Royal mourning group, 1862

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© National Portrait Gallery, London

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Royal mourning group, 1862

by William Bambridge
albumen print, March 1862
6 5/8 in. x 5 1/8 in. (168 mm x 130 mm) oval
Purchased, 1977
Primary Collection

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  • Cannadine, Sir David (Introduction); Cooper, Tarnya; Stewart, Louise; MacGibbon, Rab; Cox, Paul; Peltz, Lucy; Moorhouse, Paul; Broadley, Rosie; Jascot-Gill, Sabina, Tudors to Windsors: British Royal Portraits, 2018 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas, USA, 7 October 2018 -3 February 2019. Bendigo Art Gallery, Australia, 16 March - 14 July 2019.), p. 192 Read entry

    Prince Albert died at Windsor Castle in December 1861. Earlier in the year the royal couple had celebrated their twenty-first wedding anniversary; and the rapid decline of Albert's health had taken Victoria unawares. She was utterly devastated by his loss and went into a period of deep mourning that extended beyond the year that was customary for Victorian widows, withdrawing from public life until 1868. This group portrait is one of a series made by William Bambridge in March 1862 and shows Victoria with three of her children - Princesses Alice and Victoria, and Prince Alfred. They sit near a bust of Prince Albert adorned with flowers, while the queen gazes at a photograph of her deceased husband. In subsequent years, Victoria sought comfort in portraits of Albert; a photograph showing him on his deathbed hung over his pillow in every bed the queen slept in. She also initiated a programme of public memorials, including statues (one of the most famous is the Albert Memorial in London's Hyde Park), and commissioned numerous posthumous portraits. The photographer William Bambridge was regularly employed by the royal family, acting as photographer, printer, calligrapher and organiser of the queen's private negatives.

  • Saywell, David; Simon, Jacob, Complete Illustrated Catalogue, 2004, p. 732

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Current affairs

The Lancashire cotton famine, a depression in the north-west textile industry brought about by the American civil war, reaches its climax. With large numbers of mills closing after Confederate blockades halted cotton supplies, many Lancashire families were in receipt of relief.

Art and science

Louis Pasteur and Claude Bernard carry out the first pasteurisation tests, the process of heating liquids at 55 degree Celsius or higher for short periods of time, destroying viruses and harmful organisms such as bacteria and yeast. .
Victor Hugo's novel Les Miserables is published, covering the Napoleonic wars. It traces the ex-convict Jean Valjean's character against wider questions of social and political justice, duty and love.


Otto Eduard Leopold Bismarck becomes Minister-President of Prussia, appointed by Wilhelm I after the liberal Diet refused to authorise funding for a proposed reorganisation of the army. Bismarck, intent on maintaining royal supremacy, engineers the Unification of Germany during his time in office.
John Hanning Speke claims to have found the source of the Nile, proving that the Victoria Nile issued from the north end of lake Victoria, over Ripon Falls.

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