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Black and Asian History and Victorian Britain

Early Photographs in the Royal Collection

Duleep Singh

There are over 450,000 photographs in the Royal Collection. These have been acquired by British monarchs, their consorts and other members of the royal family from 1842 to the present day. Queen Victoria (1819–1901) and Prince Albert (1819–61) laid the foundations of the collection, acquiring and commissioning new works from some of the finest early photographers, including Francis Bedford (1815–94), Roger Fenton (1816–69), Nicolaas Hennemann (1813–98) and Oscar Rejlander (1813–75), among many others.

Queen Victoria was particularly keen to acquire portraits that reflected the diversity of human experience, society and culture from across Britain and the British Empire. This trail highlights lesser known Black and Asian history in Victorian Britain, told through the individual narratives of Maharaja Duleep  Singh (1838–93), Prince Alamayu (1861–79), Sarah Forbes Bonetta (1843–80) and Cetshwayo, King of the Zulu (1826–84). Their stories, seen through selected photographs and works of art from the Royal Collection, connect with broader colonial and imperial histories and with the expansion of Empire during the nineteenth century. The representation of Black and Asian individuals and communities within early photography in the Royal Collection is the focus of ongoing research as part of a partnership with Autograph ABP.

Maharaja Duleep Singh and family

The last Sikh ruler of the Punjab

Prince Alamayu

The only legitimate son of the Emperor of Abyssinia

Sarah Forbes Bonetta and family

Queen Victoria paid close attention to Sarah and her family

Cetshwayo ka Mpande, King of the Zulu

Cetshwayo was king from 1872 to 1879