Love 1862: Royal Romance

The day itself is with us! So, from the editors of visit1862, here is our Valentine gift to you:

In 1858, after at least seven years of matchmaking, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert finally married their eldest daughter, Princess Victoria, to Frederick, Crown Prince of Prussia.  The match was a good political liaison, retaining strong ties between the British and German royal families, but it was also a happy marriage – the lucky couple finding love within their situation.

John Phillip, 'The Marriage of the Princess Victoria Adelaide (1840-1901), Princess Royal, Later Empress of Prussia to Crown Prince Frederick William of Prussia (1831-1888), Later Emperor Frederick III, Emperor of Germany and King of Prussia, on 25 January 1858', 1858, oil on canvas, 26.5 x 50 cm, The National Trust, Hinton Ampner © National Trust Images/Christopher Hurst, 2014

John Phillip, ‘The Marriage of the Princess Victoria Adelaide (1840-1901), Princess Royal, Later Empress of Prussia to Crown Prince Frederick William of Prussia (1831-1888), Later Emperor Frederick III, Emperor of Germany and King of Prussia, on 25 January 1858’, 1858, oil on canvas, 26.5 x 50 cm, The National Trust, Hinton Ampner © National Trust Images/Christopher Hurst, 2014

 To mark the marriage the City of Berlin presented the happy couple with a set of spectacular gifts: plate, silver candelabra, a table, a magnificent vase and the Rhine Shield.  These dazzling gifts were then displayed at the 1862 International Exhibition and seem to have been very popular with its visitors: the Illustrated Record of the International Exhibition described how ‘instead of lingering among the crowds always congregated on this favourite spot…’ they were going to move on from the gifts to describe the next objects on their list. 1.

The Illustrated Record of the International Exhibition describes how the Rhine Shield symbolically represented the four Rhenish provinces, demonstrating the congratulations each were presenting to the royal pair: ‘The arms of all the subscribers to this costly present are figured in enamel round the rim of the shield, and add considerably to the fine effect of this elaborate work.’ 2.  Furthermore, the collection of items on show also included the gifts given to the couple by the people of Hessia: a dinner service, four chandeliers with thirteen branches, and other rich silver ornaments.

The public display of these items at the 1862 International Exhibition demonstrates that these objects were symbols of political alliance as much as marriage gifts for the Crown Prince and Princess of Prussia.  Nevertheless, in the same way that Fredrick and Victoria found love in their arranged marriage, it is clear that many of the International Exhibition’s visitors feel deeply in love with these objects, initially intended for the purposes of State business.

1. The Illustrated Record of the International Exhibition of Industrial Arts and Manufactures, and the Fine Arts, of All Nations, in 1862, http://www.archive.org/details/illustratedrecorOOshaf [accessed, 25.01.14], p.32.

2. The Illustrated Record of the International Exhibition of Industrial Arts and Manufactures, and the Fine Arts, of All Nations, in 1862, http://www.archive.org/details/illustratedrecorOOshaf [accessed, 25.01.14], p.33.

© Helen Cresswell and Ruth Mason, 2014

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