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  • Writer's pictureVictoria Regina

A Happy New Year!

Updated: Jan 1

Queen Victoria and Prince Albert’s children often created gifts and artwork for their parents to commemorate various occasions and important days.

All of the royal children benefited from their artistic education and often displayed their skills in various sketches, watercolours and portraits. Princess Vicky was particularly an accomplished artist taking great interest in visual arts just like her father. All the children would create their own seasonal cards to give to their parents, immediate family and household staff.

Sending New Years wishes through cards has long been a tradition even before Queen Victoria's reign. The Germans have been writing and sending handwritten greetings since the 15th century, the first printed card is believed to have been produced in 1477 by German printer and artist Johann Gutenberg ( Yes the very same man who produced the first ever printed book) Although pre-printed cards had been available long before Victoria's reign it was tradition to create ones own greeting cards, these cards would feature 'paper lace' which was embossed and pierced paper to create intricate designs very much replicating the delicate lace of the era. The royal children's cards often featured festive foliage and religious symbols such as angels and cherubs. The royal children's earliest cards were made similar to the earliest commercially produced cards.

A watercolour showing a small girl carrying a present. The girl is shown full-length, standing and facing forward. Inscribed on the box: A New Year's Gift for Mamma 1859.

Inscribed lower right: Helena Jan. 1. 1859.

The paper is decorated with flowers inside a gold embossed frame to the upper left. By Princess Helena 1859

Royal Collection Trust / © His Majesty King Charles III 2023

A watercolour showing a composition for the New Year. An angel is shown floating over the earth. She is shown full-length, facing forward and is holding a banner inscribed: A Happy New Year. By Princess Helena 1861

Royal Collection Trust / © His Majesty King Charles III 2023

A watercolour showing a sprig of holly with a New Year's message. Holly leaves and berries are shown at the top of a stem with a ribbon shown in front. Inscribed: A happy New year. By Princess Victoria, The Princess Royal 1855

Royal Collection Trust / © His Majesty King Charles III 2023

A watercolour under an overlay of paper doily and pink netting showing winged angels on a cloud. One large angel in shown in the centre, holding a baby in it's arms. Smaller child-sized angels are shown around the central figure, holding musical instruments and baskets of fruit. Inscribed in gold to the upper centre: 1859

By Princess Alice 1859

Royal Collection Trust / © His Majesty King Charles III 2023

In Victoria’s later years she would spend Christmas and New Years at Osborne House with her family, they often performed tableau vivants (living pictures) as family entertainment. This involved dressing up in costumes, using props, creating a scene from a story or piece of art work and then staying completely still to hold the pose as a living picture.

The practice of the Household performing tableau vivants over the New Year was revived some time after the death of the Prince Consort. There were normally several scenes, each representing a letter or word, followed by a final scene depicting the entire word.

Queen Victoria described a biblical tableau of Naomi and Ruth in 1888 as 'not as successful as it might have been, owing to the ladies getting into giggles and shaking'

Here is an example from New Years Day at Osborne House 1893

© Sophie Dupre

This image shows Princess Beatrice surrounded by her daughter Princess Victoria and her nieces Margaret (1882-1920, Princess of Connaught, 'Daisy', Crown Princess of Sweden) & Patricia (Princess of Connaught, 1886-1974, 'Patsy', later Lady Patricia Ramsay), they are all dressed as angels with Ena standing above the group which is artistically posed among clouds. underneath the Queen has written "Lady Adela Cochrane, Daisy, Patsy, Ena, Auntie Beatrice, Miss de Horsey, New Year 1893" Osborne House January 1893.

Here is another example from The 8th January 1891 at Osborne House-

Royal Collection Trust / © His Majesty King Charles III 2023

This playful photograph, depicting Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught with his family in Japanese Scene, is one of the few surviving images of the seven tableaux performed before the queen at Osborne House on 8 January 1891. As was common practice in the Royal Household, the actors later re-enacted the scene specifically for the camera. On this occasion, the firm Hughes & Mullins was invited the next day to photograph the tableaux. This particular firm was probably commissioned because of its proximity to Osborne and founder Cornelius Jabez Hughes’s experience working for the royal family since the 1860s.

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