Part 2: Taking position – ‘the look’
The Christmas tree engraving was not untypical of depictions of the royal family in the mid-nineteenth century, a period which had in recent decades witnessed a vast expansion in the publication and distribution of popular newspapers and periodicals as a result of technical innovations in printing, distribution and communications.  In an analysis of Victoria’s representation in the illustrated press, Virginia McKendry argues that images of the Queen in the Illustrated London News in the first decades of her reign
focused not on the charisma of royalty but instead upon her “ordinariness”, that is, upon her femininity… The reinvigoration of the monarchy depended absolutely on a royal “ordinariness” with which members of the middle classes could identify, and the early years of Queen Victoria’s reign yielded many such opportunities for constructing the ruling dynasty of England as a virtuous family almost indistinguishable from the “respectable” families of England. 
Expanding on this theme, McKendry explains how this publication ‘portrayed the monarchy in a way that blurred class lines by presenting the Royals as both “ordinary” family members and dynastic symbols of nationhood… The appeal to domesticity meant that readers from varied strata and regions of English society could identify with and find common ground in images of the monarch.’ 
Not only did such representations appeal to middle-class sensibilities, boosting Victoria’s popular acceptance by reinforcing her image as both sovereign and as wife and mother, but they also reflected a role for Albert who, by dint of marrying a Queen, had suffered occasional crises of emasculation. Writing to Prince von Löwenstein in May 1840, he conceded that ‘the difficulty in filling my place with the proper dignity is, that I am only the husband, and not the master in the house’.  The complexities of Albert’s role as the monarch’s husband are well documented, from initial frustration at his exclusion from royal responsibilities – ‘For the first few months of their marriage she would allow him no part whatsoever in state business’ – to an increasing share in administrative duty and courtly influence. This was occasioned in part by Melbourne’s replacement as Prime Minister in 1841 by Sir Robert Peel, with whom Albert shared a greater degree of trust and mutual respect.  It was then continued by Victoria’s regular pregnancies, this despite having recorded in her journal only two months before her wedding ‘“Why, the measure of married happiness is to have a great number of children,” said Lord M[elbourne], which I’m sure I shall never think; that is the only thing I dread.’  These pregnancies, and their subsequent periods of confinement for the Queen, afforded Albert periodic windows of opportunity for an enhanced role in court politics.
Meanwhile, as the royal couple transitioned to royal family, they made a conscious decision that
Albert would have the authority and rights of a traditional paterfamilias. Hence it was he, not Victoria, who (after some early arguments) was the dominant voice in determining how the children were educated and brought up, who oversaw the modernization of the royal household [… ] and who romped in the nursery with his children. 
Indeed, in a mid-1840s mechanical print, sub-titled ‘The Queen and Prince Albert at home’, in which the ornate doors to the Queen’s private apartments can be pulled aside to reveal the intimate scene inside, it is a garlanded Albert who is on all-fours being pulled this way and that by the children, while Victoria carefully balances the youngest on his back.
This role of paterfamilias in the household was to be accompanied by a gradual increase in Albert’s social presence over the next decade, yet even his prolific achievements in the public sphere eschewed ostentatious self-aggrandizement, instead retaining something of a symbolically domestic appeal. Albert’s grand project for the new decade was the Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations. Held in London’s Hyde Park and officially opened by Victoria on 1st May 1851, the event was intended to reflect Albert’s desire that ‘the exhibitions were [also] designed to benefit the national good. This was to be achieved by motivating the expression of pride in national products and characteristics, and through offering inclusive new forms of social experience that employed techniques of entertainment and delight that would appeal, in particular, to the middle and working classes’.  Victoria was to visit numerous times and appears to have been enthralled by the objects on display, recording in her journal on 7th May that
After our breakfast, we went with our guests, Vicky, Vivi, &c — to the Exhibition remaining there nearly 2 hours… full of magnificent embroideries, stuffs, metal work, &c… We were quite dazzled by the most splendid shawls & tissues… & lastly through a collection of furniture, lamps, ornaments of the most novel & tasteful kind, from Birmingham. 
The illustrated press was by no means the only visual medium by which the royal family dynamic was envisioned and Albert’s status emphasized. Having agreed in 1903 to act as joint editor with Lord Esher of Victoria’s letters, Arthur Benson was given an impromptu tour of King Edward VII’s private rooms by his collaborator, noting ‘a ludicrous Landseer where Prince Albert sits in a drawing room in shooting clothes, with the ribbon of the Garter and a table covered with hares, ducks and kingfishers. It is high day, but the Queen stands beside him dressed for dinner.’  The picture is titled ‘Windsor Castle in modern times’  and was painted over a period of several years soon after Victoria and Albert’s marriage, allowing Landseer to add in the figure of the couple’s first child, Victoria, to complete the family scene.  In his analysis of domestic royal portraiture, Simon Schama uses Landseer’s painting as the starting point for his contention that such imagery was not a mid-nineteenth-century innovation, but rather a culmination of domestic themes in depictions of royalty over several centuries, whereby ‘it came to be important that the institution [of monarchy] should be seen to be the family of families, at once dynastic and domestic, remote and accessible, magical and mundane.’  Interrogating the picture itself, he argues that ‘the sharply drawn distinctions between manly sports and womanly delicacy (signified by the posy held in the Queen’s hand), and the hunting and house dogs are those of the Victorian marriage, not the Victorian crown. For in Landseer’s view of the Green Drawing Room, it is the standing wife-queen who attends on the seated husband-prince.’  As the royal family grew, group portraits such as Winterhalter’s ‘The Royal Family in 1846’  would continue to accentuate the conventional roles within the nineteenth-century family unit, with the seated figure of Albert acting as the picture’s fulcrum, flanked by his family while Victoria places a maternal arm around her eldest son.
In more contemporary media, the royal couple often eschewed ceremony and ostentation in favour of familiarity and a degree of intimacy. A photograph by John Mayall depicts the royal couple at ease, a seated Victoria gazing up at Albert who stands reading to her.  On 26 May 1857, Victoria records in her diary ‘Were occupied for 2 hours being all photographed, (we & the 9 Children) on the Terrace, by Caldesi. Dear Mama was also to have been done with us, but unfortunately she was not quite well & could not leave her room.’ 
The society photographer Leonida Caldesi had been brought to Osborne to take a series of photographs of the royal children, and ‘The Royal Family on the terrace at Osborne’  presents a grouping with Albert, standing but relaxed, in the centre; Victoria seated in front and slightly to his left, holding a swaddled Princess Beatrice (who would have been barely six weeks old); and the other eight children serried on either side. None of the photograph’s subjects are staring at the camera; instead they look at one another.
And it would not only have been in paintings (or, more likely, reproductions of paintings), photographs, or the pages of illustrated periodicals that Victoria and Albert’s contemporaries would have encountered depictions of a prosaic domesticity not so very far removed from their own. Advances in mechanical reproduction generated a printing boom in the mid-nineteenth century, and the Victorian public was thus exposed to a more sophisticated and far more pervasive array of transitory imagery than their forebears had experienced. The power of printed ephemera ‘lay in the fact that they were frequently encountered in the quotidian experience of people of every age and of all classes’  and, because such material was often produced as a means of attracting the customer in the commercial marketplace, imagery which depicted popular or aspirational themes was commonplace – royalty being one such.
Many ephemeral images would reflect the pomp and circumstance of royalty, emphasizing the ceremonial and the majestic, but others would focus on the domestic. In the course of their everyday lives, Victoria’s contemporaries might therefore be exposed to material such as a lithograph print of ‘The Royal Mother’, in which the Queen reposes in an embrace with three of her children; a puzzle picture in which cardboard trees in Windsor Great Park can be drawn aside to reveal ‘The Royal Children with their favourite dog’, with the proud parents watching approvingly from the terrace beyond; or product placement in advertisements associating royalty, and especially Victoria, with just about any item available for sale on the High Street, from ‘My Queen Vel-Vel’ dress material to ‘Atkinson & Barker’s Royal Infants Preservative’ multi-purpose medicine. 
In paintings (or, more likely, reproductions of paintings), photographs, the pages of illustrated periodicals, and in all manner of printed ephemera, Victoria and Albert’s contemporaries would have encountered depictions of a prosaic domesticity akin to – if idealized versions of – that of many another middle-class family in the mid-nineteenth century.
David Tomkins is a curator and project manager at the Bodleian Library, including on the ‘Queen Victoria’s Journals‘ project, which reproduces high-resolution, colour images of every page of the surviving volumes of Queen Victoria’s journals, from her first diary entry in 1832 to shortly before her death in 1901. In this, the second of a series of four articles, ‘Just Like Us’, David explores how Victoria’s journals showcase her would-be-middle-class identity.
See the next post in this series: Part 3: Taking position – ‘the locale’
See the previous post in this series: Part 1: Christmas past and present
Notes & references
 See John Plunkett, Queen Victoria: First Media Monarch (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003).
 Virginia McKendry, ‘The “Illustrated London News” and the Invention of Tradition’, Victorian Periodicals Review, 27.1, (1994), pp. 7-8 <http://www.jstor.org/stable/20082739> [accessed 19 June 2018].
 Ibid, p. 5.
 Theodore Martin, The Life of His Royal Highness the Prince Consort, vol. 1 (London: Smith, Elder, & Co., 1875), p. 71. <http://purl.ox.ac.uk/uuid/b6841b468708455e806db374e1c6196d> [accessed 3 August 2018].
 Cecil Woodham-Smith, Queen Victoria: Her Life and Times: Volume I, 1819-1861 (London: Book Club Associates, 1973), p. 251.
 VIC/MAIN/QVJ (W) Queen Victoria and her Prime Ministers, by Lawrence Goldman (Essay) <http://www.queenvictoriasjournals.org/info/QueenVictoriaAndHerPrimeMinisters.do> [accessed 7 June 2018].
 VIC/MAIN/QVJ (W) Queen Victoria – The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, by H.C.G. Matthew and K.D. Reynolds (Essay) < http://www.queenvictoriasjournals.org/info/QueenVictoriaDNB.do> [accessed 25 October 2018].
 To the Queen’s private apartments (London: Thomas Dean & Co., [1843-1847?]), Bodleian Library, University of Oxford: John Johnson Collection of Printed Ephemera: Puzzle Pictures folder 3 (26), in The John Johnson Collection: An Archive of Printed Ephemera <http://johnjohnson.chadwyck.com> <http://gateway.proquest.com/openurl?url_ver=Z39.88-2004&res_dat=xri:jjohnson:&rft_dat=xri:jjohnson:rec:20090210114256mf> [accessed 20 July 2018].
 Kylie Message and Ewan Johnston, ‘The World within the City: The Great Exhibition, Race, Class and Social Reform’, in Britain, the Empire, and the World at the Great Exhibition of 1851, ed. by Jeffrey A. Auerbach and Peter H. Hoffenberg (London: Routledge, 2016), p27.
 Arthur Christopher Benson and Percy Lubbock, The Diary of Arthur Christopher Benson, 4th edn. (London: Hutchinson & Co., Ltd, 1931), p. 69, <https://archive.org/details/in.ernet.dli.2015.225882> [accessed 7 August 2018]. See also The Letters of Queen Victoria: a selection from Her Majesty’s correspondence between the years 1837 and 1861, ed. by Arthur Christopher Benson and Viscount Esher (London: John Murray, 1908).
 Yvonne M. Ward, Censoring Queen Victoria: how two gentlemen edited a queen and created an icon (London: Oneworld, 2014), p. 73.
 Sir Edwin Landseer (1803-73), Windsor Castle in modern times (1841-43) (RCIN 406903), in Leah Kharibian, Passionate patrons: Victoria & Albert and the arts (London: Royal Collection Enterprises Ltd., 2010), pp. 74-75, and at <https://www.royalcollection.org.uk/collection/search#/1/collection/406903/windsor-castle-in-modern-times-queen-victoria-prince-albert-and-victoria-princess> Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2018 [accessed 1 August 2018].
 Leah Kharibian, Passionate patrons: Victoria & Albert and the arts. (London: Royal Collection Enterprises Ltd., 2010), p. 74.
 Simon Schama, ‘The Domestication of Majesty: Royal Family Portraiture, 1500-1850’, The Journal of Interdisciplinary History, 17.1, (1986), pp. 155-183, <https://doi.org/doi:10.2307/204129> or <www.jstor.org/stable/204129> [accessed 19 April 2018].
 Ibid., p. 183.
 Ibid., p. 157.
 Franz Xavier Winterhalter (1805-1873), The Royal Family in 1846 (1846) (RCIN 405413), in Leah Kharibian, Passionate patrons: Victoria & Albert and the arts (London: Royal Collection Enterprises Ltd., 2010), p46, and at <https://www.rct.uk/collection/search#/3/collection/405413/the-royal-family-in-1846> Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2018 [accessed 26 October 2018].
 John Jabez Edwin Mayall (1813-1901), Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, the Prince Consort (1860) (RCIN 2907744) <https://www.rct.uk/collection/search#/33/collection/2907744/queen-victoria-1819-1901-and-prince-albert-the-prince-consort-1819-61> Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2018 [accessed 26 October 2018].
 Leonida Caldesi (1822-1891), The Royal Family on the terrace at Osborne (26 May 1857) (RCIN 2900098) <https://www.rct.uk/collection/search#/1/collection/2900098/the-royal-family-on-terrace-at-osborne> Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2018 [accessed 26 October 2018].
 Ashley Jackson and David Tomkins, ‘Ephemera and the British Empire’, in Exhibiting the Empire: cultures of display and the British Empire, ed. by John M. MacKenzie and John McAleer (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2015), p. 142.
 The Royal Mother (London: Alfred Carlile, [1843-1846?]), Bodleian Library, University of Oxford: John Johnson Collection of Printed Ephemera: Trade in Prints and Scraps 2 (43), in The John Johnson Collection: An Archive of Printed Ephemera <http://johnjohnson.chadwyck.com> <http://gateway.proquest.com/openurl?url_ver=Z39.88-2004&res_dat=xri:jjohnson:&rft_dat=xri:jjohnson:rec:19970131163722md> [accessed 20 July 2018]; A peep at Windsor terrace (London: Thomas Dean & Co., [1843-1847?]), Bodleian Library, University of Oxford: John Johnson Collection of Printed Ephemera: Puzzle Pictures folder 3 (27), in The John Johnson Collection: An Archive of Printed Ephemera <http://johnjohnson.chadwyck.com> <http://gateway.proquest.com/openurl?url_ver=Z39.88-2004&res_dat=xri:jjohnson:&rft_dat=xri:jjohnson:rec:20090210115947mf> [accessed 20 July 2018]; ‘My Queen’ Vel-Vel (London: Felstead & Hunt, [Dec. 17, 1887]), Bodleian Library, University of Oxford: John Johnson Collection of Printed Ephemera: Women’s Clothes and Millinery 3 (7), in The John Johnson Collection: An Archive of Printed Ephemera <http://johnjohnson.chadwyck.com> <http://gateway.proquest.com/openurl?url_ver=Z39.88-2004&res_dat=xri:jjohnson:&rft_dat=xri:jjohnson:rec:20071016180518kw> [accessed 20 July 2018]; Atkinson & Barker’s Royal Infant Preservative (Manchester: R. Barker & Son, [1860-1870?]), Bodleian Library, University of Oxford: John Johnson Collection of Printed Ephemera: Patent Medicines 1 (25), in The John Johnson Collection: An Archive of Printed Ephemera <http://johnjohnson.chadwyck.com> <http://gateway.proquest.com/openurl?url_ver=Z39.88-2004&res_dat=xri:jjohnson:&rft_dat=xri:jjohnson:rec:20080201130301mf> [accessed 20 July 2018].