Victoria 200

Queen Victoria was born on May 24, 1819 and her 200th anniversary is being celebrated at exhibitions and events in the UK throughout the year. At WMODA, we have paid homage to Her Majesty at elegant afternoon tea parties to debut the Victoria PBS series.

Much of the ceramic art on display in the museum was made during Queen Victoria’s long reign. She was a sprightly girl of 18 when she ascended to the throne in 1837 and she married her beloved Prince Albert three years later. The story of her early life as a Queen, devoted wife and mother of nine children has captivated the world in the PBS Masterpiece series. By the end of the third series, Victorians were enjoying the Great Exhibition of 1851, which Prince Albert helped to organize. The success of this first world expo led to the foundation of the Victoria & Albert Museum in London.

Minton’s Majolica ware made its debut at the Great Exhibition and their wall tiles and fountains were used to great effect at the royal dairy in Frogmore which was supervised by Prince Albert. The royal couple were also fans of Parian statuary porcelain, which was launched in the 1840s. Some of Victoria’s favorite Parian sculptures can be seen in her palatial holiday home, Osborne House on the Isle of Wight.  The English ritual of afternoon tea was originated by one of Queen Victoria’s ladies in waiting and there are many photos of Her Majesty enjoying tea with her family and friends. The British ceramic industry responded with a huge variety of teapots and services for the nation’s favorite brew, some of which can be seen in our Art of Tea exhibit.

When Prince Albert died in 1861, Queen Victoria plunged into deep mourning and retired from public life for many years. She wore black for the rest of her life and her seclusion earned her the nickname ‘Widow of Windsor’.  During this time, the Doulton Pottery in Lambeth rose to prominence with the success of their art wares at international exhibitions. On December 21, 1885, Henry Doulton received an unprecedented honor when the Prince of Wales came to Lambeth to present him with the Albert Medal of the Society of Arts in front of his workforce. The Albert medal vase designed by Mark Marshall is now a highlight of the Royal Doulton gallery at WMODA.

In 1887, Queen Victoria knighted Sir Henry Doulton, the first potter to be so honored. The Queen’s long reign inspired great rejoicing throughout the British Empire for her Jubilee celebrations and the Doulton potteries in London and Stoke-on-Trent paid tribute with a succession of commemorative wares in stoneware and bone china. When Queen Victoria died aged 81 in 1901, there was an outpouring of grief and monuments were erected all over the globe. She was portrayed in stoneware by Doulton’s Lambeth sculptor, John Broad, who also worked on life-size terracotta statues of the Queen accompanied by her guardian lions, one of which is now at WMODA. Shorty after the Queen’s death, King Edward bestowed the royal warrant and the privilege of the name Royal Doulton.