On Saturday I was lucky enough to visit this tiny but fascinating display at the National Portrait Gallery in London. Queen Victoria owed her whole existence to the fact that George IV’s only legitimate child, Princess Charlotte, died in childbirth in November 1817,and this display is full of the images of both princesses. The display in Room 16, next to the Regency Galleries, gave a chronological view of the short life and premature death of Princess Charlotte, her marriage, pregnancy and funeral, to be followed by the birth, early life and accession to the throne of Queen Victoria.
The small display is described on the NPG’s website as follows:
Featuring a range of portraits in wax, watercolour, and print, as well as commemorative images, it includes an engraving of Princess Charlotte’s last portrait from life by Sir Thomas Lawrence, completed posthumously. By bringing together these images, the display traces the idealised nature of the imagery used to represent a young woman in direct line to the throne at a time when the nation tired of the debauched Prince Regent’s rule.
Two of the items on show we are familiar with as I have my own copies, which I can reproduce here. The engraving of Princess Charlotte and her new husband, Prince Leopold in their box at the theatre:
and their marriage image from the magazine La Belle Assemblee:
The other image that fascinated me were a 3-D representation of Princess Charlotte in wax, which was I found quite bizarre, and a fabulously detailed colour representation of her torch lit funeral procession, which was of course, held at night.
The display continues to be open to the public until 9th September 2012 so if you are in the vicinity , and you want to visit the Regency Portraits, which of course, includes the only authenticated image of Jane Austen’s face known to us, then do pop into this small but exquisite display, entrance to which is free to all visitors. I can highly recommend it.