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John Brown; Queen Victoria

7 of 935 portraits by W. & D. Downey

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John Brown; Queen Victoria

by W. & D. Downey
albumen print, 1868
5 1/2 in. x 3 7/8 in. (140 mm x 98 mm)
Purchased, 1975
Primary Collection
NPG P22(4)

Sittersback to top

  • John Brown (1826-1883), Gillie and personal servant of Queen Victoria. Sitter associated with 14 portraits. Identify
  • Queen Victoria (1819-1901), Reigned 1837-1901. Sitter associated with 545 portraits, Artist associated with 5 portraits. Identify

Artistback to top

  • W. & D. Downey (active 1855-1940), Photographers. Artist associated with 935 portraits.

This portraitback to top

The Queen is shown about to go riding, attended by her faithful servant and companion John Brown. When Brown died the Queen described him as 'my best & truest friend, - as I was his' and, much to the disapproval of her family, organised elaborate tributes to him.

Linked publicationsback to top

  • 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.), pp. 176-177, 182 Read entry

    This photograph shows the queen mounted on horseback whilst dressed in widow's black. She is in the company of her loyal Scotish gillie and trusted companion John Brown. When Brown died, the Queen described him as 'my best & truest friend, - as I was his', much to the disapproval of her family.

  • Rogers, Malcolm, Camera Portraits, 1989 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from 20 October 1989 - 21 January 1990), p. 87 Read entry

    Queen Victoria and Prince Albert acquired the lease of the Balmoral estate in 1848, and the castle which they built there on the banks of the River Dee became 'Albert's favourite resort, whence the view is very beautiful'. In her years of widowhood it therefore had special significance for the Queen, and she often suffered 'homesickness for my beloved Highlands, the air - the life, the liberty'.

    This photograph, from an album of prints by various photographers of the Queen, her family and servants at Balmoral, is by William and Daniel Downey of Newcastle upon Tyne and Eaton Square, who were much patronized by the royal family, especially the Prince of Wales. The Queen is shown about to go out riding, attended by her faithful servant and companion John Brown. Two months later she was to pay her first visit to Switzerland, travelling incognito as 'the Countess of Kent'. When Brown died the Queen described him as 'my best & truest friend, - as I was his', and organized elaborate tributes to him, much to the disapproval of her family, including a statue by the leading sculptor Boehm at Balmoral, for which Tennyson supplied the inscription:

    Friend more than servant, loyal, truthful, brave:

    Self less than duty even to the grave.

  • Saywell, David; Simon, Jacob, Complete Illustrated Catalogue, 2004, p. 634
  • Williamson, David, Kings and Queens, 2010, p. 147
  • Williamson, David, The National Portrait Gallery: History of the Kings and Queens of England, 1998, p. 152

Events of 1868back to top

Current affairs

Following the Earl of Derby's resignation, Benjamin Disraeli becomes Prime Minister. However, following a near immediate Liberal election victory, he is replaced as Prime Minister by Gladstone. Gladstone sets out his mission to 'pacify Ireland'.
Separately, the first meeting of the Trades Union Congress (TUC) is held in Manchester.
Public executions are abolished, and are moved from outside Newgate gaol to inside the prison.

Art and science

Wilkie Collins's The Moonstone published. Credited with writing the first sensation novel The Woman in White, Collins's claims another first here, as the mystery surrounding the disappearance of the Herncastle diamond, is recognised as one of the first detective novels.

International

An uprising against Spanish rule in Cuba sparks off the Ten Years' War, in which 200,000 lives are lost. Cubans in the eastern provinces unite under wealthy planter Carlos Manuel de Cespedes. Another armed uprising takes place against Spanish rule in the town of Lares in Puerto Rico, known as the 'Grito de Lares'.

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