May Day greetings, from Queen Victoria

Yes, readers of Versailles and more get their May Day greetings from royalty… See how fortunate you are?

The custom of exchanging sprigs of lily-of-the-valley, a French tradition, is also popular in England. See this lovely painting by Winterhalter.

victoria-prince-arthur-wellington-by-winterhalter

victoria, prince arthur, prince albert, duke of wellington, by winterhalter

The baby in Victoria’s arms in Prince Arthur, her seventh child, and his mother’s indisputed favourite, more dear, she candidly admitted, than all the rest of her offspring put together. Arthur had been born on the 1st of May 1850. He was celebrating his first birthday here. The elderly man kneeling before mother and son is the Duke of Wellington, military hero of the Napoleonic era and the Prince’s godfather.

The Duke too had been born on a 1st of May, so this was his 82nd birthday. He is presenting his godson with a jewelled box, in an attitude reminiscent from the Adoration of the Magi. But current events are not forgotten: the outline of the Crystal Palace , where the Great Exhibition was just opening, is visible in the background.

Happy May Day to all!

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