Right Or Left For Queen Victoria?

Queen Victoria and Prince Albert have had a long-standing connection to Dundee’s past. This union will once again be transported into the future by the completion, early next year of the V&A Museum of Design Dundee.

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Victoria and Albert patiently await the completion of Dundee’s V&A

The McManus: Dundee’s Art Gallery and Museum is built upon Albert Square, a place named as a monument to Albert, the Prince Consort.[1] A statue of Queen Victoria can be found on the square and the museum was once named ‘The Albert Institute’. However, its name changed to ‘The McManus Galleries’ in memory of the former Lord Provost, Maurice McManus.[2] Historically Dundee has always had its own V&A, found on the first floor of the museum in the form of ‘The Victoria Gallery’ and ‘The Albert Hall’. You can also find two busts, sculpted by John Hutchinson in 1898, of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert located near the entrance of the museum.

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Queen Victora outside the McManus Gallery

My intention when photographing the busts was to represent, ‘Victoria and Albert patiently await the completion of Dundee’s V&A’. However, when I visited the museum I noticed the Prince Consort ‘s sculpture stood to the right of the Regnant Queen. Albert and Victoria seems a little odd so I altered the image in Photoshop, placing the queen on the right with the prince on her left.

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Original Photograph

A curatorial decision was made to place the queen on the left side of her husband. Was this decision made so the Queen would be nearer the front entrance? Or, was it an old fashioned concept of a woman’s place is on the left of man? If we think of a Christian wedding where the bride always stands or sits to the left of her husband and her family also sits on the left side of the church. I began to search for some context and I found an article suggesting:

“Traditionally, when a man escorts his partner, he offers his left arm. This tradition originates from medieval times when men escorted women around town and through the fields. Should a threat arise or the woman’s honor require defending, the man’s sword hand (his right hand) would be free, giving him quick and easy access to his sword, worn on his left side.”[3]

During my research, I also found a guide to the correct royal etiquette for various modes of royal seating at court and at other times, recommending;

The Sovereign sits to the right, with the Consort to His (or Her) left, if both are present.”[4]

When I think of any images I have seen of our current royals, we nearly always find Prince Philip sat on the Queen’s left side. Yet, regardless of the positioning of Queen Victoria or Prince Albert’s sculptures, when I consider the skill and craftsmanship of the work and the beauty of the marble. I reflect upon their royal romance, as we all wait patiently for their union to be transported into the future by the completion of Dundee’s V&A.

[1] Leisure and Culture Dundee. (Unknown Date). Streetwise: Albert Institute. Available: http://www.leisureandculturedundee.com/localhistory/streetwise/albertinstitute. Last accessed 31st March 2017.

[2] ibid

[3] Tan, N and Nicol, B. (2009). The History Behind Gentlemanly Action. Available: http://www.primermagazine.com/2011/learn/the-history-behind-gentlemanly-action. Last accessed 31st March 2017

[4] ‘William the Lucky’. (2002). SECTION VI — PROTOCOL, TITLES, AWARDS AND PRECEDENCE. Available: http://heralds.westkingdom.org/Handbook/vi_5-SeatingAtCourtAndBanquets.pdf. Last accessed 31st March 2017

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