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Queen Victoria’s unusual royal baby mementos to go on show

The 19th-century monarch had casts made of her children’s limbs and kept their baby teeth in a special gold leaf casket.

A marble cast of Prince Alfred Edward’s arm which will form part of the Buckingham Palace summer exhibition (Royal Collection Trust/HM Queen Elizabeth II 2019/PA)
A marble cast of Prince Alfred Edward’s arm which will form part of the Buckingham Palace summer exhibition (Royal Collection Trust/HM Queen Elizabeth II 2019/PA)

A casket filled with the baby teeth of Queen Victoria’s children and casts the monarch had made of her offsprings’ arms and legs are among the unusual items going on show at Buckingham Palace.

The summer exhibition at the royal residence in London this year looks at how the 19th-century sovereign turned the palace into her family home and a centre for national life.

As part of the summer opening, a waltz danced during a ball staged at Buckingham Palace to mark the end of the Crimean War will also be recreated in the ballroom.

A Victorian illusion technique, known as Pepper’s Ghost, and projections around the room will enable visitors to imagine the ballroom as Victoria and Prince Albert would have known it.

Among the personal artefacts on display will be mementos Victoria had made in relation to her children.

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The casket containing the teeth of Victoria’s eldest children (Royal Collection Trust/PA)

Royal youngsters’ baby teeth were kept in a highly intricate gilt-metal casket commissioned by Victoria in the 1860s, while the queen also had pure white marble casts of her infants’ limbs made to remind her of their folds and curves.

Visitors will see the model of Prince Albert Edward’s arm and hand, and the left foot of Victoria, Princess Royal, both carefully placed on crimson velvet cushions.

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The left foot of Victoria, Princess Royal (Royal Collection Trust/HM Queen Elizabeth II/PA)

Victoria had nine children, disliked being pregnant and had difficulty showing affection to her five daughters and four sons.

Dr Amanda Foreman, co-curator of the exhibition, told PA: “What these objects show is what her words couldn’t express which is this deep, fierce passionate love for her children, and for the recognition that childhood is so important – the thing that she felt she never had.

“There’s so much love in these marble hands and feet.”

She added: “It’s really interesting because it’s so unusual today. I mean you would think ‘What was going on her head?’

“We might even associate it with death – gravestones, but that’s not at all how it was associated then.”

Dr Foreman added: “Victoria had great trouble showing simple affection towards her children… She didn’t have the normal upbringing that would have enabled her to be a normal mother herself so she expressed her love through things.”

In total, Victoria amassed a collection of 14 marble hands and feet, which were kept under glass domes to preserve their pristine whiteness.

Each of the marble limbs was carved on the basis of a cast, made from moulds in plaster of Paris, usually when the children were asleep.

Victoria also kept the first baby shoes of her eldest son Prince Albert Edward, who became Edward VII.

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The future King Edward VII’s first pair of shoes (Royal Collection Trust/HM Queen Elizabeth II/PA)

The tiny blue velvet slip-ons, fashioned with a matching bow and held in place with an ankle strap and a white button, are inscribed on the bottom with the words: “The Prince of Wales first shoes worn – July – 1842”.

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The inscription which reads; “The Prince of Wales first shoes worn – July – 1842” (Royal Collection Trust/HM Queen Elizabeth II 2019/PA)

The baby teeth box has satin-lined compartments, with blue velvet lids each featuring a tiny golden crown and the embroidered names of Victoria’s four oldest children – the Princess Royal, the Prince of Wales, Princess Alice and Prince Alfred.

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The Prince of Wales’s – the future Edward VII – personalised lid and paper packets containing his first baby teeth (Royal Collection Trust/HM Queen Elizabeth II 2019/PA)

The teeth are wrapped in delicate paper inscribed with italic writing recording names and dates.

An elaborately-carved boxwood cradle featuring emblems of the royal houses of Britain and Saxe-Coburg, and symbols associated with sleep, commissioned by Victoria for her fourth daughter Princess Louise, will also be on show.

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Princess Louise’s cradle (Royal Collection Trust/HM Queen Elizabeth II 2019/PA)

The special display is being held to celebrate the 200th anniversary of Victoria’s birth this year.

The exhibition – Queen Victoria’s Palace – can be viewed during the summer opening of the State Rooms at Buckingham Palace, from July 20 to September 29 2019.

PA

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