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The formation of the fan collection

Photograph of Queen Victoria, full length, seated and facing three-quarters right, dressed in lace. She holds a fan in her left hand. 

This photograph of the Queen, which was used as an official Jubilee portrait, was actually taken in July 1893, on the

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.