Victoria, Albert & their Patronage of Photography
“Such was Victoria’s compulsion for collecting family photographs that they eventually took up every inch of space in her cluttered private rooms at Windsor, Osborne and Balmoral.”
A Royal interest
In England, William Henry Fox Talbot had developed his own negative-positive photographic process in the late 1830s, independently of the experiments in France at the same time made by Louis Daguerre. By 1839 the first daguerreotypes were being imported into Britain from France, but it was not until March 1841 that the photographic portrait – then still a rarity – was made available to the public, when Richard Beard bought the patent rights and set up a daguerreotype studio in London. Soon after, one of Daguerre’s pupils, Antoine Claudet, established his own studio in London, having already presented the Queen and Prince Albert with a selection of his images of European cities a couple of years earlier.
“That first sight of the Talbot album in 1840 no doubt tapped into an early interest taken in photography by Prince Albert that had not needed any encouragement. In fact, as the Queen recorded in her journal, she had shown Albert some daguerreotypes recently sent to her from France on the very day – 15 October 1839 – when she had proposed marriage to Albert.”
The First Photgraphs of Victoria & Albert
Patronage of William Edward Kilburn
Photography featured at the Great Exhibition of 1851
Prince Albert & Crimean War Photographer Roger Fenton
Collectors of Photography as Art
The Rise of the Carte de Visite
By the 1890s, the invention of roll film by George Eastman in the USA and the introduction of the lightweight, portable Kodak camera finally brought photography to the masses, as well as to many younger members of the royal family. Alexandra, Princess of Wales took up photography in 1890. She attended lessons at the London Stereoscopic School of Photography, exhibiting some of her work in an exhibition at the New Gallery in Regent Street in 1897, and later published many of them in in 1908 in her Queen Alexandra’s Christmas Book. The Queen’s youngest daughter Princess Beatrice also became an enthusiast after the premature death of her husband Prince Henry of Battenburg in 1896.
By now the queen had become so completely enamoured of the photographic art that one of her courtiers observed that ‘it is quite a weakness of hers to be photographed in every possible condition of her daily life’. The most familiar images were those of the queen: ‘sitting in her donkey chair, dandling the last new baby, chatting in her private sitting-room among her daughters, working at her writing-table, or breakfasting in the open air, with the Battenberg family and her immediate attendants around her’. Such was Victoria’s compulsion for collecting family photographs that they eventually took up every inch of space in her cluttered private rooms at Windsor, Osborne and Balmoral.