Arts & Culture

The Story Behind Scandalous Etchings of Queen Victoria

By modern standards, these are quite tame, but they caused outrage during the mid-1800s.
IMAGE JUSTIN SLEE
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Tensions are running high in the royal household on this season of Victoria, and an invasion of privacy certainly doesn't help matters. In "A Coburg Quartet," Queen Victoria and Prince Albert are horrified to find out that private etchings of their family have been made public, and Victoria is worried that these scenes of her domestic life will make her appear more like a mother and therefore less regal.

"I was so looking forward to starting my duties again [after the birth of Prince Arthur]," Victoria says in the episode, reflecting on the scandal. "Now what are people going to see? They're going to see a woman not a queen."


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The etching printed in the newspaper in tonight’s episode of Victoria.

While Prince Arthur's birth puts tonight's episode firmly in 1850, this storyline is likely based on the events of 1847, when a series of etchings by Prince Albert and Queen Victoria were leaked to a reporter.

In 2016, a collection of these same etchings, which the Queen had willingly given to her friend Sir Theodore Martin, went up for auction. And according to Dominic Winter Auctioneers, which sold the lot in April of 2016, etchings like these were frequently done at Windsor, and were often pulled on a small local press. But occasionally, they were sent off to a separate printer named Brown.

"The Queen and Prince Albert never intended these very personal etchings to stray outside of a very tight circle of family and friends," explains the auction house on the sale's webpage.

"However, in 1847, a local journalist, Jasper Tomsett Judge, who specialized in Royal reportage, managed to acquire sixty unauthorized prints from a journeyman employee of Brown's called Middleton with which he planned to launch an exhibition in London."

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Just as it plays out on Victoria, the Queen and Prince Albert discovered the journalist's plan after learning of a newspaper advertisement. Eventually, the royals filed an injunction to stop the show.

But while the etchings in tonight's episode are certainly based on real works, and more specifically the collection which recently sold at auction, the show's design team tweaked the images to more resemble the actors.

"Some of them we redrew to look like Jenna [Coleman, who plays Queen Victoria] and Tom [Hughes, who plays Prince Albert], and also to fit the script," Ella Wolfnoth, the lead graphic artist on the series, tells Town & Country.

See a few of the original etchings which inspired the series, below.


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This story originally appeared on Townandcountrymag.com.
* Minor edits have been made by the Townandcountry.ph editors.

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Caroline Hallemann
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