The Victorian Vision: Inventing New Britain
John MacKenzie reviews the impact of Queen Victoria in shaping a new national identity and institutions, as the V&A opens its new exhibition on the Victorian Vision.
The death of Queen Victoria on January 22nd, 1901 brought to an end not only the longest reign in British history, but also the period of greatest change and transformation in the lives of Britons. Those changes also had repercussions for many peoples around the world. When Victoria ascended the throne in 1837 she was a skittish and lively girl, almost ‘Georgian’ in her tastes and love of society and its occasions. When she died in 1901, she was perceived as a lonely and highly serious stateswoman, who had presided over an era of extraordinary growth in British power. It was a period of staggering institutional change, not least in the world of museums, those distinctively Victorian repositories of a collecting age par excellence, havens of scholarship and rational recreation.