Monday, January 21, 2013

Queen Victoria’s Nuptial Gifts (Part 3): Intimate Exchanges

Common Book of Prayer, 1840
Given to Queen Victoria by her mother, the Duchess of Kent
Photo Source: The Royal Collection
by Angela Magnotti Andrews

Perhaps the most precious of all of Queen Victoria’s nuptial gifts were those presented to the Bride and Groom. The first of these intimate exchanges took place well before the wedding. Prince Albert designed and commissioned the most exquisite engagement ring, the first of what would later be called Victorian engagement rings.

Ever mindful of the symbolism of all things, he designed the band as a twisting serpent biting it’s tail. This symbol of enduring love was crowned with a dark green emerald, the Queen’s birthstone and a powerful stone believed to ensure that a woman would become a loving wife.

Just two days before their wedding, Queen Victoria’s sent a courier to deliver a most prestigious gift to her husband. She had commissioned Rundell & Bridge to fashion the Royal Orders of the Garter, previously detailed. She also ordered that a miniature portrait of herself, painted by Sir William Ross, be set into a mounted watch-case for Albert. {Hope, Anecdotes, p. 730}

Following their very public wedding ceremony, the Royal Couple spent a brief time in secret, at which time Victoria gave her new husband his wedding band.* Though it was not customary for the groom to receive a wedding ring during the ceremony, the sentimental Queen would have wanted Albert to have this very special token of their wedding day.

In addition to these most intimate gifts exchanged between the two of them, Victoria’s family honored the couple with tokens of their affection. The Duchess of Kent commissioned complementary Books of Common Prayer for her daughter and new son-in-law.

Bound in red velvet and decorated with Victoria’s monogram on the front board, Victoria’s book featured a metal plate on the back engraved with 10 February 1840. Inside, her mother wrote these words: “Given To my beloved Victoria on her Wedding Day by Her most affectionate Mother” {Royal Collection, Art & Love}.

Albert’s book was bound in what appears to be green velvet and featured a similar engraved plate on the back. Two golden hands joined together served as both the clasp and as “a reminder of the joining of hands in the marriage ceremony” {Royal Collection}. The bookmark was made of gold and silk ribbon and featured eight gemstones in an acrostic spelling out Victoria’s name: Vermeil, Jargoon, Chrysolite, Turquoise, Opal, Ruby, Jargoon, Amethyst {Royal Collection}. The Prince’s first name was embossed on the front cover in gold, and he carried this precious book with him to the altar and referred to it during their wedding ceremony.

The Duchess of Kent also commissioned for her daughter a serpentine bracelet fashioned almost entirely of turquoise. The serpent’s head was encrusted with diamonds and rubies, and around its neck it wore a collar of brilliant diamonds. {Hope, Anecdotes, p.731}

Queen Victoria also received gifts from her royal aunts*, as well as a beautiful ruby ring from her older half-sister, Princess Feodora. The central portion of the ring featured a pear-shaped ruby nestled beside a pear-shaped diamond with a crude diamond tiara set above the stones {Rings with Love}. 

*Details of Albert’s wedding ring and the Queen’s gifts from her aunts have yet to be discovered by this author. I welcome any information regarding these items in the comments section. Please be sure to include your sources.

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Additional Sources:
1. Royal Collection, The. “Victoria & Albert: Art & Love Exhibition. Book of Common Prayer.” Accessed January 21, 2013. http://www.royalcollection.org.uk/microsites/vandahl/MicroObject.asp?item=42&themeid=731&object=1057741&row=46&detail=about.
2. Royal Collection, The. “Victoria & Albert: Art & Love Exhibition. The Form of Morning Prayer.” Accessed January 21, 2013. http://www.royalcollection.org.uk/microsites/vandahl/MicroObject.asp?item=42&themeid=731&object=1129966&row=47&detail=about.

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