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, 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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5 Comments to “May Day greetings, from Queen Victoria”

  1. Catherine Delors says:

    True, Vic! In France at the same time even ladies wore their hair cropped very short, “a la Titus” but this went out of style with the beginning of Napoleon’s reign.
    About this particular show, it only lasts till the end of October. But then it will probably be replaced by something just as interesting. The Queen’s Gallery has very limited space, but the quality of the exhibits more than makes up for it.

  2. Catherine Delors says:

    This is why this exhibition is so fascinating: we get to see Victoria as a young woman (and this is not the Victoria of Young Victoria either). So, Allie, you will read 2 of my novels in a short time! I am truly flattered, and most interested in your opinion, because they are quite different and have much in common… :)

  3. I love the movement in this painting. And I love seeing paintings of Victoria when she was young; I feel she is often depicted in her older age and she looks so beautiful and vibrant here. Finding the background of any painting is always fascinating because it puts the work in greater historical context.

    I received For the King today and can’t wait to get started :) Just picked up a copy of Mistress of the Revolution from Amazon to read before the HFBRT event, too.

  4. Catherine Delors says:

    Oh, Charleybrown, I too love discovering the background and context of great paintings. If you browse the blog, you will find many such topics. Yes, Winterhalter was a major portraitist, in the tradition of Madame Vigee-Lebrun. Stay tuned, I will write a full post on my visit the Victoria and Albert show. Many more Winterhalters to admire…
    And I would have loved to see the Great Exhibition. Victoria obviously enjoyed it a great deal, since she went there 30 times or so, and acquired many artifacts there. A pity the Crystal Palace is no longer there.

  5. Charleybrown says:

    Hi Catherine!
    I had the hardest time finding out details of some of the paintings done of Queen Victoria or other historic figures. I felt like I was trying to solve a puzzle and often found contradictory information. Thanks for your background info! This is one of the paintings that did catch my eye as I had fun discovering all the wonderful portraits done by Winterhalter! I never noticed the Crystal Palace in the background before so thanks for pointing that out! I love hearing references to what I think would have been a magical place to visit!

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