The portrait of Queen Victoria sat morosely on a wares shelf against the west wall of the Goodwill Store. I knew right away that Queen Vicky was coming home with me. The portrait was, by far, one of the most unusual items I’ve ever seen at a thrift store in Norfolk, Nebraska.
Queen Vicky wasn’t the only British historical figure lining the west wall, there were a couple of portraits of Queen Elizabeth the First, Queen Mary, various prime ministers and war heroes. There were a few more along the east wall of the store, too.
At the time, I only wanted Queen Vicky because of the sense of irony her portrait would add to my eclectically decorated den. Also, the archival quality frame was worth much more than the $4 price.
After bringing Queen Vicky into the house, I consulted Wikimedia to find out more about the image. It is described as “Portrait of Queen Victoria as a Widow”. The Queen sat for the painting in 1899. The artist was Heinrich von Angeli. The original portrait is displayed as part of the “Royal Collection” of the United Kingdom.
The Queen of the United Kingdom and Empress of India needs little introduction to the modern world. Victoria was on the throne during most of the nineteenth century. She oversaw the peak of the British Empire’s global influence. The Victorian Era is one of the most famous periods of British History. Victoria’s reign was the second longest of any British monarch. Her great-great granddaughter, Elizabeth, surpassed Victoria’s record in 2015.
“For a man to strike any women is most brutal, and I, as well as everyone else, think this far worse than any attempt to shoot, which, wicked as it is, is at least more comprehensible and more courageous.”–Queen Victoria
Queen Vicky’s life was one of contradictions. She wasn’t always the serious woman as popular culture depicted her. She had a complicated history. Apparently her “Victorian attitude” was a product of her tragic family history, which is long and illustrious. Most of her biographies are worthwhile reading.
“When I think of a merry, happy, free young girl–and look at the ailing, aching state a young wife generally is doomed to–which you can’t deny is the penalty of marriage.”–Queen Victoria
After hanging my copy of the portrait in the den, I decided to buy just one more historical picture. There was one of Vice-Admiral Horatio Nelson. He could command the fleet of model ships and pictures of ships in the bathroom.
The next day, Horatio’s portrait was still in the store, along with those of the other British figures. Apparently there is little interest in British historical figures among thrift store shoppers in Norfolk.
This time, an image search brought up the National Portrait Gallery in London. They list the “sitter” as “Horatio Nelson, Viscount Nelson”. The artist was the renowned Sir William Beechey. The original artwork was painted in 1800 and is presently displayed at the Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery in Norwich.
“My character and good name are in my own keeping. Life with disgrace is dreadful. A glorious death is to be envied.”–Horatio Nelson
Admiral Nelson was killed by a sniper while the Royal Navy was engaged with the combination of French and Spanish ships during Nelson’s victory in the Battle of Trafalgar on October 21, 1805.
My little house’s limited space only allows room for these two historical prints. These leaders from the past will provide fodder for many contemplations in the future.