Australian dress register ID:370
Owner:Port Macquarie Historical Society
Owner registration number:PMHM 2002/125
Date range:1900 - 1901
Place of origin:Wales
This nightdress is significant for its association with the longest reigning British monarch Queen Victoria [1819-1901], Queen of England and Ireland 1837 to 1901.
Whilst many souvenirs were produced to mark the reign of Queen Victoria and particularly her wedding to Prince Albert in 1840, her Golden Jubilee in 1887 and her Diamond Jubilee in 1897, items of Queen Victoria's clothing are relatively rare. It is believed that her large wardrobe including underwear items were dispersed to members of the Royal household on her death. This nightdress made its way to Australia when members of the Earle family migrated here in 1924.
The nightdress is very plain in its design and not what one envisages would be worn by a queen however it is beautifully made from a quality fabric with tiny hand stitching throughout evidencing the skills of the needle workers employed by its maker believed to be the Pryce Jones Company. The nightdress also features the British crown and Imperial Cypher 'VR' finely embroidered on the front and a number believed to be a garment number/laundry mark, suggesting that this nightdress was one of many worn by Queen Victoria.
The nightdress reflects the size, style and quality of nightwear worn by Queen Victoria in her later life. The nightdress was made towards the end of a period of time we now call the Victorian era known for its British industrial expansion, economic progress and artistic success, yet the nightdress itself is very modest and entirely hand made.
Like many collections throughout Australia, the Port Macquarie Historical Society collection includes a number of items of Queen Victoria memorabilia including plates, ornaments, textiles and prints, with this nightdress believed to be a rare item of clothing provenanced to the British monarch. Author: Debbie Sommers, 6 April 2012.
Full length nightdress made of very fine white linen with machine lace attached to a ruffle at the collar and centre front opening and at the sleeve cuffs. The front opening is fastened by one small fabric covered button and there are small fabric loops near the top of the opening. Perhaps these were used to hold a decorative ribbon lacing to close the neck or removable clasp. Three fabric covered buttons and two tucks are used at the sleeve cuffs for decoration.
The nightdress is entirely hand stitched. Most of the seams are French. The royal crown and Queen Victoria's Imperial Cypher VR (Victoria Regina) embroidered on the centre front. The number 24 is embroidered below the Queen's cypher and is probably a laundry mark to ensure the nightdress was worn in rotation.
The long sleeves are gathered at the shoulders and then straight set into the nightdress with reinforced seams. Shaping has been achieved by the insertion of small pieces of fabric at the front and back shoulders and with a horizontal tuck across the centre back near the neck. Inserts have also been added from the hip area to the hemline at the side seams to provide greater width.
History and Provenance
Births, deaths, marriages, children or family information
Queen Victoria was born at Kensington Palace, London on 24 May 1819, the only daughter of Edward, Duke of Kent, fourth son of George III. Her father died shortly after her birth and she became heir to throne because her three uncles who were ahead of her in succession had no legitimate children who survived.
On William IV's death in 1837 Victoria became Queen at the age of 18. Victoria married Prince Albert in 1840 and the couple had nine children, most of who married into other royal families of Europe.
After her husband's death in 1861, Victoria became depressed and until the late 1860s rarely appeared in dress_reg_live. For the rest of her reign Victoria wore black.
Queen Victoria died on 20 January 1901, after almost 64 years as reigning monarch, currently the longest serving in British history. She was buried at Windsor next to Prince Albert in the Frogmore Royal Mausoleum which she had built for their final resting place.
Do you have any stories or community information associated with this?
According to the donor's daughter Janice Blair (nee Earle) the nightdress was given to a member of the Earle family who worked for Queen Victoria either when Queen Victoria died or when she had no more use for it. The nightdress was then handed down through the family to the donor's father Thomas Henry Earle and then given to the donor's wife Mollie Earle (nee Norton).
According to the article 'Queen Victoria's Underwear' written for Victoriana Magazine, collecting of Victoria royal memorabilia has been a pursuit of collectors for over a hundred years with a large array of collectibles produced such as plates, cups and saucers, teapots, medals, coins, handkerchiefs, textiles, prints and photographs produced across her long reign and particularly for her wedding and two jubilees. The article goes on to say that souvenir clothing items belonging to the monarch are more difficult to find and that on Queen Victoria's death there was a distribution of her huge wardrobe, including her underwear to members of the Royal household. These personal items can now be found dispersed in both public and private collections and are easily identified by the royal cypher worked on each piece by their maker the Pryce Jones Company.
How does this garment relate to the wider historical context?
Queen Victoria [1819-1901] was the Queen of Great Britain and Ireland from 1837 to 1901 and the Queen of India from 1876 to 1901. Queen Victoria was associated with an extensive period of British industrial expansion, economic progress and artistic success now known as the Victorian Era. It also became known as a time of diminishing influence for the British monarchy.
In her later years Queen Victoria became a symbol of the British Empire and celebrated two momentous anniversaries, the Golden Jubilee in 1887 and the Diamond Jubilee in 1897. Queen Victoria died on January 22, 1901 after a reign lasting almost 64 years, currently the longest in British history.
As Australia was a country of the British Empire, Queen Victoria was also the reigning sovereign of Australia. Queen Victoria did not ever visit Australia however the first Royal visit to Australia was by Queen Victoria's second son Prince Alfred in 1867/68 whilst on his round-the world voyage.
Items with the royal crown and imperial cypher were used by Queen Victoria in her Royal households and particularly at her homes at Kensington Palace, Osbourne House on the Isle of Wight and Balmoral.
Where did this information come from?
Port Macquarie News September 28, 2011 Obituary Leonard Earle
Wikipedia - www.en.wikipedia/org/wiki various
Yarwood, Doreen English Costume from the 2nd Century BC to 1960 Revised edition, 1961: p260
Port Macquarie Historical Society collection catalogue
Email: Cameron Blair October 10, 2011
Royalty Magazine - www.royalty-magazine.com/archive/victoria.html
USA Today www.usatoday.com
Powerhouse Museum - www.powerhousemuseum.com/collection/database
Victoria and Albert Museum - www.collections.vam.ac.uk
Victoriana Magazine - www.victoriana.com/Royalty/queenvictoriaunderwear.htm
The British Monarchy website - www.royal.gov.au
This garment has been exhibited
The nightdress has been exhibited at the Port Macquarie Historical Museum on several occasions, and most recently in a temporary exhibition 'Royal Recollections' held from April to June 2011 to celebrate the wedding of Prince William to Katherine Middleton.
Place of origin:
Queen Victoria and then dispersed to members of the royal household after her death in 1901. Handed down through the Earle family and brought to Australia when the family migrated here in 1924. Loaned to the Port Macquarie Historical Society in 1986 and then donated in 2002.
Queen Victoria, British monarch
Kensington Palace and other royal households including Osborne House on the Isle of Wight where she died.
It is believed the nightdress was made by the Pryce-Jones company.
The Pryce-Jones Company was established by Sir Pryce Pryce-Jones [1834-1920], a Welsh entrepreneur who was one of the first to succeed in the mail order business. Introduction of railways and then further railway expansion enabled Pryce-Jones to take orders from around the world. His customers included Florence Nightingale, Queen Victoria, the Princess of Wales and royal households across Europe. His Welsh flannel was sold to America and also to Australia. Pryce-Jones success was acknowledged by Queen Victoria with a knighthood in 1887.
Trimmings / Decoration
Three small fabric covered buttons decorate the cuff of each sleeve.
Machine lace is used to decorate the ruffled collar, front opening and cuff of each sleeve.
Two tucks used at sleeve cuffs, a tuck across the centre back near the neck provides shaping.
The royal crown, Imperial Cypher VR and number 24 are embroidered on the centre front chest area.
This garment is entirely hand sewn. The stitching is very fine and very even.
- Hand sewn
- Machine sewn
One small fabric covered button with a hand stitched button hole is used to close the front opening. Two small fabric loops sewn to the front opening near the neck may have been used to hold ribbon lacing or a removable clasp.
- Hook and eye
|Hem circumference||2140 mm|
|Front neck to hem||1260 mm|
|Back neck to hem||1260 mm|
|Sleeve length||435 mm|
|Neck to sleeve head||220 mm|
|Cross back||770 mm|
|Underarm to underarm||830 mm|
|Convert to inches|
Sleeve length includes lace trim.
Articles, publications, diagrams and receipts descriptions
Queen Victoria's underwear and nightwear such as this nightdress have been sold at auction on many occasions to private collectors, particularly collectors from North America. In July 2008, USA Today reported:
A pair of Queen Victoria's 50-inch waist bloomers were snapped up for $9,000 by a Canadian buyer at a central England auction Wednesday. The royal drawers belonged to a family in western England whose ancestor was a lady-in-waiting for the queen. Also up for auction was Queen Victoria's chemise, with a 66-inch bust, sold for $8,000. Her nightgown sold for $11,000. Before the auction, Hanson valued the underwear at $1,000, while the chemise and nightgown were valued at $600 each.
A similar nightdress is held in the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London,
A similar nightdress appears on a website about Queen Victoria's underwear. The article states that whilst the numbering system inserted below the cypher is not fully understood it is thought that the Queen's garments were ordered in quantities and then worn in rotation. The article also refers to other similar garments in the publication 'In royal Fashion. The Clothes of Princess Charlotte of Wales and Queen Victoria 1796 - 1910'.
Other related objects
The Port Macquarie Historical Society's collection contains Queen Victoria souvenirs including commemorative plates, scarves and handkerchiefs, metal busts and framed prints.
Some small holes suggest possible insect damage.
- Parts missing