Happy Sapphire Jubilee to Queen Elizabeth II!
(Portrait of the Queen taken in 2014)
A sapphire jubilee is 65 years on the throne, which Queen Elizabeth reached on Monday, the 6th. No other British monarch has ever reigned so long!.
The sapphires she's wearing in the portrait were a wedding gift from her father, George VI. (We'll talk about her wedding in a bit!)
This may be my favorite current (ish) portrait of the queen. She looks regal but also like she's about to smile or laugh.
Victoria, currently on PBS, is about Elizabeth's great-great-great grandmother. And while I love Queen Victoria, who is the second longest reigning monarch after her descendant Elizabeth, I'm not a huge fan of the series, because of the liberties that are being taken with the facts.
I know that in these types of things, some liberties must be taken because 1) there isn't enough money to cast everyone who really existed; 2) we have limited time, and 3) there has to be a good storyline to hook viewers. I know all that, and I'm still annoyed by Victoria.
Here are some of the bigger points that are being fudged:
Albert was not nearly so whiny. He didn't want a title when he married Victoria; he wrote that "It would almost be a step downwards, for as a Duke of Saxony, I feel myself much higher than a Duke of York or Kent." He did become an HRH before he was married to the queen (His Royal Highness) and in 1857 Victoria named him prince consort. He knew when he married Victoria that he wouldn't be king, and he couldn't be a peer, and that did lead to the problem of finding things to do. In a letter written in May 1840, he said," I am very happy and contented; but the difficulty in filling my place with the proper dignity is that I am only the husband, not the master in the house." (This is a problem that Philip Mountbatten would have with his queen wife, as well.) However, once Victoria became pregnant, he began to take a much larger public role.
It is true that Lehzen and Albert didn't like each other, which culminated in a brouhaha a few years after the wedding.
As far as Albert's allowance, it is true that Prince Leopold, the last person to marry an heiress presumptive, received £50,000 pounds. Albert received £30,000 (Not "half as much" as the series contends.) (In comparison, Prince Philip receives a whopping £395,000. Wow!) Part of the problem was that Leopold spent his allowance on mistresses after Charlotte died, so yes, Albert was probably being punished for his predecessor's profligacy.
But anyway, the point is, Albert was not nearly as whiny as the series makes him out to be. He knew what he was getting into; he was well-prepared by Leopold and Baron Stockmar (whom I'm very sad is missing, since he was a key advisor to both Victoria and Albert.).
Speaking of Leopold: Victoria and her uncle were quite close. She considered him her "best and kindest adviser", as she wrote in her journal in 1835. There was none of this coldness and stiffness that the series gives us.
Also, Victoria never had romantic feelings for Lord Melbourne. Ever. Full stop. Melbourne was 63 when Victoria ascended to the throne! She did say that he was like a father to her, and the press did call her Mrs. Melbourne, but that was mostly cattiness about her closeness to her prime minister. Remember that Victoria's father died when she was a baby, and Lord Conroy, her mother's "advisor", was not someone she trusted at all. She didn't have a lot of strong male role models in her life, or people who treated her like an adult (Her mother slept with her every night and she was forbidden from walking down a staircase without holding someone's hand!), other than Leopold and Stockmar, but they weren't with Victoria all the time, obviously.
So, essentially: fact-check while you watch. :) Or, if you're not like me and just don't care, ignore all this. :-P
So now that that's cleared up, let's talk about fun stuff: Weddings!
Victoria did start the fashion of white dresses for brides. Prior to that, most women married in their "best" dress, no matter what the color. Most of them didn't have the money for a totally new dress that would only be worn once, and in such an impractical color at that! But Victoria did.
The dress was made of heavy silk satin and Honiton lace (Honiton being city in Devon, England). The dress's satin was woven in England and had an 18 foot train! She did wear a diamond necklace, and sapphire brooch that Albert had given her the night before the wedding. (Not seen here in the painting.)
(And the Chapel Royal is essential a room, not a grand church, like the series showed us.)
When her great-great-great-granddaughter married Philip Mountbatten on November 20, 1947 (a few years before she became queen), Elizabeth's dress was made of Chinese silk and English satin . The royal couple was married in Westminster Abbey. (A grand church indeed!)
Since wartime rationing was still in effect, Princess Elizabeth had to save clothing ration cards to buy the material for her dress. The government did grant her 200 extra coupons, probably thinking that the investment in the heiress presumptive's wedding gown was worth it. The dress had a 13 foot long train, and was embellished with crystals and pearls.
The Princess was just as radiant on her wedding day as her august ancestor.
Here's Queen Elizabeth in her coronation gown, which was designed by Norman Hartnell, who also designed her wedding dress.
This dress took eight months to research, design, and make. She also wore this necklace, which Victoria also wore.
As gorgeous as these photos are, this is a much cozier one. The portrait was taken by Annie Leibovitz to celebrate the Queen's ninetieth birthday.
Isn't this sweet?
From L-R: James, Viscount Severn (8 YO) and his sister, Lady Louise (12 YO--they're the youngest of the queen's eight grandchildren and are the children of Prince Edward); Mia Tindall, age two, holds the queen's handbag; Princess Charlotte, as the youngest great-grandchild (11 months, here) is on the queen's lap, with her brother George (2 YO) next to her. The other two girls are Savannah and Isla Phillips (5 and 3 YO, respectively).
Mia is the daughter of Zara and Mark Tindall (Zara is Princess Anne's daughter), and the Phillips girls are the daughters of Peter Phillips, who is Princess Anne's son. I love Mia with the handbag! (And James is so insouciant in his eight year old way.)
So there you have it--enter your weekend with history, jewels, and queens! :)