Watching the current TV series about the young Queen Victoria has been caused me to think about her image.
I have always thought of her as an old lady. This series has reminded me of the fact that she was once young. In fact, she was only 18 when she came to the throne.
You may say that it is obvious that every old person was once young. Am I stupid? If I am, I think I will not be alone. Why do people think of Victoria as an old lady when our image of Queen Elizabeth I or Queen Anne is usually more of a woman in her middle years.
Is it because we are nearer to Victoria’s time than to that of either of those other two queens? When I was young, I knew quite a lot of old people who had lived in the last decade or so of Victoria’s reign. I do not think any of them had ever seen her, but she was a figure in the background of everyone’s life and often mentioned in the papers. Of course, by then she was old. So that is how these people thought of her and that is the image they passed on to the next generation. And it has stuck.
In addition, most of the paintings and statues of her seem to depict an old lady. Even those created in her middle years. The artists probably wanted to emphasize her dignity, making her look solemn, rather than capturing a more youthful expression. The image has stuck again.
That is not all. Not only do we usually think of her as an old lady, we also tend to think of her as serious and dull. The words, uttered once and almost invariably quoted out of context, ‘We are not amused’, seem to sum her up. I remember the late Princess Alice of Gloucester being interviewed when she was a hundred years old. She remembered seeing Queen Victoria quite often when she was a child. She said the old lady was far from stern and serious all the time. Vivtoria loved playing with her youngest relatives.
So what? This makes me think how easy it is for a false, or incomplete, image of anyone to become fixed in our minds. We need to guard against this. It leads to stereotyping and prejudice. We should want to know the truth and to see everyone in more than one dimension.
Vivat Regina – Long Live the Queen!