Step back to the splendour of Queen Victoria’s court at Buckingham Palace this summer.

 

Special effects and displays throughout the State Rooms will recreate the excitement, music and dancing of the early part of her reign.

The exhibition marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of Queen Victoria on May 24th 1819.

It shows how the young Queen brought the then empty palace to life. She turned it into the headquarters of the Monarchy. 

Queen Victoria’s Palace is included as part of a visit to the Summer Opening of the State Rooms. It runs at the palace until September 29th.

The young monarch

Queen Victoria ascended the throne in June 1837 aged just 18.

She became the first monarch to use the palace as an official royal residence. A year later, she also became the first to process from the palace to her coronation at Westminster Abbey in June 1838.

Less than three years after ascending the throne, the Queen married her first cousin Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg in February 1840.

When the young Victoria first arrived at the palace – within three weeks of ascending the throne – it was unmodernised.

She found it unsuitable for both official and family life.

Victoria’s legacy

The exhibition shows how she transformed this empty royal residence into the most glittering court in Europe.

Her influence remains today. The palace is still both a rallying point for national celebrations and a family home.

It was Victoria who created the tradition of the Royal Family appearing on the balcony at the front of the Palace.

She also started the annual summer garden parties which endure to this day.

When she arrived at the palace, she was said to be particularly frustrated by the lack of  a large ball room.

The young Queen wanted “a room capable of containing a large number of those persons whom the Queen has to invite in the course of the season to balls, concerts etc.”

So, she commissioned architect James Pennethorne to design a new annexe.

Having a ball

Queen Victoria  and Prince Albert threw three magnificent costume balls during their time together at the palace.

The new ballroom and ball supper room were completed in 1856, in time for the third ball which marked the end of the Crimean War and honoured returning soldiers.

Recorded at the time in a painting, the ball of 1856 has now been recreated for visitors using a Victorian illusion technique called Pepper’s Ghost.

Digital projections around the ballroom also give the impression of four couples performing the ball’s opening waltz.

The original decorations – silk hangings and Raphael-inspired cartoons – are also recreated on the walls.

Dining room splendour

Meanwhile in the Ball Supper Room, projections on the ceiling show the exotic birds and gold stars against a rich blue background, as in Victoria’s day.

The Queen also had new kitchens built for her 45 chefs.

See the great table in the State Dining Room dressed with the Victoria pattern dessert service. The Queen bought this service at the Great Exhibition of 1851.

The centrepiece is the Alhambra table fountain, made of silver-gilt and enamel, commissioned by the Royal couple in the same year.

You can also see replica desserts based on a design by the Queen’s chief cook Charles Elme Francatelli.

 

Tickets and visitor information are available at www.rct.uk

Find out about the fascinating history of the Palace of Westminster in Seat of Power and Pomp.

For similar stories, see the Culture section of our website.