Royal watercolours depicting life in Victorian Edinburgh to go on display in the Capital for first time
The royal yacht sailing into Granton Harbour in 1844, the sunset over the Capital skyline from St Margaret's Loch in 1862, and Queen Victoria at the unveiling of the memorial to Albert in Charlotte Square in 1876 are just three of the watercolours to be displayed in Edinburgh for the first time as part of a new exhibition in 2021.
The watercolours, collected by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, will take pride of place at the Queen's Gallery at the Palace of Holyroodhouse where the exhibition, Victoria & Albert: Our Lives in Watercolour, is set to run from March 5 to September 5, 2021.
Described as an “evocative record" of the royal couple's "public and private lives together", the exhibition will feature 80 works of art, a number of which are by Scottish artists.
Capturing the Queen and her consort during significant moments of their lives together, their travels are also recorded in the works, including trips to the Capital.
The first of those visits, in 1842, helped cement the couple's deep affection for Scotland and is represented in the exhibition by William Leighton Leitch's depiction of the royal yacht sailing into Granton Pier, on display for the first time. Receiving a warm welcome on their arrival in the city, Victoria later wrote that, ‘Edinburgh made a great impression upon us; it is quite beautiful and totally unlike anything I have seen’.
During that visit, between official engagements, the couple enjoyed visiting landmarks in and around the city such as Rosslyn Chapel, Arthur’s Seat and Holyrood Park.
It therefore comes as no surprise to discover another highlight of the exhibition is an atmospheric watercolour depicting ‘Edinburgh with a distant view of the Palace of Holyroodhouse’ by Dunfermline-born painter Waller Hugh Paton. Looking west over St Margaret’s Loch and Holyrood Park, with the Calton Hill and National Monument in the distance, the picture was commissioned by Victoria to capture the view she enjoyed on her approach to the palace from the railway station.
The third Edinburgh scene, this time by artist William Simpson, gives a snapshot of life in the Capital in 1876. Also on display for the first time, it shows the Queen at the unveiling of the memorial to her beloved Albert in Charlotte Square in 1876.
The watercolours were all commissioned by the royal couple to depict the places they visited and capture moments of significance, from the christenings and birthday parties of the royal children to glittering court balls, and as records of the places they lived, including Windsor Castle, Buckingham Palace and Balmoral Castle.
It’s recorded that the Queen and her consort would spend evenings organising their watercolours into albums. Following Albert’s death in 1861, the albums took on even greater significance to the widowed Victoria, functioning as both a tangible memory of the time spent with her husband creating them as well as a visual record of their lives together.
Victoria & Albert: Our Lives in Watercolour is at The Queen’s Gallery, Palace of Holyroodhouse, 5 March-5 September 2021
A message from the Editor:
Thank you for reading this article. We're more reliant on your support than ever as the shift in consumer habits brought about by coronavirus impacts our advertisers.
If you haven't already, please consider supporting our trusted, fact-checked journalism by taking out a digital subscription
Want to join the conversation? Please or to comment on this article.