Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Nineteenth Century Christmas Wish List--What Would Queen Victoria Want?

Regina's wonderful Christmas Wish List posts got me thinking about some other 19th century present lists I'd seen before...namely, those listed by Queen Victoria in her diaries. She kept careful note of presents given to and received from family, friends, and servants, especially in her childhood and teens.

So...what was on Queen Victoria's Christmas Wish List?

1. Jewelry Well, of course the future Queen of England had a taste for jewelry, even as a child. She lists gift of an opal brooch and earrings, amethyst earrings, a "massive gold buckle in the shape of two serpents", a gold chain with a turquoise clasp, a turquoise ring...and later, Prince Albert often gave her jewelry made from the teeth of stags he'd killed (ew!) or lockets with strands of their children's hair.

2. Art Several of her diary entries list gifts of prints, drawings, and reproductions of famous works of art from her mother, her governess Baroness Lehzen, and others; she also gave away her watercolors and sketches (and yes, she was a fairly skillful watercolorist). She and Albert also shared a love of art, and often commissioned pictures and scupture from important artists as gifts for each other. This 1843 portrait of her at right is one she commissioned as a birthday present for Albert, for his eyes only, so to speak; it was meant to be a picture of Albert's wife, not of the Queen...isn't that romantic?

3. Handmade items You might have thought that princesses and queens expected slightly fancier gifts, but Victoria loved getting and giving homemade presents from family and friends, including embroidered bags and clothing, fancy aprons ("a very pretty black satin apron trimmed with red velvet"--wow!), handkerchiefs, sachets, fabric covered boxes...the list goes on. And it didn't stop once she became Queen; she sewed quilts and blankets for all her grandchildren at their births and many of her great-grandchildren as well. I wonder if, buried away somewhere like Windsor Castle, are trunks full of items like these? I do know that in a museum in Canada is a scarf crocheted by her; during several of Britain's wars she and her daughters knit and crocheted socks and scarves for the war effort. (And if you'd like to make your own version of this scarf at left, check out this delightful blog!)

I love making presents for family; I've knitted sweaters and mittens, made quilts, and made glass bead bracelets. Are any of you following Her Majesty's example and making homemade gifts?


Julia said...

Oh yes! I barely ever buy Christmas gifts for people, I saw/craft stuff. :) This year it's clothes, doll clothes, candles, stationary, collages, photographs, etc. :)
Great post, I love Queen Victoria!
<3 Julia

Rachel said...

Yes! I usually cross stitch items for my family and friends for the holidays ;)

Hope you ladies have a great holiday!

Gillian Layne said...

Wow, I really need to get a good biography of Queen Victoria. So much I don't know!

I make wreaths. I glue glass balls, or pine cones, or tiny toys, whatever strikes my fancy. It's very fun.

Jessica said...

This year, I made a "Stupid Sock Creature" for someone who collects homemade stuffed animals and some zombie felties for my twisted sister! :)

Marissa Doyle said...

Excellent, ladies!!

This year one of my dearest friends knit me a scarf, and I was nearly in tears when she gave it to me (yes, I cry at weddings too).

Gillian, there are a lot of wonderful bios out there. Here are a few I recommend, in no particular order of preference:

Queen Victoria by Christopher Hibbert

Victoria: the Young Queen by Monica Charlot

Victoria: An Intimate Biography by Stanley Weintraub

Queen Victoria: From her Birth to the Death of the Prince Consort by Cecil Woodham-Smith

Vicky said...

I bookmarked that scarf pattern. I have a long list of things that I want to knit and crochet when I finish my Christmas presents, but I am going to try to get to it. I wonder how it would look in a finer yarn?

Gillian Layne said...

Thank you so much for the book list! I hope you both have a peaceful and very happy Christmas. :)