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This exhibition is in the past. View our current exhibitions.

The formation of the fan collection

Queen Victoria (1819-1901): Diamond Jubilee portrait©

The Royal Collection includes many fans which once formed part of a royal lady’s wardrobe. These are shown with others acquired specifically as collectors’ items. Each of the royal ladies whose collections are highlighted in this exhibition owned both contemporary and ‘antique’ fans.

The foundation of the collection is the group of 30 fans bequeathed by Queen Victoria to her son and heir, King Edward VII, on her death in 1901. At this point the Queen evidently considered that these fans shared something of the status of the other great works of art in the Royal Collection, rather than merely acting as fashion accessories; 55 further fans (considered of lesser importance) were bequeathed to other members of the Queen’s family at the same time. Fine examples of earlier fan-making were also owned by Queen Alexandra, but it was her daughter-in-law Queen Mary who documented, organised and enriched the fan collection as it is currently constituted.

Nearly half of the fans included in this exhibition entered the collection through Queen Mary. Although she retained a number for her own use, the finest fans were placed on display in the private apartments of the royal residences in London and Windsor.

The income from your ticket contributes directly to The Royal Collection Trust, a registered charity. The aims of The Royal Collection Trust are the care and conservation of the Royal Collection, and the promotion of access and enjoyment through exhibitions, publications, loans and educational activities.