Victoria died on Tuesday 22 January 1901. She had been Queen for sixty-three years and seven months.
After the repulsive George IV and unmemorable William IV, the monarchy was not popular when she came to the throne. But with her youth, her spirit, and especially after her fairytale marriage to Albert of Saxe-Coburg on 10 February 1840 she won almost universal affection. As a wife and mother of a large family, she was regarded as an ideal of 19th century womanhood as well as leader of what was an increasingly powerful Empire.
The bust was modelled in 1860 and mass produced in Parian ware – a kind of porcelain intended to look like white marble. By then the Queen was over forty years old and had given birth to nine children. Even so, it shows her as a young, confident woman, which may have been no mere flattery as she was happy, well and still deeply in love with Albert.
The disaster of her life happened only a year later. Albert died of typhoid at Windsor on Saturday, 14th December 1861. Victoria never recovered from his loss, remaining in mourning and largely withdrawing from public view for the remaining thirty-nine years of her reign. As a result we may think of her as dowdy, humourless and elderly in attitude, whereas her nature when her husband was alive was the opposite of this, and would probably have remained so had he lived.
In a sense this small sculpture is of the Victoria whose life was about to end and be followed by that of Queen whose reign would be far greyer and more forbidding.