September 15, 2010

RTW: Victoria and Albert (this blog is officially back in business)

Each week, YA Highway hosts Road Trip Wednesday, a blog carnival in which contributors discuss a topic on their blogs and invite readers to do the same. This week's RTW topic is:

If you could travel back to any historical era for research purposes, which would you choose?
My first thought was the antebellum South. As a Southerner, I've always been obsessed with GONE WITH THE WIND and thought of writing my own Southern drama, so to see the beauty of the South at its zenith would be pretty cool (not slavery, obviously, but the whole mint juleps and barbecue, chivalrous men, parasoled ladies and Grand Tours thing). But you know, that's the idealized version of the South, one which few Southerners of that time actually experienced, and I'd probably end up as a poor Georgia cracker anyway, so...
Having just returned from England, I have a different answer:
Victorian England.

She wasn't always like this.
Specifically, a sit-down with Victoria herself.
(Hey, if I can time-travel, I can chill with a Sovereign, right?)
Not the stuffy, prudish, old Victoria your mind probably jumps to: the young, vivacious, creative, happy Victoria, pre-1861.
While in London, Bear and I visited the Queen's Gallery at Buckingham Palace, a museum that features rotating exhibitions drawn from the Royal Collection, a massive collection of art and items of historical significance.
Currently, the exhibition at the Queen's Gallery is Victoria & Albert: Art & Love, which featured art created by the royal couple, commissioned for them, and collected by them, as well as artifacts from their lives, such as jewelry and clothing.
It was magnificent. A highlight of the whole trip.
Having seen THE YOUNG VICTORIA earlier this summer, I was interested to learn more about Victoria, who genuinely loved her consort, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. Victoria and Albert's 21 year marriage, cut short when Albert died of typhoid fever at the age of 42 in 1861, was, by all accounts, genuine and true. Royal dynasties have always been known for treating marriage more as a transaction than a love match, and the British monarchy in general is tainted by a long history of loveless marriages, so to learn of a royal couple truly in love was refreshing.
But beyond that, Victoria and Albert were amazing people. Victoria was a skilled painter, producing lovely watercolors; Albert composed pieces of music for Victoria; both played piano, both kept journals. They had 9 children, and during the summer they retreated to Osbourne House on the Isle of Wight where they taught the children to garden and cook and bake and hung out with the kids while they made a meal grown by themselves and then sat down as a family to eat it.

Victoria & Albert
Sounds nice, right?
Bear and I are creative people, but we feel like we don't have enough time to do the creative things we'd like. I have 2 paintings and Bear has 1, sitting unfinished in our house. I have a keyboard in my living room and a songbook I bought at a Taylor Swift concert waiting to be played. Don't get me started on my scrapbook, which is terribly out of date. And then there's that novel, the last 3 chapters waiting to be edited so I can send it out to betas...
Of course, Victoria didn't have Facebook and Twitter and email and TV and cell phones (well, any phones) and... the list goes on. But Victoria ran a nation and its Commonwealth, had 9 kids, and still found time to pursue her passions. 
It really makes you reconsider those hours wasted wandering around online, doesn't it?
I would enjoy enjoy meeting with Victoria to discuss (if she were so willing) her personal life, her travels, and our shared passion for the creative arts. The driving motivation isn't research, but as that period, which is characterized by the emergence of a British middle class, the Industrial revolution, and vast social, political, and economic progress, is supremely fascinating, I'm sure the experience would eventually find its way into writing.
So why pre-1861 Victoria? That was the year of Prince Albert's death, which left Victoria devastated, transforming her into the withdrawn, mourning widow we think of for the remaining 40 years of her life. 
Victoria is still the longest reigning Sovereign in British history. In 2015, Queen Elizabeth II will surpass Victoria's 63 years and take the title for herself at the age of 89.
So how about you? If you could go back in time to research your next project (or just for fun), where would you go?


Rachel Bateman said...

Wow. Your blog just made me want to learn more about Victoria! Good job.

Also, it kinda makes me feel lame when I feel like I don't have enough time for my creative pursuits when I read about all she accomplished. Maybe I should work on some time management. :)

Abby Stevens said...

Yes, me too! Bear and I felt the same way. Like... how am I complaining I don't have time? Apparently (not apparently, DEFINITELY) I waste too much time doing silly stuff.

Sarah Enni said...

I did not know any of this about Victoria! And now I obviously have to see that movie.

Margo said...

You should totally read Victoria Victorious by Jean Plaidy. It's a great first-person account of the young Victoria and older Victoria too, and I think very true to the reality. Totally with you on this!

Erinn said...

Victorian England, a very cool time in history, the imagery from that time is so romantic and idealize but it's also such a emotionally repressed time period too.
Very cool good choice

Rebecca B said...

Very smart choice. Have you read HER FEARFUL SYMMETRY? It has tons of tidbits about Victorians, thanks to being set at Highgate Cemetery.

Kate Hart said...

I love you a ridiculous amount for saying you'd be a poor Georgia cracker. LOLOL That's where I'd get stuck too-- hardscrabble hillbilly.

Heidi said...

I loved all the history of England and the monarchy as well, when I went there. It's so strange to go to towns and castles that were built in 1000AD! Considering my country was only settled by the british in 1788! So if something here is 200 years old it is OLDDDDDDD. We just can't fathom that people lived and did things that long ago.

Michelle Schusterman said...

Excellent post! I agree with the others - you definitely made me want to learn more about her.

Heather Howland said...

WOW. Talk about a learning via blog post! I had no idea Victoria and Albert were actually in love, or any of the history surrounding their marriage. Great post!

Susan said...

Very cool... I have era-envy. I saw Young Victoria and loved it (mais oui!). It made my heart go fluttery, and I too would love to have seen the longest reigning queen.

Abby Stevens said...

Sarah - It's a great movie, you should definitely check it out!

Margo - I have another Jean Plaidy book on my to-read list. I'll have to get this one! Thanks for the recommendation!

Erinn - It is funny, we think of Victorians as being very anti-nudity, but Victoria (at least in her younger days) actually was not, in regard to art at least. She and Albert bought a particular painting (it escapes my mind which one just now) to show detractors that they did not mind nudity in art. I thought that was so interesting!

Rebecca - Another book to add to my to read list! Thanks! It sounds fascinating!

Kate - Ha ha, yes... good ol' Georgia crackers. ;) I know I would so be one in a former life. I don't have it in me to be a stiff, stately lady of a large plantation.

Heidi - That's a great point! Even though the United States is a little older, compared to the history in England and on the Continent, our countries are babies! It was awe-inspiring to walk through Westminster Abbey and here them say a church had occupied that land for a thousand years, and to hear about Stonehenge being thousands of years old!

Michelle - Thank you! I am fascinated by Victoria, so I am glad to hear my enthusiasm has inspired a few others to check her out!

Heather - Thanks! It's so nice to hear of historical couple truly in love, isn't it? So far and few between!

Susan - Yes! Wasn't it such a great movie? Emily Blunt and the actor who played Albert (can't remember his name, oops) even look like the real Albert and Victoria!

And to all new to this blog, thanks for stopping by! ;)

Alicia Gregoire said...

I think I learned more about Queen Victoria here than I have in any text I've read.

Sandy Shin said...

:) Oh, Queen Victoria is a totally unique and wonderful answer! She was such an amazing and accomplished person.

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