As Canadians we celebrate the birthday of Queen Victoria (May 24) each year as the first long weekend of the summer: an excuse to buy a case of our favourite beer and enjoy the warm weather. But how many of us actually know anything about Queen Victoria?
With an admittedly strong interest in British/Scottish history, I personally find Queen Victoria to be one of the most intriguing monarchs, and I identify strongly with her, for several reasons.
First is that we both have (had) King Charles Spaniels – hers was a childhood companion named Dash, who got a bath every day… mine is a grumpy old dude named Jackson, who could probably use more baths than he gets.
Additionally, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert had a daughter named Louise, the namesake of Lake Louise, Alberta, where I met my husband while we were working there in our earlier years.
Aside from those fun but irrelevant tidbits, Queen Victoria was a unique monarch who put little effort or thought into her wardrobe. She was famously known for her plain, conservative look, and took high fashion down a notch during the 19th century. If you know me at all by now, you know I am straight up jeans and t-shirt gal. This woman is my spirit-queen.
Another super cool thing about Queen Victoria is she shopped local. She always wanted her clothing, and those of her court, to be of British manufacture. #SupportLocalBusiness
Although she was perhaps best known for wearing black every single day after her husband’s death until her own (over 40 years!), we can attribute many current fashion trends to this icon.
I worked in the wedding industry for many years prior to opening Heart’s Content Consignment, and there were only ever a handful of brides I came across who did not wear a white wedding dress.
Any guesses on where the white wedding dress trend originated…??
Queen Victoria used a Honiton lace (a domestically made lace featuring natural objects such as flowers and leaves) in her wedding dress. Though not the first royal to be married in white (that was Philippa of England in 1406), Queen Victoria has been credited with starting the tradition of white bridal gowns. Why did this unapologetically unique woman choose white? Because it was the perfect colour to complement the delicate lace of her gown of course. To this young Queen, the incorporation of locally made textiles (such as silk and lace) was much more important than the colour of the gown itself. Additionally, instead of wearing her crown, Queen Victoria wore a simple wreath of orange blossoms and myrtle, the latter of which has been included in every British royal wedding since.
Queen Victoria had a huge influence on fashion for the monarchs who came after her. She set the style for wearing a scarlet & gold tunic, navy riding skirt, and small plumed hat for reviewing the troops that is still worn to today by her great-great-granddaughter Elizabeth II (who recently surpassed Queen Victoria as the longest reigning monarch of Great Britain). Talk about strong women!
The last thing about this awesome Queen which I want everyone to focus on is this: She dressed how she wanted and DGAF about what anyone thought. Her Majesty had a propensity for draping herself in shawls and overloading her dresses with lace, ribbons, bows, flounces and florals. She adored jewelry and usually wore it in abundance, though the large pieces she favored could be overwhelming on her petite frame. Queen Victoria's jewel collection was, and is, one of the finest ever amassed (and I have been lucky enough to see it in person!)
So if you have learned nothing else from this historically based account, please remember to ALWAYS be brave enough to be yourself, and express yourself in whatever way feels right. You never know, you might just inspire a generation...