Saturday, February 1, 2014

Gifts of Grandeur: A Wedding Gift from Prince Albert to Queen Victoria

Miniature on Bracelet, 1840
Crown Copyright
The Royal Collection
Image Courtesy of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

Let's face it, Prince Albert knew he was getting a good deal when it was announced he was going to marry his cousin, Victoria, who happened to be the Queen of England and a whole bunch of other stuff.  It's not as if it came as a surprise.  Albert had long been groomed to be the groom.  After all, his Uncle....ahem, their Uncle...Prince Leopold, King of Belgium, had been pushing for the marriage for quite some time.  It also helped that Victoria had, upon their second meeting, fallen madly in love with the handsome prince, gushing about his fine face, broad shoulders and slim hips.  Oh, yes, Albert was fond of Victoria, too.  But, not quite as effusively.  He was German, you know.

Among the many gifts Albert presented to his royal bride upon their marriage in February of 1840, was this miniature which the young Prince had commissioned from a German jeweler and miniaturist W. Schmidt.  

The gold bracelet held a locket containing a gorgeous watercolor on ivory portrait of the young Prince of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha.  This miniature of Prince Albert was painted shortly before his marriage. Schmidt has modeled the face from the oil portrait that George Patten had been despatched to paint in Gotha early in 1840, although Schmidt has substituted evening dress where Patten portrays the Prince at half-length in the uniform of the Saxonian Light Infantry.

According to the Royal Collection:

This bracelet originally had another three lockets on it. This remaining miniature and photograph formed part of a group of jewels placed in the ‘Albert Room’ at Windsor Castle after the Queen's death in 1901. This was the room in which Prince Albert had died in 1861 and the Queen left instructions for a specific list of personal jewellery to be placed there and not passed on in the family.

We're not quite sure what became of the other three pendant lockets.  The one which remains, a shell-shape of gold contains a photograph of Victoria, the Princess Royal (their first-born) which was taken before her wedding day in 1858.

Crown Copyright
The Royal Collection
Image Courtesy of
Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II
The miniature is set in a flexible gold bracelet clasp supplied in 1860 by Garrards (this replaced the original velvet band upon which the locket was presented in 1840) with the interior cover engraved with the inscription "ALBERT / 1840"  and the exterior applied with floral decoration.  The reverse is inscribed with a four-leaf clover and the engraved inscription "Coburg 1st October 1860."  


What's the significance of that day in October, 1860?

The clover and date both refer to and commemorate the Prince Consort's lucky escape from death in a carriage accident which had happened while ALbert was visiting his homeland of Coburg.

Queen Victoria recorded in her Journal a year later: 

The anniversary of that fearful accident which befel [sic] my dearest Albert at Coburg last year. May God ever extend His mercy to him, as He did so signally then. Have founded a Charity at Coburg, in remembrance of it.
Sadly, but not surprisingly, Victoria's prayers went unanswered as Albert was not extended any mercy.  He died two months after that journal entry, in December of 1861.

I wonder how the missing pendants looked.  The pendant shell which does remain is engraved "from Victoria / 1st Feb 1858.

The bracelet portion which was added by Garrards can be tucked away and the miniature can be worn as a pendant.

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