Art, Passion & Power: The Story of the Royal Collection (2018) s01e03 Episode Script

Palaces and Pleasuredomes

Have you ever wondered how you'd
impress a king?
If you're at Buckingham Palace,
and the King of Spain
is coming to dinner,
the first thing you do is get out
your best tableware.
In particular, you polish up
the Grand Service,
one of the greatest treasures
of the Royal Collection
and, then, you let it do its work.
The Grand Service,
4,000 pieces, silver-gilt,
25 years in the making -
far more than table ornament.
Many of these pieces could really be
described as sculpture.
What an astonishing thing!
It's a national monument.
Look closer and there's marvel
in every detail.
Clam-shaped tureens,
candelabra with piping forms.
It all reflects the personality
of the man who commissioned it -
George IV, a king for whom
too much was never enough
and who was responsible for so much
of the trappings of the modern
monarchy. Before him, royal ceremony
was polite theatre.
After him, it was opera.
I'm exploring the Royal Collection,
that extraordinary accumulation
of art and objects
owned by the monarchy
and I've reached the late
18th and early 19th centuries
and the most romantic
royal collectors in history.
There's George IV but also the royal
couple who closely followed him -
Queen Victoria and Prince Albert,
for whom art served
almost as a marital aid.
This is a fantastically accomplished
piece of high Victorian soft porn.
Through their collections,
we see them as lovers, rulers,
diplomats and - sometimes -
flawed individuals.
But they purchased and commissioned
some of the greatest
works of art of all time.
Between them, George IV,
Queen Victoria and Albert turned the
first half of the 19th century into
the greatest age of royal collecting
since the time of Charles I
and, unlike Charles's collection,
theirs have remained largely intact
into the present
and, in fact, when the monarchy
today wants to put on a show,
it's THEIR stuff that's brought out,
polished and set on the table.
"In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
"A stately pleasure dome decree
"Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
"Through caverns measureless to man
"Down to a sunless sea."
Coleridge, in his opium dreams,
merely wrote about the great palace
of an Oriental potentate.
But George IV, whose name I would
add to any roll call
of great romantics,
went one better - he built his own.
The Royal Pavilion in Brighton -
a self-portrait in stone of a man
who lived his whole life
as if it were a work of art.
A pleasure dome, indeed.
So, welcome to the house
that George built.
Welcome to the house of fun!
Everything in here is pure theatre.
Look at this wonderful,
Chinese-style chandelier
designed by George's interior
decorators, the Craces.
And these rather wonderful
Qing dynasty figurines,
they give you a little hint as to
George's mischievous sense of fun.
They nod at you, and it's said that
George used to like to do that
to all of these figurines just
before guests arrived,
so that when they came in
to this long gallery,
they'd do a double-take and think,
"Did that sculpture just move?
"Is it alive? Who knows?"
These figures, like many other
objects here,
are owned by the Queen
and are on long term loan
from the Royal Collection.
The walls have been papered so that
they resemble a garden -
..and, if you continue on to this
rather wonderful staircase
..this looks like bamboo but,
actually, it's made of wrought iron,
whereas this, the handrail, is
mahogany carved to look like bamboo.
How perverse is that?
But all of that, the long gallery,
is really
an avenue of anticipation,
a build-up,
a build-up to the great climax,
the coup de theatre,
the piece of resistance,
which is the banqueting room.
The richest, most luxuriously
decorated space
created in all of
19th-century England.
It's bewildering, breathtaking.
The designer was
a man called Robert Jones.
If only he were alive today,
just imagine how Elton John's
house would look.
That is the largest, most splendid
and extraordinary chandelier.
It's held in place by this
astonishing Jabberwock of a dragon.
The pavilion began as a spare and
trim neoclassical building but it
expanded in tandem
with the royal waistline,
becoming more outlandish as George
put ever more distance
between himself and the ordered,
18th-century world of his youth,
dominated by his father, George III.
Think of George III,
collector of clocks,
a man of the Enlightenment, obsessed
with order, decorum, rules,
punctuality. Well!
George IV just says
no to all of that
and I think that's what this
building symbolises
more than anything else.
It's a great act of rebellion
against everything
that his father stood for.
In here, underneath
that glittering dome,
in this fantasy world, he can enjoy
his latest fling,
open ten or 20 bottles of very good
Bordeaux and time would stand still.
He would be free.
Freedom came at a price.
George's excessive consumption
wasn't nearly matched by his income.
Parliament was constantly
bailing him out,
even forcing him to marry in
exchange for writing off hundreds of
thousands of pounds of debt.
George has been remembered as
extravagant and profligate,
a thoroughly rotten apple
in the barrel of monarchy
but is that fair?
Yes, he spent fortunes and, no, he
didn't always pay his bills.
But the truth is that if you added
up the value of all of the objects
that he bought and brought
into the Royal Collection,
you'd find that for every £1,000
he spent, you'd have £10 million
of value in modern money.
As Prince of Wales,
George commissioned a series of
paintings from George Stubbs.
You could pick up a Stubbs
for around 60 quid in the 1790s.
They're worth up to £20 million
these days
and George bought over a dozen.
And these are two of the real
I love this one.
It's a sort of picture of George IV
who isn't there.
What it shows us is the preparations
being made
for him to take a trip in
his carriage.
This particular type of carriage
is known as a phaeton.
Here's his head coachman.
The horses have been groomed and
he's calming one of them,
holding him by the bridle.
He's a man called Samuel Thomas -
stout, with his red face and
an expression of infinite patience.
He's a man used to waiting
for his master.
Down here, we've got George's rather
mischievous dog, Fino.
Trust George to have a dog named
after a type of sherry -
trying his best, as he rears up,
trying to startle the second horse,
who, for the moment,
isn't playing along.
It's a wonderful picture.
In the other painting, we see George
out riding, in London,
by the side of the Serpentine.
He's in Hyde Park.
He's multitasking.
He's giving his horse some exercise
while walking his dogs
at the same time.
What's most interesting
is his costume.
The buff trouser and navy blue
frock coat
were the uniform of the radical
Whig opposition,
champions of liberty,
adversaries of the Government of
King George III.
This was George's way of saying that
"I'm sympathetic to the Whig cause,
"and I'm not entirely unsympathetic
to the ideas of that group
"over the Channel,
the French revolutionaries."
If you look at the date
of the picture down here,
you can see it was painted in 1791,
so this is before Madame Guillotine
has come on the scene.
It's still safe, if you like,
to feel some sympathy
for the revolutionary cause.
It's definitely a picture that shows
how much like Blake,
like Wordsworth,
he's thinking about himself,
as someone living in a new age.
The execution of the French king two
years later put an end to George's
flirtations with radicalism.
But France, or specifically French
aristocratic and royal taste,
would be a constant
throughout his life,
and on display at his main residence
as Prince of Wales -
Carlton House.
Nothing of Carlton House remains at
the bottom of Regent Street
where it once stood but you can
witness its splendour
in a series of watercolours
in the Royal Collection.
Visitors pass through an entrance at
Pall Mall and then into principal
rooms that included the rose satin
drawing room hung with silk,
and decorated with portraits of
Rubens and van Dyck,
the vast crimson drawing room
with a carpet of light blue velvet
and a magnificent throne room.
Carlton House was torn down in
George's lifetime,
so what happened to the things that
were in it?
Have a guess.
And if you really want to see
George IV's collection
at its very best, you have to
come to this royal residence
tucked away in the heart of London -
Buckingham Palace.
This was another of George's
building projects.
The state rooms are decorated with
many of his sensuous furnishings.
It's so camp here, so OTT,
so French,
that you have to pinch yourself to
that you're at the centre
of the British state.
Royal Collection Trust's Rufus Bird
is responsible
for the Palace furniture.
So, this is a sofa or a canape,
as it's called in French,
made in the late 18th century in
France and is one of three sets.
One set was supplied to Louis XVI,
another to
Marie Antoinette and this,
the third set,
supplied to George, Prince of Wales.
The French furniture maker
must be very pleased
in the immediate post-Revolutionary
period, I mean,
suddenly to get a commission
from George must help a bit.
Yes. Who was his principal
furniture dealer?
So, he used this guy called
Dominique Daguerre,
who is a very important person
for creating some of these
assemblages in Carlton House
and he is a marchand-mercier,
a sort of person who could bring
together craftsmen
and create a work of art.
Were any of these things brought
by him, or all of these things?
Yeah, pretty much everything,
I want to show you something here.
If you have a look underneath here,
I'll move this out the way and if
we look underneath, you can see
Oh, there's a sort of sticker.
Yes, there's a label. It says,
"Monsieur Daguerre.
Canape pour le sallon."
So, there we have.
For the removal man. So he knows
where to put it. Exactly.
He knows exactly where to put it.
In Carlton House. In Carlton House.
Daguerre received £14,500
in a single year
for fitting out Carlton House,
supplying items
such as this cabinet.
Wow! It's just fantastic.
The panels are pietra dura,
so that's the Italian inlaid stone
which you can almost not believe
when you look at that tulip.
And the other one
I love is this one.
I mean, it's just
I've never seen anything like it!
This feels like a cornucopia
in the form of a piece of furniture.
It sort of spills out into the room,
almost. It does, yeah.
This three-dimensionality here of
these plaques is incredible.
When it was made, around 1787,
this belonged to a famous opera
singer called Madame La Guerre
who died very young
of a very exciting life.
She died of a very exciting life!
Let's draw a veil over that.
Poor Madame La Guerre.
But it gives you a sense,
he really is buying the very, very
top-end stuff from France. Yes.
In the white drawing room is one of
George's greatest purchases
from late in his life,
a writing desk by the furniture
maker Jean-Henri Riesener,
supplier to the French court in the
years before the revolution.
So, when George IV bought this,
it was sold to him as having come
from Versailles.
There is nothing on this,
and we've looked,
that suggests that
it was in Versailles.
There are no markings on it
Do you think it was Versailles,
yourself? What's your hunch?
Yeah, I do. There's two others of
this exact type,
one of which has got emblems
of the sisters of Louis XV.
So, it's almost like
in the Soviet era,
where they used to take people out
of photographs. Yes, yes, exactly.
They've takenthe royal coat of
arms has been removed,
so that the object is no longer
by the smell of a fallen monarchy.
Yeah, well, it was then saleable.
What does it do?
Well, I was just going to say, would
you like to have a look inside?
I'd love to. I'm just going to don
my white gloves.
I love pieces of furniture that
open Yeah.
..and then reveal secrets within.
I'm a sucker for it. Here you can
Well, if you're French, you can
write your billet-doux,
and arrange your liaisons
dangereuses and if you're George,
I suppose you might
write some letters.
There's a reading slope.
Wow. That's brilliant!
This is just what I need.
That's so clever.
One of the themes running through
George's collection is very much
this connection
with the ancien regime.
What do you think it is that
obsesses and fascinates George?
I think he's interested in this idea
of the romantic, lost collections,
and then of course,
come the revolution,
they were guillotined and then
the collections were dispersed.
So, there's this sense of romance.
Now, there's also a practical side,
because, of course,
the collections are on the market
and so he's able to buy them,
and not everybody
was capable of doing that.
Of course, George didn't
just buy furniture.
Some of the very greatest paintings
in the Royal Collection were bought
by him, including many here
at Buckingham Palace.
And, yet again, he had those
over the Channel to thank.
To paraphrase Wordsworth, "Bliss was
it in that dawn to be alive,"
but to be a young art collector was
very heaven.
The great, French, aristocratic
picture collections
were brought to London
and they went under the hammer
and who was there to buy them?
The future George IV,
the Prince of Wales,
the right man in the right place
at the right time.
As French armies overran
the low countries,
many Dutch collections also found
their way
to the only stable country
in Europe - Britain.
With his connoisseur's eye,
George snaffled up a collection of
Dutch and Flemish masters
that's simply one of the greatest
in the world.
And what a picture this is,
by Cuyp.
A picture that's all about light
and the depiction of light.
Look at that sky with its shredded
cloudage, lit by the evening sun,
the silhouettes of birds
flying through the sky.
The peasant on his mule,
homeward bound.
Look at all this.
Look at this foreground.
The foliage speckled by light.
He's actually created that
by flicking the canvas.
It's almost like a Chinese
and what's really interesting
is that we know that Constable,
the great English Romantic,
he looked at Cuyp,
he was obsessed by Cuyp
and he did exactly the same thing.
He created this thin. He called it
his snow, "my snow,"
and he flicked paint onto the
surface of the canvas
and that was really the
fundamental origins
of expressionist
approaches to painting -
ultimately, it then goes into
expressionism and Jackson Pollock
is the perfect example of it.
So, this is really, at a technical
level, a fantastically
adventurous piece of painting.
It's a real masterpiece.
Again, one of the very greatest
paintings by Cuyp.
George finally became king aged 57,
in 1820
..and, at first, it seemed as if
little had changed.
This was a spendaholic monarch
who didn't consider his
coronation banquet complete
without the presence
of a knight on horseback.
# Zadok the priest
# And Nathan the prophet
Anointed ♪
But I think that, in his maturity,
George did finally work out how to
channel his natural showmanship
to a higher purpose - the
stabilising power of monarchy.
In 1822, George went to Edinburgh
and proved once and for all his
mastery of royal spectacle.
Scotland was a land where memories
of the brutal suppression
of the 1745 Jacobite uprising
was still raw.
No Hanoverian king had ever dared to
set foot north of the border.
A central set piece of the visit was
the king's arrival at the old royal
Palace of Holyroodhouse,
an event important enough to be
commemorated by an eyewitness -
the leading Scottish painter,
David Wilkie, in a work
that I'm being shown by Royal
Collection Trust's Deborah Clarke.
Aha, here it is.
A real piece of history.
He's painted George looking rather
pale and I've always wondered
if that wasn't something to do with
the fact
that he's just got off a boat.
Apparently, the weather was very bad
and he's a little bit seasick,
or perhaps I'm just imagining that!
It might have had something to do
with it but also,
it was the king who commissioned
this picture
and had a say in what Wilkie
was to paint, because Wilkie was
determined to paint something for
the king. The king asked him to
paint a scene from the visit
and he couldn't quite work out what
to do and it was the king who said,
"I want to be shown
at the palace of my ancestors."
And the person who orchestrated it
all is Walter Scott,
who I'm expecting to see among these
but I can't work out which
one of them he might be.
You can just see him by the front
door of the palace.
He's this rather sort of shadowy
figure in profile.
Looking rather medieval,
I suppose, as you might expect.
Absolutely. He was given three weeks
to arrange the visit,
so not a great deal of time
and decided to really go for it,
go for all the pageantry.
Fascinating. So, let's look at some
of the other details,
cos there are one or two
things that puzzle me.
I can see the pageantry that you
talk about - Scott's pageantry -
those men on horseback wearing
their splendid costumes
but, behind them, there looks to be
a kind of
fire blazing in the distance.
What would that be?
Well, what you have to remember,
in those days,
there was no way of knowing exactly
when the king was due to arrive.
People were on tenterhooks for days.
Even Wilkie himself wrote,
"I must wait in the city.
"I can't leave cos I don't know
when the king is due to arrive."
So, are you saying that fire
is a beacon? It's a beacon.
Brilliant! So, finally, he'd arrived
and the beacons were lit.
Walter Scott marketed George
as a hero from one of his novels.
One very lucky Edinburgh clothier
received a commission for £1,354
to kit the king out in a fantastical
version of Highland costume.
The typically understated
still remain in the Royal Collection
and when David Wilkie painted George
in the outfit, he said the king
reminded him of
a giant sausage in tartan.
Nevertheless, the visit
was a great success.
It was said a seventh of the entire
population of Scotland
turned out to greet the king.
And when I read about the hubbub,
I'm reminded of today's
royal pageantry,
the weddings and christenings
that are such
a part of our national life.
And the crowds weren't just in the
streets, they were up there -
every window,
every balcony was packed.
So much banner and flag-waving
was there that the walls
themselves seemed
to ripple and one lady, watching it
all from a first-floor window,
"the plump gentleman in his coach,
"but the multitude
seething around him."
It's as if the crowd had itself
become the spectacle.
Scotland had been brought together
to see its own togetherness.
400 miles south, a great symbol of
British royalty
was getting an upgrade.
In the 1820s,
nearly £1 million was spent turning
the draughty castle at Windsor
into a Gothic redoubt
from the pages of Walter Scott.
This was George's statement of the
enduring and stabilising power
of monarchy.
The Round Tower at Windsor -
its silhouette has appeared
on a million postcards.
It's become the trademark,
almost, of the monarchy -
perhaps the nation itself
and, yet, it didn't always dominate
the skyline quite like this.
It was George IV who had it extended
upwards by 30 feet,
treating it almost like one of those
wonderful sculptural candelabra in
the Grand Service - something that
could be adjusted at the royal whim.
Outside, Windsor is a castle.
Inside, it's a palace.
And the whole thing is a kind of
temple to British royalty -
an institution that has survived
the decades of revolution
and emerged victorious
from war with France.
And at the centre of the castle is a
with the portrait
painter Sir Thomas Lawrence,
a contemporary of Turner and
and just as stormily romantic.
Lawrence made his sitters seem lit
by flashes of lightning.
He made them beautiful, heroic.
He did this with George
in his coronation portrait.
And in Windsor Castle's
Waterloo Chamber,
he did the same en masse for the
restored monarchies of Europe.
This is the Waterloo Chamber,
a great hall of heroes.
Whenever come in here I feel as
a soundtrack ought to be playing,
perhaps Beethoven's 5th Symphony.
Up there, at the centre, holding the
sword of state, we have Wellington,
the great hero, the great hero of
the Battle of Waterloo,
the great hero in the British
victory over France, the old enemy -
Napoleon and all that.
That's what this space was designed
to celebrate.
On the left, Platov,
his Russian ally.
To the right, Blucher, commanding
the Prussian forces,
standing on the battlefield,
smoke, lightning, storm clouds.
There's the smell of gunpowder
in the air.
I think if George IV could've had
smoke machines in the room,
he would have had them.
How does the space work?
Well, up there, the military heroes.
Down here, smaller portraits of
leading statesman.
And, here, on the side walls,
you've got these monumental
of the crowned heads of the day.
There we have
the Emperor of Russia.
Over here, we've got
George IV himself.
It's the monarchs, of course,
rather than the generals
and the statesman who are the real
stars of the show.
For this is a statement
by a sometime radical
that monarchy
will triumph in the end.
And it's all been done
in a very British way.
The British had never liked
that kind of huge, trumpeting,
self-declarative type of painting,
the battle scene.
They'd always preferred
the portrait
and I think George IV's brilliance,
with Thomas Lawrence, his painter,
was to turn the portrait into a
version of the victory painting,
to imply the victory in
the setting, in the scene,
in the smoke,
in the romantic ambience,
while still remaining true
to the portrait mould.
For Thomas Lawrence, all this meant
an arduous
series of painting campaigns.
But the biggest adventure of all
took him to Rome
and resulted in the
creation of THIS picture -
his masterpiece -
the portrait of Pope Pius VII.
The handling of the fabrics is
Look at the way that he's captured
that watered silk.
The papal slippers.
No less a figure than
Eugene Delacroix,
the leading French
Romantic painter,
he looked at this picture
and he said,
"Well, gone are the days when we
in France
"ask if the English
have any painters."
This is a masterpiece.
Lawrence is a master.
It's a diamond of a painting.
It's a really special moment.
This is a moment when British
painting is set on a new footing
in Europe, and British painting
actually influences
continental European painting in a
way that had never happened before.
So, I think, in so many ways,
you really have to see George IV
as one of the great patrons in the
entire history of the royal family.
I certainly think he's
There is no-one after Charles I
who's more significant
than George IV.
After George IV died in 1830,
The Times dammed him
for his decadence,
saying that he'd contributed more to
the demoralisation of society
than any prince recorded
in the pages of history.
But it was George who left behind
the palaces, the castles,
and the objects that we most
identify with the modern monarchy.
To collect great art
you need to understand how it speaks
to all of us.
Is it any wonder that the king who
left behind so many treasures
was also the most flawed and perhaps
the most human of them all?
The monarch who would build on
George's legacy
was his niece Victoria,
who came to the throne in 1837.
She's usually cast as louche,
old George's uptight opposite,
but she shared his passion
for collecting,
while keeping within her means.
And she didn't just use art
to define her reign,
she also used it
to define her marriage.
The union of Victoria and Albert
was an arranged marriage
which actually worked.
They were first cousins
and they met just a few days
before Victoria's 17th birthday.
She fondly remembered looking
at some drawings on a sofa
and feeling very much at home.
In 1839,
her second meeting with Albert,
she noted
how beautiful his blue eyes were,
how noble and exquisite
his nose was.
She was touched by his little
and, even more so,
by his tiny little whiskers.
And there they all are
captured in this beautiful,
very early depiction
of Albert by Victoria.
He's every inch
..the dashing hero
of romantic fantasy.
Think Byron, think Heathcliff,
think Mr Darcy.
Right next to that drawing
is Albert's depiction of Victoria,
rather more learned,
much more deferential.
The extent which making art
was part of their marriage,
their happy marriage, is exemplified
by two images here -
a watercolour and a drawing.
A watercolour by Albert,
drawing by Victoria.
They're side by side in the album.
They were done on the same trip,
a voyage round the isle of Jersey.
Albert's rather smouldering,
romantic sunset scene,
Victoria's rather precise rendering
of Norman Point.
But I think what they give you
between them
is this sense of Victoria
and Albert together
looking at nature,
looking at the world, depicting it.
They make art together
the way some married couples
play Scrabble together.
For Albert, learning how to make art
was the best way to understand it.
He took lessons in lithography,
chalk drawing and etching.
And here we've actually got
Albert's very own etching tools,
preserved almost as saint's relics
here in Windsor.
And, with these tools,
he and Victoria
embarked on a new adventure in art.
Namely, an adventure in etching.
And, very conveniently,
they inscribed the images,
these etchings, in such a way
that you know who did what.
So, here, Victoria invented the
image and Albert drew and etched it.
And to give you some idea of just
how many of these etchings were made
and printed, this entire album
is full of them,
and this is just one of many albums,
one per year,
which they filled with these images.
And it's open at a page
which shows Waldman,
their characterful dachshund,
hoping, I think, hoping, hoping,
hoping for his next meal.
In Victoria and Albert's marriage,
art held a special place.
It was somewhere they
could both meet as equals.
This is best seen at their retreat
on the Isle of Wight, Osborne House,
a building that Albert,
in effect, designed.
Artists came and went
with ease here.
And, inside, his and Victoria's
personal collections
were on display.
Items that might easily have been
lost in George IV's echoey palaces.
This is the grand corridor
at Osborne House
and there's no better place
to really see, feel, understand
the love that both Albert
and Victoria had for art.
Above all, perhaps,
the art of sculpture
because this is really
their private sculpture gallery.
Albert had been on the Grand Tour.
He'd visited Rome, he'd experienced
the great masterpieces of antiquity
and he loved to be
surrounded by classical images.
Look, inset into the walls are these
little plaster casts,
based on the Elgin Marbles, all
around we see heroes and heroines.
But this is more
than just a collection of objects.
It's also a collection of gifts
because nearly every single
sculpture in here
was presented either
by Victoria to Albert,
or from Albert to Victoria.
Victoria and Albert gave gifts
with great ceremony.
Birthday and Christmas
tables were laid
and on them were elaborate displays
of art,
garlanded with bouquets of flowers.
The whole display would then be
recorded as a watercolour,
a work of art in itself.
That's quite a birthday present.
Queen Victoria gives this
picture to Prince Albert
and it's hung in the room here
at Osborne where,
side by side, they go about the
business of running the Empire.
This is where they sit to go through
the dispatch boxes every day
and that is the picture
that Victoria thinks
should be on the wall.
It's basically a voyeur painting,
lots and lots of female naked flesh
being spied by that man
up in the corner.
But the way the painting's composed,
it actually places us in the
position of the voyeur.
What is it?
A fantastically accomplished piece
of high Victorian soft porn.
Victoria herself described it
as a beautiful painting
of beautiful women.
And if ever a work from her
collection gave the lie
to the idea that Victoria was
Victorian prudish, well, this is it.
I think this painting was her way of
saying to the rather buttoned-up
Albert that no matter how much work
we do here,
I want you, my beloved,
to stay in touch
with your sexy side.
Queen Victoria also valued art
that fixed a particular moment.
You can see this at Osborne in a
genre of sculpture unique to her.
Queen Victoria is probably
the most famously morbid monarch
in British history, and it's often
thought that she was plunged into
that morbidity
by the death of Albert.
But these very poignant
images show, I think, very clearly,
that she thought a lot about death
long before his passing.
What are they?
They're little, marble facsimiles
of the feet, the hands,
and the arms
of Victoria and Albert's
infant children.
This is the foot
of Princess Victoria.
This is the arm of
Princess Louise.
The arm of Prince Leopold.
Despite their funereal quality,
these are relics of living children,
sculpted from plaster casts taken
while they were fast asleep.
I think what they tell us,
what they speak to Victoria of,
is the fact that, yes,
her children have grown up
but the children they
once were have died.
They will never
come back.
They can never be, as it were,
known again except in this form.
What a wonderful way it
is to remember the child
that your adult child
has grown out of being.
I think these works of art, and they
are works of art, conceived,
designed, created, in effect, even
if she didn't technically make them,
by Queen Victoria, they
were her way of expressing
the depth of her love
for her children
and her attachment
to the very idea of
childhood as somehow
a blessed state.
Albert, a student of art history,
designed Osborne as a
Renaissance Italian palazzo.
An enormous fresco by William Dyce
looms over the main staircase,
a relic of the Prince's attempt to
revive fresco painting
and introduce it to Britain.
His dressing room was filled
with dozens of early Italian
including this triptych by Duccio,
the father of Sienese painting.
In the 1840s, this was collecting
at its most avant-garde.
Albert was certainly didactic.
The royal children were expected
to grow their own vegetables,
learn soldiery in a mock-fort
and also, of course, to collect.
What have we here? Well
..this is one of my favourite things
in all of Osborne House.
It's Prince Albert's little museum.
I say museum but what it really is,
I think, is a Wunderkammer,
a room of wonders,
a cabinet of curiosities because
it contains examples
of more or less everything
under the Sun.
So, for example, in this cabinet,
we've got the Far East.
Trophies of Empire.
We've got a peacock feather
confiscated from the governor
of one of the Chinese states
during one of the Opium Wars.
And, above, this wonderfully
tribal image of Queen Victoria.
There are, of course, remnants of
the culture of the ancient world,
and, down here, I notice
..part of the ceiling of
the Necropolis in Athens.
Sh! Don't tell the Greeks,
they might want it back.
As well as archaeology,
there's natural history,
geology and world culture.
The traditional dress of two orphans
from the Crimean War
who came to Osborne after being
rescued by the Royal Navy.
There's a dazzling breadth
of interest here
and a sense that anything
might be worth collecting.
I love this.
Made in South America,
it's a feathered hat
presented to Queen Victoria.
Now, I like to think that that
was her gardening hat.
I can't prove it
and there are no photographs
but I'm sure she would have worn it.
And, at the end of the room, you've
got this fantastic, spooky
apparition of an entire
stuffed crocodile.
But what's wonderful
about this little family museum
is the sense that you have,
as you read the labels,
every one of his children
added something to it.
This was added by Beatrice,
this was added by Louise,
this was added by Edward,
the future Edward VII.
What you realise in here is that
Albert didn't just give his children
a love of art,
and curiosity, and so on,
he actually gave them nothing less
than a kind of mania
for collecting and curating.
Albert's careful curatorial mind
was handy
given the strict budget that he
and Victoria set themselves.
For paintings, Victoria allowed
herself £2,000 a year.
To spread royal patronage around,
she and Albert often purchased
a single, representative painting
by an artist.
John Martin's hymn to
the British landscape
as it was about to disappear
under railway lines.
William Powell Frith's portrait
of Victorian society
on manoeuvres, thanks
to those same railways.
Albert spent a great deal of energy
reordering and cataloguing
the Royal Collection.
And, at Windsor Castle, he created
this beautifully decorated space
as his own inner sanctum.
So, the Print Room
at Windsor Castle
..Albert's brainchild,
and there he is, in profile,
and this beautiful ceiling as well.
Tell me a little bit about the room.
Well, the room was configured by
Albert in the 1850s,
completed just before his death.
And it was essentially to his design
in the manner
of a Renaissance studiolo
with beautiful plaster,
painted ceiling,
carved cabinets all the way around.
And this was to house
the prints and drawings collection.
And do you feel this is THE space,
among all others,
that takes us to the heart of
Yes. The Raphael collection
was the heart of his activity.
And this is the Raphael cabinet
and, as you can see,
it contains 50 portfolios of prints
and photographs
after the works of Raphael.
So, this is a kind of database?
Yes. And, to this day,
it's unsurpassed.
This is the most comprehensive
of the works of Raphael
in existence.
Wow. If I can just lift this rather
heavy portfolio up onto the table.
So, he was a weightlifter
as well as an art historian.
Well, they had
porters in those days.
And the portfolio that we have here
is of the Stanza della Segnatura,
the ceiling only.
The coverage was so great he could
have an entire portfolio
devoted to
the ceiling of one room.
So, in the Vatican, can't collect
it, can't own it,
but you can own it, as it were,
in photographic form
or in reproduction form. Exactly.
And photographs are where the
Raphael collection is revolutionary
because it's right at the dawn
of photography.
So, he actually got somebody
to go into the Vatican
and to go into the Stanza della
Segnatura, in the Pope's Apartments,
and to take photographs?
Yes. Of these pictures.
What sort of cameras
were they using?
Well, that's the size of the
negative. That's a contact print.
That's the size of the negative?
I'm just awestruck
by the Victorians.
But, of course,
what it lacked was colour
and that was provided through
these chromolithographs.
So, now we've got, in effect,
a handmade colour photograph.
And what's the point of it all?
Who's this for?
What's Albert trying to achieve?
It's not just for his own pleasure
because he's not like that.
This was never intended to be
the finished product.
This was a tool for students to use
for generations afterwards.
And Albert hoped that people would
come to Windsor and would use
the Raphael collection,
and this would be a springboard
for the systematic,
for the scientific study
of Raphael's works.
Which is exactly how
I was taught art history,
in a photographic library. Yes.
So, this is everything you need
to try to understand
how she came into being? Yes.
When one thinks of royal
families, kings and queens,
you often think of them
instinctively as people
who wanted to keep their treasures
for themselves, and only their
courtiers and themselves
would ever see these things.
But Albert and Victoria seem to me,
they're completely the opposite.
They move in the opposite direction.
They want to take knowledge
and art and science,
they want to take it and give it
to the public.
This interest in the processes
of mass reproduction
is typical of Albert.
He didn't just want to
disseminate knowledge,
he believed that modern industry
could finally put great works of art
into the hands of the masses.
In 1843, Prince Albert arrived with
much fanfare here in Birmingham.
He wanted to witness at first hand
some of the new,
manufacturing technology.
There was great local interest.
The Birmingham Gazette reported that
the Prince was especially interested
in the operation of batteries
in connection
with various metals in solution.
He saw a real rose turned
into a golden rose
and he was so
fascinated by the process
that he became positively
obsessed by it.
Albert witnessed a process
called electroforming,
which is being recreated for me
by artist Jo Horton.
A dried rose has been coated in an
electrically conductive material
and attached to a battery.
A solution containing a precious
metal is being prepared.
Gold in Albert's demonstration,
copper in mine.
So, Igor, the creature lives.
I feel as if I'm transported back
into some strange world
of 19th-century science.
Yeah, absolutely.
I'm sort of really inspired,
as an artist, by Mary Shelley
and all that sort of era.
It's sort of what's drawn me
to the whole process itself.
Great. Well, I'm. Dip away.
So, we're going in
And this will be kept in position
to get a first coating.
The conductive material on the rose
attracts copper from the solution,
gradually encasing
the flower and stem.
So, what's actually happening?
Well, the copper deposition
is thickening
and it's also travelling down and
growing around the rosebud.
So in about 40 minutes,
it should be fully bright.
We shouldn't have to do any sort
of finishing.
It's a really sort of economical,
exciting sort of process.
I think they actually called
the technicians the alchemists.
Is that right? Yes, I think they
were described as that.
Great, well, let's have a look. OK.
I'll let you take it out.
There we go.
So It's a delicate little thing
to be turning.
Oh, wow. It is. That's really good,
isn't it? Fantastic.
It really is. It's just so magical.
For Albert, electroforming wasn't
about gilding flowers.
Anything could be copied.
It was a way to reproduce
the artworks of classical
and Renaissance civilisation.
Reproductions of archaeological
finds from Pompeii and Herculaneum
were copied and made,
collected by bourgeois consumers
as well as Victoria and Albert
And Albert commissioned an exquisite
jewel cabinet for Victoria,
replete with electroformed figures
to show the new
could sit alongside the antique.
It was placed prominently in the
Great Exhibition of 1851.
Albert was the prime mover in this
first, great international showcase.
An optimistic attempt to understand
the new machine age preserved for
Victoria and Albert in a souvenir
album filled with watercolours
by Joseph Nash and Louis Haghe.
But, for me, Albert's most enduring
legacy was created after
the Great Exhibition, and you can
see this on the streets
of South Kensington in London.
For my money, for anyone's money,
this is one of the most telling
monuments of Victorian Britain.
At the top, Albert.
On the side, the financial accounts,
the score.
The Great Exhibition cost £336,000.
The revenues, £522,000.
Translate that into modern money,
50 million spent, 80 million back.
And what did Albert do
with the profit?
The profit from his great scheme
..he bought this!
He bought this. He bought South Ken!
And he stipulated that here should
be placed great museums of art,
science, industry.
And it came to pass.
No wonder that, even in his own
lifetime, this whole area
became known as Albertopolis.
What a man, what a visionary!
South Kensington is the embodiment
of Albert's enlightened,
Germanic belief that
culture and learning
should be at the very heart
of a nation.
One of the earliest institutions
to open here
was the South Kensington Museum
in 1857.
Most people know it today
as the V&A.
Museums change lives and this
museum certainly changed mine.
It was the first place my mum
brought me to when I was little boy
to look at and to enjoy art, and I
doubt very much whether I'd be doing
what I do now
if it weren't for the V&A.
And I'm sure my story has been
repeated thousands of times.
How many photographers have come
here to deepen their understanding
of their craft? How many designers
have come here to beg,
borrow or steal an idea?
How many artists have come here
to seek inspiration?
I think Albert was the very first
member of the royal family
profoundly to realise that by taking
art out to the people
of Great Britain, art could be used
to improve the life of the nation.
And we call it the Victorian Age,
but surely it should also be
remembered as the age of Albert.
We all know how this ended.
The energetic Albert died
on December 14 1861
..aged only 42.
The impact on Victoria was profound.
For three months
after Albert's death
Victoria couldn't bear to come in
here to his sanctum, the Print Room.
And, then, on the 20th of March 1862
she writes this very stoical
entry in her diary.
She says she's brought
herself to go to the Print Room,
"the favourite resort
of my dearest Albert."
And then she simply adds,
"I was much upset
and could say nothing."
They still keep, in this room
..these four albums of drawings
and watercolours,
all of them made by Victoria
in the five or six years
immediately after Albert's death.
Each year is prefaced with one
of these little inscriptions.
A black cross,
"The fourth year
of my great sorrow."
What of the images themselves?
Well's a sad contrast with the
earlier albums, where so often,
you can sense the couple's pleasure
in pasting Victoria's image
this side, Albert's image
that side.
There's none of this here because,
of course, all the images
are by Victoria.
I wouldn't psychoanalyse
the watercolours to the extent
of seeing them as artistic
expressions of some deep, deep, deep
depression, although perhaps there
is an element of that.
I think they're also actually
very helpful to Victoria.
I think her love of art that she'd
cultivated with Albert gave her
an ability to get outside
of herself, literally,
to see something outside herself
and transmit it to paper.
And I think that probably had
a considerable therapeutic function
for her.
But, occasionally, you can sense
that some of the images
descend to a darker place.
This one in particular.
A small but singularly eerie and
rather bleak watercolour
which she's written,
"View from my window at Balmoral
" moonlight."
So, you can sense a bit of insomnia,
a bit of unrest,
a bit of disturbance.
And on the very next page there is
an image of Albert's mausoleum
so we know the way in which her
thoughts were turning.
But away from Victoria's
private grief
something else had been
snuffed out.
She would continue to collect but
never with the flair and ambition
she had displayed
during her marriage.
As a result, I think Albert's death
marked the last moment
when the Court influenced
the wider culture of the nation
as it had in the days
of Charles I and George III.
Take the period from the
French Revolution to 1861,
when Albert died.
It really was a golden age of
royal patronage and collecting.
Think of George IV's immense
appetite for art, architecture,
the decorative arts,
tableware, you name it.
Think of Albert's astonishing
energy, his spreading the word.
His proselytising,
his working with Victoria.
But the truth is
that, after Albert's death,
things would never
quite be the same again.
This golden moment had passed.
In the final episode, the Royal
Collection enters modern times.
As the monarchy adapts to the end
of Empire and a world at war,
I explore how the character
of its collecting changed
..entering a smaller,
more intimate realm.
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