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Queen Victoria's Buckingham Palace

This book tells the story of Queen Victoria's transformation of Buckingham Palace


Queen Victoria and Prince Albert at the Bal Costumé of 12 May 1842


Oil on canvas | 143.0 x 111.6 cm (support, canvas/panel/stretcher external) | RCIN 404540

Landseer's double portrait commemorates the costume ball held on 12 May 1842 at Buckingham Palace, attended by over two thousand people. Prince Albert and Queen Victoria, dressed as Edward III and his consort Queen Philippa of Hainault, received the guests in the Throne Room, rearranged to create the setting accurately depicted here by Landseer. Members of the Royal Household were expected to appear in dress of the same period, although other guests could wear costumes of their own choosing.

The royal couple stand on a raised dais beneath a Gothic canopy decorated with a purple velvet cloth of estate on which the royal arms of Edward III, with its combined French and English quarterings, have been embroidered. The costumes were designed under the supervision of James Robinson Planché (1796-1880) and were specifically intended to give work to the declining Spitalfields silk industry. The royal couple's costumes were based on tomb effigies. Despite this attempt at accuracy, Queen Victoria's silhouette, created through tightly laced stays and multiple petticoats, betrays the fashions of her own era. Equally anachronistically, Prince Albert is shown wearing the jewelled Sword of Offering (Blair 1998, vol. II, no. 6), made by Rundells for George IV's coronation in 1821.

The ball of 1842 was the first of three costume balls held by the royal couple. The second, on 6 June 1845 was in early Georgian dress, while the third, on 13 June 1851 was in the style of the Restoration.

Text adapted from Victoria and Albert: Art & Love, London, 2010

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