Queen Victoria's First Visit to her Wounded Soldiers

Henry Cooper Readeback to top

Whole-length, profile to left, standing, wearing scarlet and black uniform, fourth figure from right, holding card in right hand. As the medical officer in charge of Brompton Military Hospital, Chatham, Henry Cooper Reade was Queen Victoria’s guide to the wards, on her first visit to the Crimean wounded, on 3 March 1855. [1] Jerry Barrett decided to give him a prominent place in the composition: tall and resplendent in scarlet and gold, the surgeon stands deferentially in the foreground, holding a ‘card of description’ of a patient’s ailments. [2] When the painting was exhibited the following year, the reviewer for the Sun remarked on the medical officer’s prominence: ‘It should be remarked that the Staff Surgeon of the Hospital, Mr. H.C. Reade, should consider himself, we cannot but think, very highly favoured by the artist – his figure being about the most conspicuous upon the canvas; at the first glance the hero of the scene!’ [3]

In April 1856, following her fourth visit to Brompton Hospital, the Queen described Reade in her journal as a ‘particularly sensible, intelligent man’. [4]

Carol Blackett-Ord

Footnotesback to top

1) When the Queen visited the hospital in March Reade was staff surgeon, 2nd class; two months later he was promoted to staff surgeon, 1st class. See Hart 1856, p.389.
2) ‘Next … is Mr. H.C. Reade, Staff Surgeon of the Hospital: a card of description is placed by order on each bed, and Mr. Reade holds one in his hand’ (Agnew’s prospectus for the painting ‘First visit of Queen Victoria to her Wounded Soldiers painted by Mr. Barrett’ [1856], NPG Archive, Scrapbook relating to Queen Victoria’s First Visit to her Wounded Soldiers, NPG46/63/2/1/1).
3) ‘Victoria and her Soldiers Painted by J. Barrett’, Sun, June 1856 (no further details), reviewing Agnew’s exhibition at the Royal Exh. G., Piccadilly, London, summer 1856; cutting, NPG Archive, Scrapbook relating to Queen Victoria’s First Visit to her Wounded Soldiers, NPG46/63/2/1/1.
4) ‘Dr Reade, who has the charge of the Brompton Hospital is a particularly sensible, intelligent man’ (Queen Victoria’s Journals, vol.41, p.167, RA VIC/MAIN/QVJ (W) 16 Apr. 1856 (Princess Beatrice’s copies)).