event. Look closely at the print:
It was sad that her beloved Albert never lived to see this day. When Victoria and her Prince were married, the bride wore white, evidently not common in those days. But, as it happens, white became the fashion for brides from then on.
On a sadder note, when Albert died in 1861, and for the next 40 years, Victoria mourned and wore black. This too, became the fashion, so many people felt free to wear the color on other occasions. It was a purple black hue, as the dress below. . .
At the end of our tour, we saw some incredible casts of famous monuments and pillars from all over the world. Since Victorians didn't have the chance to travel as we do these days, the V&A, being all about education, brought the world to Britain. Even a casting of Michelangelo's David was there!
I could go on and on, but hopefully you understand my love for this place. If you ever get to London, you MUST visit the V&A!
What historic museums have you visited lately? Let me know in the comments below. . .
Do you know a middle grader looking for an easy but engaging summer read? The Heart Changer will keep them reading long before the lights go out. Or so I'm told. ;-}
My MG Biblical fiction "The Heart Changer" debuted in 2019 with Ambassador International.