Future king Prince George can be thankful he isn’t growing up in young Princess Victoria’s day 200 years ago.
Yes, there are rules, but today’s heir to the throne can count himself lucky he isn’t fed “a simple diet; eating only plain roast mutton” and banned from walking down the stairs unattended!
The strict edicts — called the Kensington System Rules and administered by Victoria’s German governess Baroness Louise Lehzen and her mother, the then-Duchess of Kent — are on display at a new exhibition at Victoria’s childhood home, Kensington Palace.
Among the other guidelines for the future queen: “the Princess is to sleep in the same room as her mother;” “the Princess will become the Nation’s Hope, popular in the public eye.” (No pressure!)
The exhibit explores the incredible journey of Victoria, who was born at the palace on May 24, 1819 and became queen at age 18 in 1837 and later a mother of nine. The widow of Prince Albert died at age 81 in 1901.
Exhibit curators have used the royal’s intimate diaries to piece together an account of her early years. “The assumption is that Victoria led an isolated life,” says Cat Berni, interpretation manager at Historic Royal Palaces. “She also loved her pets – she had parrots and other birds and her King Charles Spaniel, Dash, and played outside with her half-sister Theodora.”
The immersive exhibit conveys an atmosphere of rooms “filled with the laughter of children” using voice recordings.
Victoria’s formative years at the palace are also covered in her history and geography books, along with a behavior book that the young royal had to complete for her governess every day. “She was an unruly girl at times and would write that she had been very, very naughty or very good” depending on the day, says Berni.
Another key memento of Victoria’s life: a travel bed that she used when she was taken on a three month tour of the U.K. when she was a teenager to “establish her in the public eye,” says Berni. It was then that she first started writing a diary, which was read by her dominant mother. With that in mind, the young monarch-to-be likely self-sensored her entries.
The exhibit also features key outfits from Victoria’s reign, including the black mourning dresses that became her signature after the death of her beloved husband Prince Albert. The couple’s “full-on passionate marriage” was explored last year in Victoria on PBS/Masterpiece.
Victoria: A Royal Childhood and Victoria: Woman and Crown opens at Kensington Palace on May 24.
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