This major exhibition runs from 19 March to 31 October 2010. The exhibition focusses on the unique partnership of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert and their shared enthusiasm for art from the time of their engagement in 1839 to the Prince’s early death in 1861.
For Victoria and Albert, art was an important part of everyday life and a way they expressed their love for each other. Around a third of the objects in the exhibition were exchanged as gifts between the couple to mark special occasions. They range from the simple, romantic and sentimental jewelry to superb jewels and other great art, such as an early Italian painting, including Bernardo Daddi’s The Marriage of the Virgin, given by the Queen to the Prince for his birthday in 1846.
The orange blossom jewelry
This is the fitted box and the original blossom brooch. This gold and porcelain blossom was one of the first gifts Prince Albert gave his fiancee. The box is inscribed “Sent to me by dear Albert from Wiesbaden Novr. 1839”. It has the form of a sprig of orange blossom which flower is traditionally associated with engagement. At the wedding the Queen wore sprays of real orange blossom in her hair and on her bodice. The Prince continued to give Victoria orange blossom jewelry, eventually creating a beautiful parure, parts of which she always wore on their wedding anniversary.
The ‘Tibur Ruby’ necklace was made for Queen Victoria by R. & S. Garrard & Co. in 1853
The Koh-i-nûr diamond, the most famous gem from the Lahore Treasury, came directly to Queen Victoria from India in 1850, other significant jewels remained with the East India Company for the Great Exhibition. In recognition of the Queen’s patronage of the Exhibition, the Directors of the Company presented her with a magnificent selection of stones, of which the ‘wonderful’ rubies ‘cabochons, unset, but pierced’ particularly struck her: ‘one is the largest in the world, therefore even more remarkable than the Koh-i-noor’. This, the so-called Timur Ruby, which weighs 352.5 carats, together with three smaller stones – all of which are actually spinels rather than rubies – were set by Garrards into a new necklace of Oriental inspiration in April 1853. In June of the same year the necklace was adapted so that the re-cut Koh-i-nûr could occasionally take the place of the Timur Ruby; and in 1858 three of the five pendant diamonds originally attached to the centre of the necklace were made detachable for alternative use, two as earrings and the central pendant (the Lahore Diamond) as the centre of the Coronation Necklace.
The history of the stone, with its illustrious provenance from the Mughal Emperors Jahangir, Shah Jahan, Aurangzeb and Farrukhsiyar, and the Persian rulers Nadir Shah and Ahmad Shah, is partly recorded in inscriptions dating between 1612 and 1771 on the stone itself. The connection with the great Asian conqueror Timur (1336-1408), which arose from a misreading in the early twentieth century of one of the inscriptions, has recently been reconsidered, and it is now thought possible that Nadir Shah, who looted the stone from the imperial treasury in Delhi in February 1739, may have placed his inscription over an erased inscription proclaiming Timur’s ownership.