Monday, May 23, 2011

victoria & dash

Victoria, Self-Portrait, 1835

The problem with reigning for 63 years, I would imagine, is that people only really remember you as the rotund, dour-looking monarch who spent the better part of her life dressed in mourning.  It's easy to forget that the world's longest-reigning female monarch came to the throne in 1837 as a girl of 18.

Her mother had raised her under a system of rules and protocols designed to keep her weak and dependent.  Victoria's one loyal companion was Dash, a tri-coloured King Charles Spaniel.  Ironically her dearest companion had originally been given to her mother by Sir John Conroy; the two people who had conspired to keep the young Princess in isolation.  But 13-year-old Victoria soon made Dash hers and he rewarded her with fidelity.  On one occasion she went sailing on a yacht and the spaniel reportedly jumped in the water and swam after her.  On her first meeting with Albert she was taken with the prince and made note that he 'played with and fussed over Dash.' According to her own diaries, following her coronation on June 28, 1838, the young Queen rushed home to Buckingham Palace and ran up to her rooms to give Dash his usual bath.

Dash (1836) Sir Edwin Landseer- commissioned by the Duchess of Kent for the seventeenth birthday of her daughter Victoria
When Dash died in 1840, the Queen had him buried at Adelaide cottage on the grounds of Windsor Castle.  The marble effigy includes the following inscription:

Here lies
The favourite spaniel of Her Majesty Queen Victoria
In his 10th year
His attachment was without selfishness
His playfulness without malice
His fidelity without deceit
If you would be beloved and die regretted
Profit by the example of

If you're looking for some entertainment appropriate to the holiday, I recommend the The Young Victoria.  There are a few historical liberties taken but it's a beautiful film and Emily Blunt is winning as the young queen.  But you will want to keep the tissues handy!

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