At the time of writing, it seems that the world -or at least the UK- is awaiting the patter of tiny feet. Not just any tiny feet, Royal tiny feet, as the Duchess of Cambridge and Prince William expect their first-born child and the UK awaits the arrival of the heir to the throne; and a reason to crack out the Pimms and wave the flag. There’s nothing like a nice bit of flag waving…
A Royal Arrival
To celebrate this historic event, the Museum of London is having a look back at the history of Royal births with their special display A Royal Arrival. After popping in to visit their exhibition looking back on the London Olympics I was looking forward to seeing how they would tackle this subject. The precursor of the current museum, the London Museum was based at Royal residence Kensington Palace, so it’s a topic close to the Museum’s heart.
“Tastefully understated” is how I would describe the exhibit. It could have been a union flag waving extravaganza of jingo-ism but instead was… tastefully understated. Rather than focussing on the excitement and the tabloid-obsession of this royal pregnancy, the display concerns itself with pieces of clothing worn by Royal babies of the past.
“By exploring these items we are not only able to bring to life a very personal family history, but we are also able to connect the newest generation of the Royal Family to over 400 years of the UK’s history.”
-The Museum of London
Although the house is now Windsor, the newest member of the Royal Family can, according to the family tree on the wall, count King James I of England & VI of Scotland as his Great, Great, Great, Great, Great, Great, Great, Great, Great, Great, Great, Great, Great Grandfather.
It really gives a sense of how old the royal family is- we can easily add on a few more generations but I think the museum ran out of wall space!
Today, Queen Victoria might be most known for her widow-hood but at one point she was well-known for her – how can I put this delicately? – fecundity? With her husband, Prince Albert, she had 9 children. Nine children! Just imagine! Ironically though, the Queen disliked being pregnant, she once said it was an “occupational hazard of being a wife” she wasn’t keen on breast-feeding and said of babies “I don’t dislike babies, though I think very young ones rather disgusting.”
The museum has Victoria’s children’s baby shoes all lined up, seeing it is rather poignant:
They also had Victoria’s Nursing Apron; an apron to provide privacy whilst nursing which contains a pouch to support the child. The monogramming is a nice touch.
The R stands for ‘Regina’ – it means Queen.
I found this to be a really thought-provoking object, reminding us that this person who is *quite literally* put on a pedestal is still a human being like the rest of us.
Even if you’re not a monarchist, this exhibition is an interesting look back at a bit of history that isn’t always explored. Yes, the curriculum looks at Kings and Queens, but not until they grow up and start being well, interesting. We forget they were once babies.