Monday, January 3, 2011

Painting of the Day: Queen Victoria Inspecting Wounded Grenadier Guardsmen, 1855

Queen Victoria Inspecting Wounded Grenadier Guardsmen
George Housman Thomas, 1855
The Royal Collection
Queen Victoria—despite what some of her detractors might have thought at the time—was deeply troubled by the Crimean War, and, in particular the plight of the men who were wounded and killed in battle. In 1855, the Queen welcomes thirty-two wounded guardsmen and their families into the newly renovated Great Hall.

She had prepared to make a speech—to offer the men and their families some words of encouragement to ease their suffering. However, she was so overcome upon seeing how badly the men had been wounded, that she found herself stumbling with her words. That night, she wrote in her journal, “‘It was a touching sight, & one could not see a finer set of men ... whom it made one’s heart bleed, to see so mutilated ... I had meant to make some kind of general speech, but I was so agitated, that it all stuck in my throat”

The event was recorded in this watercolor painting by George Housman Thomas who was a military artist for the Illustrated London News. The painting is also one of the first—if not the first—which shows Queen Victoria’s 1855 redecoration of parts of the palace.

1 comment:

SherR said...

Concern by monarchs for their wounded soldiers became almost a 'fashion' after 1814 - because they were imitating the example of Emperor Napoleon I (1769-1821).
From the begining of his military career, Napoleon I made the welfare and wellbeing of his soldiers a priority. He would personally inspect his armies and talk with the soldiers around their bouviac fires at night - hearing all the gossip but also seeking out concerns and complaints so he could remedy problems. Were the soldiers being paid on time? Were rations - Napoleon liked to distribute 'care packages' in addition to usual supplies - being distributed to all as per his orders? Napoleon was quick to remedy complaints and punish malefactors. This is one reason his armies had such high morale and showed great courage.
Napoleon made it a rule that the injured and dying were not to be abandoned, even during retreats. Again he ensured his orders were followed. He also ensured all his soldiers received free medical care; he was always seeking out improved medical practices for their benefit. After battles, Napoleon would visit all the wounded and cousel them. Eye witnesses remember him taking 'common soldiers' in his arms during their last moments.
The 'Napoleon I abandons his wounded' tales were started by his enemies. I suspect they were furious that Napoleon's upright example exposed their 'cannon fodder' attitude towards their own armies.