The Gallery holds the most extensive collection of portraits in the world. Search over 215,000 works, 150,000 of which are illustrated from the 16th Century to the present day.

Advanced Collection search

Being Queen Victoria

Being Queen Victoria

Being Queen Victoria

Past display archive
7 August 2017 - 8 January 2018

Room 25: case display


Queen Victoria
reduced copy by W. Warman, after Thomas Sully
1838-1870, based on a work of 1838
NPG 1891a

Until 1968, plays thought to contain material that was morally ‘corrupt’ or offensive were routinely banned. Dramatic portrayals of Queen Victoria were considered to be particularly sensitive in the decades after her death, and while several of her children were still alive. However, in anticipation of the centenary of Victoria’s accession in 1937, the rules were relaxed to specify that portrayals of a monarch could be allowed if 100 years had passed since their accession, and providing the dramas were biographical and respectful. Almost immediately, Queen Victoria began to feature as a character on stage and screen. 

Laurence Housman’s play Victoria Regina, received its commercial premier on 21 June 1937, the day after the anniversary of the queen’s accession. The resemblance of its star, Pamela Stanley, to the young Victoria can be compared here to an original watercolour of the queen made in 1838 and adapted from Thomas Sully’s state portrait.

In film, Anna Neagle portrayed the queen in Victoria the Great, released in autumn 1937. These early portrayals on stage and in film served to fuel the public’s appetite for royal drama and paved the way for numerous depictions of royal lives. Queen Victoria’s story continues to fascinate audiences in television dramas such as Victoria, in which she is portrayed by Jenna Coleman.


Our channel

View a wide collection of video content on our YouTube channel from past projects to our latest films.

Sit back and watch

Artist and sitter interviews

Get insights into creating portraiture from BP Portrait Award 2020 artists and their sitters.

Explore behind the scenes

Sleeping Awake

Watch our film created to say ‘goodbye’ to the Gallery before we closed for our major transformation project.

Hear our story