Exhibition reveals Victoria’s ‘feminist transformation’ of Buckingham Palace

Queen Victoria’s modernisation of the monarchy during her reign has been described as a “feminist transformation” by the curator of a major exhibition at Buckingham Palace.

The attraction tells the story of Victoria’s life at the palace and reveals how the changes the Queen and her husband Prince Albert made to the iconic building helped revolutionise the institution of the monarchy.

Victoria turned the unloved palace into a home fit for state, public and private events, by creating the palace balcony used today for iconic public appearances, staging garden parties to recognise citizens and transforming the building into a liveable family home.

Buckingham Palace
Queen Victoria’s Stuart Ball costume on display at the palace (Jonathan Brady/PA)

The centrepiece of the exhibition, which marks the 200th anniversary of Victoria’s birth, is the ballroom where the Queen loved to dance and socialise. It features a projection on the walls of the original windows and the colour scheme red, green and blue, that contrasts with today’s white and gold.

In the centre of the ballroom a Hollywood-based production company has created holographic-type images of eight dancers in period dress, performing a dance called a quadrille to the sounds of La Traviata, on a three-minute loop.

Dr Amanda Foreman, curator of the exhibition Queen Victoria’s Palace, said: “Queen Victoria transformed Buckingham Palace, the fabric of this building, and in so doing created new traditions, those traditions which we now associate with the modern monarchy.

Buckingham Palace
Royal Collection employees adjust placings at a recreation of a Victorian dinner in the State Dining Room (Jonathan Brady/PA)

“Whether it’s the balcony, or garden party, or bringing people into this palace to celebrate very important national and public occasions.

“That kind of relationship is very much a female relationship, it’s an expression of female power – it’s about family, duty, loyalty and public service – not about military might, about wealthy.”

The curator described Victoria’s changes as a “feminist transformation” of the monarchy, and she added: “It’s significant that it was a woman who was responsible for these traditions.

“It was a woman who defined this nation’s concept of what sovereign power looks like, how it’s experienced and how it’s expressed.”

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