Treasured watercolours collected by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert as a record of their lives together are on display in Edinburgh at The Queen’s Gallery, Palace of Holyroodhouse.

Throughout their marriage Victoria and Albert were passionate patrons of watercolour painting, and formed a collection of thousands of works. Victoria & Albert: Our Lives in Watercolour will feature 80 of their treasured watercolours, including several by Scottish artists, some of which will be on display in Scotland for the first time. The watercolours the Queen and her consort acquired together captured moments of significance, from the christenings and birthday parties of the royal children to glittering court balls, views of the cities and landscapes they saw on their travels at home and abroad, and records of the places they lived, such as Windsor Castle, Buckingham Palace and Balmoral Castle. The royal couple spent happy evenings together organising their watercolours into albums, as recorded by the Queen in her journal. Following Albert’s death in 1861, the albums took on even greater significance to the widowed Victoria, functioning as both a tangible memory of the time spent with her beloved husband creating them and a visual record of their lives together.

A highlight of the exhibition is an atmospheric watercolour showing Edinburgh at sunset by the Dunfermline-born painter Waller Hugh Paton. Victoria commissioned Paton to capture the view she enjoyed on her approach to the Palace of Holyroodhouse from the railway station, looking west over St Margaret’s Loch and Holyrood Park, with Calton Hill and the National Monument in the distance. Another Edinburgh scene, this time by Glaswegian artist William Simpson, is on display for the first time, depicting Victoria at the unveiling of the memorial to Albert in Charlotte Square in 1876, a landmark in Edinburgh to this day.

One of Victoria’s favourite watercolourists was William Leighton Leitch, a self-taught Glaswegian artist who became one of the most celebrated Scottish landscape painters of the 19th century. He was also the Queen’s watercolour tutor for almost 20 years, and under his supervision she grew to be a talented amateur watercolourist. Upon Leitch’s death in 1888, Victoria wrote in her journal of her sadness at the passing of ‘dear old Mr Leitch, my kind old drawing Master, such an excellent artist, known to me for so many years, connected with happy and sad times, and with Scotland’.

The colourful, dynamic watercolours collected by Victoria and Albert illuminate aspects of both Victoria’s reign and the royal couple’s passions. They capture the pomp and spectacle of the British court, a shared love of Scotland, foreign travel and diplomacy, and the close-knit family at the heart of it all.

(images: Royal Collection Trust © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2020)

until 3 October 2021
The Queen’s Gallery, Palace of Holyroodhouse, Edinburgh