The Women’s Studies Group 1558-1837 seminars take place on Saturdays in autumn and winter at the Foundling Museum, 40 Brunswick Square, London, WC1N 1AZ, starting promptly at 1pm and finishing at 4pm. Doors open at 12.30pm, and there is a break for tea, coffee and biscuits halfway through the session. The Foundling is a wheelchair accessible venue, and directions for getting to the Museum can be found here, including for those who are partially sighted. Seminars are free and open to the public though non-members will be asked to make a donation of £2 for refreshments. Those attending the seminars are welcome to look round the museum before or after.
The WSG invites papers formal and informal, as well as works-in-progress, on any topic related to early modern and long eighteenth-century women’s and gender studies, be it history, literature, art, medicine, music, theatre, religion, economics, sexuality, and so on. Early career and independent scholars are particularly welcome. We put out a call for papers every February through August on sites like bsecs.org.uk, but if you would like to be considered as a speaker please contact the Seminars Organiser, Carolyn Williams.
Non-member attendees including speakers are strongly encouraged to join WSG, and can do so here.
Saturday 17 August 2019. Extraordinary ‘Creative’ Summer Session. Chairs: Yvonne Noble & Louise Duckling
Sara Read: The Gossips’ Choice: drawing on the case notes of midwife Sarah Stone in Historical Fiction
This presentation discusses the development of a ‘practice-as-research’ creative writing project, in which I have written a full-length novel using some of the case notes of Sarah Stone, whose A Complete Practice of Midwifery, published in 1737, as the basis for some of the episodes within. Her text suggests the author was an assertive and competent midwife, often called upon in difficult cases to remedy the poor treatment of less experienced birth attendants. In the course of the research and writing I identified a number of different questions, such as how to depict a character based on Stone’s practice, who, like her, was married to an apothecary, but who was not the same woman. While Stone is a fascinating, inspirational figure, I wanted my midwife protagonist to have her own voice and character. Details of labour and childbirth are often skimmed over in historical fiction or based on long-standing stereotypes, and I wanted to use my skills as a researcher into early modern reproductive health to show that the picture was more varied, and that while some treatments might seem alarming to a modern reader, they were based on the best practices of the time.
Kim Sherwood: Fictionalising historic figures.
Kim Sherwood is an award-winning novelist. Her debut novel, Testament (riverrun, 2018), explored the impact of the Holocaust on three generations of a family, from 1944 to the present day. Kim is now writing her second novel, which reaches further back, to the eighteenth century. She has also been writing about the eighteenth century as Writer in Residence at Exeter Library, specifically looking at the works of Elizabeth Montagu and Elizabeth Carter in the Rare and Early Printed Books Special Collection. In this workshop, Kim will demonstrate and discuss how the historical record evolves into fiction, with particular regard to fictionalizing historic figures such as Frances Reynolds and Hester Thrale. Kim will also offer creative exercises that will help us explore and reflect as a group on the role of imagination in historiography (no previous creative writing experience required).
Caroline Douglas: Spectre of a Woman
The history of photography has long been crafted in such a way that many of the living, breathing participants of its earliest period are written out. Principal among them are women. We are only now coming to terms with how photography was gendered from its very inception. Photography’s close association with the female body has been accompanied by the historical erasure of the agency of actual women: their hands, thinking and self-activity that helped shape the medium through its fin de siècle phase. This paper explores the history of women in early photographic practice through the case study of the C18th pioneering Chemist Elizabeth Fulhame and the C19th voiceless subject Elizabeth Johnstone Hall – a ‘Fishwife’ and one of the world’s first photographic subjects to be presented as art. Spectre of a Woman will be a presentation of my latest practice-led research, using re-enactment and montage as a method to explore the ethics and possibilities of recovering some of early photography’s ‘unknown women’.
Saturday 21 September, 2019. Chairs Gillian Williamson and Carolyn D. Williams
Charmian Kenner: Sarah Andrews: furthering the cause of Latin American independence in early 19th century London
Sarah Andrews (1774-1847) has until now been a shadowy figure, known only for her relationship to Venezuelan revolutionary Francisco de Miranda, her partner and the father of her two children. However, Sarah played a key part in the Latin American cause through running the household in Grafton Street, London where revolutionaries including Simón Bolívar met with Miranda and were inspired by his vision. Letters from Sarah to Miranda, whilst he was away fighting for revolution in Venezuela, reveal her political knowledge and her resourcefulness in defending Miranda’s 6,000-volume library (the largest private library in London and a significant asset for radicals) from being sold and dispersed. Meanwhile, as a radical mother, she began raising her young sons Leandro and Francisco with an understanding of the cause to which their parents were devoted, and both later went to Latin America to support the struggle for independence. I shall discuss Sarah Andrews’ achievements in the context of the home as a base for women’s political life in late Georgian society.
Sonia Villegas López: Female libertinism in Gabriel de Brémond’s transnational oriental fictions
French oriental narratives were both translated and published profusely in England in the 1670s and 1680s. The action of many of these novellas was situated in the exotic territories of Morocco and the Ottoman Empire, though often telling stories about the French and the English nobility under cover. They illustrated sexual scandals, in which women, though primarily the objects of love and gallantry, were also prone to give free rein to their desires. Gabriel de Brémond’s Hattige, or the Amours of the King of Tamaran (1680) and Homais, Queen of Tunis (1681), reproduce Charles II’s sexual affairs, and construe both Hattige, the king of Tamaran’s favourite, and Homais, wife of the King of Tunis, as emblems of female libertinism within the safe boundaries of the seraglio. Tamaran (or England) and Tunis were described as places of gallantry, the perfect environment for stories of intrigue, love and passion. These female rakes followed their ambition and used their sexual authority over kings and nobles, making fools of them to earn political power in return. They behaved as apt manipulators but their downfall was precipitated by their own romantic weaknesses for other men whom they loved, in spite of not being rich or powerful. I argue that, far from being read as models of female exoticism and otherness, as in later Enlightenment oriental novels, these strong women and the love intrigues they spin could be interpreted as examples of what Srinivas Aravamudan has fitly called “transcultural allegories” (2012: 202). I subscribe to Aravamudan’s interpretation of the late seventeenth-century oriental novel as the vehicle to introduce the culturally foreign, which displaces the local and the national in favour of transculturalism. The selected novels suggest a transnational vision of the orient not in either/or exclusive categories, but in inclusive terms, according to which the east is feminised and associated to a glorious and hedonistic past.
Rebecca Simpson: Scandal and the Maternal Imagination in Eighteenth-Century Britain: The Confessions of Mary Toft [WSG Bursary awardee, 2018]
This paper examines the appropriation of the theory of maternal impressions by eighteenth century obstetric science, and its uneasy coexistence alongside Enlightenment concepts of the imagination. The theory of maternal impressions dictated that the maternal imagination had the power to ‘impress’ an image onto the foetal body during pregnancy. Used as a means to explain birth defects and variations in the pre-microscopic era, belief in the power of the imagination far pre-dated the eighteenth century, with references found in the Bible, the works of Galen and Hippocrates, as well as early-modern medical texts. During the eighteenth century, the validity of maternal impressions as a scientific theory came increasingly under pressure, until by the end of the century most physicians and medical men considered it pure fiction. However, the maternal imagination, and its powers of construction and destruction, continued to feature in literature far beyond the eighteenth century. The focus of this paper is upon the infamous ‘Mary Toft Affair’ of 1726 – in which an ordinary working woman from Godalming, Surrey, successfully duped the leading authorities in medicine, and much of the country, into believing she was giving birth to rabbits. The hoax became a national scandal that ruined the reputations of many involved, and, contributed significantly to the rebuttal of maternal impressions as a scientific theory of development. This paper will focus in particular on the confessions of Mary Toft, witnessed by notable man-midwives James Douglas and Richard Manningham. This research was generously funded by WSG bursary in 2018.
Alison Daniell: Of False Hair, Bolstered Hips and Witchcraft: The Regulation of Women’s Bodies and an Act of Parliament that Never Was
The Matrimonial Act 1770 (or, as it more commonly known, The Hoops and Heels Act 1770) ostensibly permitted husbands who had been ‘impose[d] upon, seduce[d] and betray[ed] into matrimony’ by women using make-up, perfume, heels and other commonplace beauty aids to declare their marriages null and void. These wives were also to ‘incur the penalty of the laws now in force against witchcraft, sorcery, and such like misdemeanours’. The Act is referenced in a number of academic publications (Rappaport, 2012; Poovey, 1984; Cunnington and Lucas 1978; Boyd 1976; Wardle, 1951) and it has been quoted, re-quoted and published in newspapers across the globe for over a hundred and seventy five years. However, The Hoops and Heels Act is a fake: it was never passed, or even debated, by Parliament and its provisions do not exist anywhere in law. That a non-existent statute should be so widely accepted as true raises a number of important questions: where did the myth originate, how did it spread, is there any other basis in law for the provisions it purports to enact and why does it so easily gain unquestioning acceptance – even among a sceptical, scholarly and academic audience? This paper will examine the Act from its genesis in the late eighteenth century, to its global spread via the print media of the nineteenth century. It will analyse possible legal sources for its provisions and discuss some of the cultural factors that associate women’s power over men with witchcraft and a mutable female body. It will also suggest a more prosaic origin for the myth than the emotive combination of witchcraft and divorce we know today.
Saturday 23 November, 2019. Chairs Miriam al Jamil and Felicity Roberts
Masuda Qureshi: Celestial Revolutions: Hester Pulter and the circular skies.
What can we determine about early modern women by analysing poetry that did not have wide readership, and how might we consider the overlapping discourses of astronomy, natural philosophy, and religion through the poetic form? It takes an alternative stance for current scholarship by focusing on a concept, rather than a discourse, that resonates throughout Pulter’s poetry: that of circularity – informed by Pulter’s opening poem ‘The Revolution’, and Pulter’s four attempts at the poem ‘The Circle’, placed at different points within her manuscript. By paying close attention to the way in which Pulter poetizes ‘The Circle’ in four differing poems and comparing them to other poems concerning the cosmos, it focuses on configuring how imagery associated with the circle can help provide insight and overlap into how Pulter imagines the universe, in order to argue that circularity constitutes her poetry as a layered form of writing that builds on astronomical, scientific, and religious discourses simultaneously. Thus, what follows aims to unravel: the importance and prevalence of circularity in early modern ideas of the cosmos, how manuscript poetry, despite its limited reception, preserves and reflects early modern intellectual history, and how early modern women’s poetry became an interdisciplinary medium of writing that accumulated and debated scientific discourse.
Natasha Simonova: ‘Semiramis does not stand still’: Amabel Polwarth and Amateur Authorship
Drawing on research in the Bedfordshire and West Yorkshire archives, my paper will examine the career of Lady Amabel (Grey) Polwarth (1751-1833), a prolific but little-known aristocratic woman author. Born into a family at the centre of the eighteenth-century intellectual and political world, Polwarth was a keen writer throughout her long life, as recorded in her extensive surviving correspondence with her closest female relatives and her 37 volumes of diaries, kept from the ages of 19 to 81. Although the genres she attempted included heroic romance, translations of Petrarch, drama, fairy tales, and an adaptation of Scott’s Marmion, as well as the editing of her mother’s correspondence, Polwarth’s only published output was the three anonymous political pamphlets she wrote in response to the French Revolution. Polwarth thus serves as an example of the amateur writers in manuscript who, as Margaret Ezell has argued, have so often been excluded from conventional literary histories. Her letters and diaries provide tantalising hints of the role that authorship played in her life, as well as the importance of female networks in its production and dissemination, and her relationship to the print marketplace (she attempted to publish her fairy tales through an intermediary, for example, but gave up when this could not be done anonymously). In contrast to a narrative of increasing professionalisation in this period, I use this case study to show how manuscript sources can provide us with a fuller picture of a woman writer’s very serious but ‘amateur’ intellectual labour, extending from childhood to old age.
John Beddoes: Anna, Emmeline and Maria Edgeworth, Three Sisters of the Enlightenment: “I do not wish to be the cause of one of your tight laced faces.”
Anna Beddoes (1773-1824) was a sister to Maria Edgeworth and married to Dr Thomas Beddoes. She had four children one of whom was Thomas Lovell Beddoes the poet. Dr Beddoes’ Pneumatic Institution has been extensively studied, as have the lives of the famous men associated with the Institution including James Watt, Humphry Davy, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Robert Southey, Davies Giddy, and Peter Mark Roget to name a few. Anna Beddoes was central to this society, knew all of these men well and corresponded with many of them, yet she barely appears in the existing literature even in the writings about her sister Maria. I have transcribed hundreds of letters written and received by Anna and Thomas most of which have never been studied. Anna emerges as a fascinating woman, renowned among her friends for her intelligence and wit. Using these letters alongside published sources I am piecing together a detailed picture of her life.
Francesca Saggini: Below and Beyond. On Re-reading Burney’s Biographies
In my presentation I shall be reconsidering a few biographies of Frances Burney. From the early biographical narratives to the more recent ones, in a progress from Madame d’Arblay to Fanny to Frances, I shall be reconstructing the history of Burney’s biographies, how they responded to literary and psychological trends and critical schools, including the politics of canon formation. Therefore I shall consider some of the main issues relating to truth and imagination, auto-mimesis, public and private life that contributed significantly to the various constructions of Burney’s authorial personae.
Saturday 18 January, 2020. Chairs Angela Escott and Miriam al Jamil
Charlotte Young: Women’s involvement in Canterbury sequestrations, 1643-1650 [WSG Bursary winner, 2019]
This project, which was made possible by the WSG bursary, aims to explore women’s involvement in Canterbury sequestrations during the English Civil War as both victims and beneficiaries. This paper will explore the key findings from this study, and demonstrate how sequestration records can be used to explore a new area of female participation in the Civil War. The first half of this paper will focus on the sequestration of Lady Margaret Wotton, who lived in the converted St Augustine’s Abbey site just outside Canterbury’s city walls. Using Parliamentary orders and petitions, I will explore the background to her sequestration and the attempts she and her step-granddaughter Hester, Viscountess Campden, made to regain and preserve the estate after it had been confiscated. The second half of the paper will focus the account books created by John Cogan, who was responsible for managing Lady Wotton’s estate and selling her confiscated property. A key aspect of Cogan’s accounts were sale lists containing the names of the buyers who bought her property, the piece(s) of furniture they were purchasing, and the amount they paid. Significantly, a high number of these buyers were women. The most vital aspect of this project has been using a combination of parish registers, poll tax returns, quarter sessions records, lists of freemen of the city, and other archival material to work out whereabouts in Canterbury these women and their families lived, what they did for a living, how wealthy (or not) they were, and in some cases what their political views were. This provides a completely new interpretation of how sequestration impacted a local, mercantile, non-combatant community, and how the women of Canterbury were able to use the policy to their households’ advantage.
Carol Stewart: Penelope Aubin’s The Noble Slaves and the Politics of Opposition
Early opposition to the Walpole administration of the 1720s drew on the tradition of civic republicanism, a tradition which saw self-interest on the part of rulers as leading to corruption, tyranny, and slavery in the state. “Slavery” is conceived of here as the loss of agency, independence and the ability to act virtuously in the civic realm. These views were articulated in highly influential articles by Whig writers Thomas Gordon and John Trenchard in the London Journal of 1720-1723. Aubin’s novel of 1722 positions women as resisting despotic Oriental rulers who would seduce or rape them. In this way they uphold “virtue” and withstand tyranny. Extreme acts of self-denial show women as being more capable of disinterested action than men. Plot devices separate the women from their husbands so that they are forced to act independently. Noble and selfless actions are a possibility for them, even in situations of extreme duress. Aubin wants female virtue to be a mode of civic agency for women, giving women a central role in terms of the state of the nation, but such a role is often restrictive and passive. Working to counter that restriction and passivity are her heroines’ many travels and adventures in exotic locations, and their occasional turns to violence.
Anne Stott: Princess Charlotte of Wales: gender and the “reversionary interest”
In the Georgian period, when the monarchy still retained a political power, opponents of the ministry of the day gravitated round the Prince of Wales, the future king, and formed a government in waiting. This phenomenon was known as the “reversionary interest”. As Prince of Wales, the future George IV supported the opposition Whigs. However, when he became Prince Regent in 1811, he found the opposition was now focused around his own heir, his daughter, Princess Charlotte. Whig politicians, disillusioned with what they saw as his betrayal of their cause, turned to her and looked forward to the time when she would be queen. But Charlotte’s situation was very different from that of her predecessors in opposition. She had strong political opinions, but she was still in her teens and under the rule of a governess. Even more importantly, she was female and denied the freedom of action that would have been granted to a prince. Whig politicians rallied to her and to her mother, Caroline of Brunswick, the regent’s estranged wife, but when she defied her father by turning down an arranged marriage and fleeing to her mother, they were powerless to help her. She was kept under close surveillance, and denied any independence of action. She obtained a degree of freedom when she married a German prince, Leopold of Saxe-Coburg, but during her short married life she occupied herself in charitable and cultural pursuits rather than politics. Her death in childbirth, at the age of twenty-one, meant that she was never able to play an effective political role.
Katherine Woodhouse: “Madam Smith says, what shou’d the Captain do with such a wife as me who can only sit with a book in her hand”
The diaries of Sarah Hurst (1736-1808) record the period of 1759-1762 in rural Horsham. Hurst, as an unmarried young woman from a trade background, consistently relies on female friendship and companionship as a means of navigating the social and emotional struggles of “growing up”, and entering into society. As a young and aspiring writer, Sarah often found that “the malice & envy of a country town is endless”, and her female relationships often provided her with a refuge away from the judgement of Horsham society – particularly the scathing critiques of her writing by her future mother-in-law, Madam Smith. Sarah’s diaries record how the solace she found in female friendship enabled her to maintain an emotional resilience in the face of opposition to her writing and its circulation in Horsham and her aspirational marriage to Captain Smith. In this talk, I will explore the role female friendship played in navigating the hardships of young adulthood for women from a working, trade background. How did young women – like Sarah – draw on networks of support among young women, to bear out the struggles of female youth?
Anna Jamieson: Madness Exhibited: The Margaret Nicholson Scandal
This paper shares my current PhD research on the spectacularisation and consumption of Margaret Nicholson’s madness in the late eighteenth century. In August 1786, Nicholson, a servant based in London, attempted to assassinate King George III with a dessert knife. Nicholson was certified as mad, and promptly sent to Bethlem Royal Hospital, where she spent the rest of her life as a figure of intrigue. The Nicholson case saw a rapid proliferation of cultural output that explored, interpreted and fabulated the Nicholson case. Prints and frontispieces, newspapers and snuffboxes depicted Nicholson, making her madness available for public consumption across London and beyond. Depictions of Nicholson’s disorder varied across these representations; as foil to a feeling king, love-mad victim, subversive spinster, exhibited attraction and a radical political presence. My paper will analyse a number of these visual depictions, contrasting sympathetic representations that located Nicholson within the “love-mad” trope with portrayal that contextualised her madness through her failings; as a woman, mother and servant. I argue that the critical prints dominated representations of Margaret, often turning Nicholson into an anxiety-prodding politicised symbol of eighteenth-century complaint. Freakish, satirical narratives sought to frame Nicholson as a creature of difference, thereby lessening her mental or corporeal threat. Throughout these explorations, I consider the different visual mechanisms through which madness, and ultimately suffering, was looked at during a highly sensitive and self-conscious cultural period.
***Due to the current COVID-19 pandemic, we have cancelled the 21st March seminar.***
***CANCELLED*** Saturday 21 March, 2020. Chairs Carolyn D. Williams and Angela Escott
Lindy Moore: The Scottish Schoolmistress in the Eighteenth Century
This presentation considers the challenges facing women teachers of middling rank in eighteenth-century Scotland, as illustrated by the experiences of a successful teacher, Isabella Marshall Graham, who taught in Scotland from 1778 to 1789. Bell Graham’s choice of occupation at a time of financial distress, namely opening a day school to teach sewing combined with the establishment of a boarding house, is understandable in the context of the gendered system of education and schooling which existed in Scotland in the long eighteenth century, and the interconnections between private and public, male and female schools. Her move from Paisley to Edinburgh, where she was proprietor of an elite boarding school, provides an example of geographical and social mobility, and illustrates the importance of support networks and patronage for women teachers. Bella Graham’s educational objectives and methods were shaped by her evangelical Christianity and, as her example illustrates, the generally overlooked girls’ ‘sewing schools’ might be more ideologically controversial or intellectual than they appeared. Or they might not. Many women teachers were more concerned with encouraging polite behaviour and appropriate Enlightenment taste, or with trying to ensure their economic survival in their small, poor country. The extent to which the experiences of women teachers in eighteenth-century Scotland either matched or contrasted with those of comparable English schoolmistresses is a question to which the seminar discussion might perhaps provide some answers.
Alexis Wolf: Women and Mentoring in the Late Eighteenth Century: Mary Wollstonecraft, Margaret King and Mary Shelley
Women’s participation in mentoring shaped their contributions to literary culture in the late eighteenth century in revolutionary ways that subverted gendered boundaries. This paper will examine mentoring in women’s relationships as a means of finding a public voice as well as gaining skills in arenas from which women were conventionally excluded, including political writing and medicine. The central case study will examine the relationship between Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-1797), writer, philosopher and early advocate for women’s rights, and her one-time pupil Margaret King, later Lady Mount Cashell (1773-1835), a writer and medic. Wollstonecraft and King’s connection began during the former’s time as governess to the Kingsborough family in Ireland, a mentoring relationship illustrated as a series of educational scenes in Original Stories from Real Life (1788). While Wollstonecraft’s influence was limited to King’s early years, impact of her revolutionary ideologies can be read in King’s later engagement with the 1798 Irish Rebellion through the publication of an anonymous Republican broadside and pamphlets, as well as in King’s subsequent choice to abandon her marriage, children and aristocratic position to begin an intellectual and expatriate second life in Italy. Taking up the moniker of ‘Mrs. Mason’ after the loosely fictionalized governess in Original Stories, King published children’s literature and studied medicine in Pisa. King’s persistent determination to gain expertise in curing and preventing illness resonates with Wollstonecraft’s women’s rights treatise, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, a text which demands that the reader reflect on ‘[h]ow many women thus waste life away the prey of discontent, who might have practised as physicians, regulated a farm, managed a shop, and stood erect, supported by their own industry, instead of hanging their head surcharged with the dew of sensibility?’ Subsequent years of active medical practice led to the composition of Advice to Young Mothers on the Physical Education of Children, By a Grandmother (1823). The text enjoyed international success: editions appeared in America, Britain, and Italy in the ensuing decades, allowing King to serve as mentor to untold numbers of women readers. Among her most prominent readers was novelist Mary Shelley (1797-1851), Wollstonecraft’s daughter, whom King mentored with medical knowledge, literary encouragement and friendship during their mutual residence in Italy. Drawing on the life writing and published texts of Wollstonecraft, King and Shelley, this paper will consider both canonical and largely forgotten educational, medical and political writing produced as a result of women’s mentoring, which significantly contributed to public life in the late eighteenth century.
Rachel Eckersley: Female benefactors to dissenting academies in England
During the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries dissenting academies in the North of England grew significantly, supported, although not necessarily secured, by a combination of annual subscriptions, congregational collections, and donations of money and books. The transmission of private books into institutional hands, in this case from dissenting communities into academy libraries, was critical to ensuring the quality of the education offered to male lay and ministerial students. Interestingly, many women were subscribers and donors of funds and books to these academies, indeed the generosity of two women, Miss Sarah Balme and her sister, Mrs Mary Bacon, was key to one particular academy’s survival, namely Airedale Independent College, Bradford.This paper offers a survey of female former owners and donors of books to academies established for Independents or Congregationalists in Lancashire, Yorkshire, and also the East Midlands, and examines the reasons for their benefaction.
Catriona Wilson: “Some attention to those female members”: Feminised monarchy in the first exhibition of Kensington Palace’s State Apartments, 1899
On 24th May 1899, to mark Queen Victoria’s 80th birthday, the State Apartments of Kensington Palace were first opened to the public, following extensive state-funded restoration work and years of political negotiations in which Victoria herself and Reginald Brett, 2nd Viscount Esher, were involved. The displays celebrated previous, historic occupants of the newly renovated royal abode, including Queen Anne and Queen Caroline, and culminated in the King’s Gallery where Queen Victoria was born, christened and raised. Here, guests were treated to a selection of paintings and objects intended to represent the ageing monarch’s ‘life and reign’, focused primarily on her childhood (1819-1837), carefully selected by Richard Rivington Holmes. By this date, Holmes had served Victoria as her Royal Librarian for over 25 years, during which time he had spent many hours with the monarch at dinners, court events and in Windsor’s library. His biography of the queen, published 2 years prior to Kensington’s opening to commemorate her Diamond Jubilee, is unusual among those released within her lifetime for the intimacy and authority with which it portrays the personal life of the queen. Holmes assures that his work benefits from the explicit ‘permission of Her Majesty’, and that ‘Her Majesty most graciously consented to supply notes on her childhood and youth, and at the same time to correct matters of fact’. By unpacking the narrative he constructs in his written biography and exhibition, heavily informed by intimacy and collaboration with the queen, I will argue that Holmes demonstrates to Victorian visitors and modern historians Victoria’s successful feminisation and domestication of the image of British monarchy. Further than that, I argue the biography and curation seek to rewrite centuries of British royal history, imbuing this feminised, domestic image of British monarchy with a sense of continuity and tradition in anticipation of the imminent change of regent to Victoria’s male heir, Edward VII. Additionally, it implies similarity between Victoria and the future queen consort, Mary of Teck, anticipating her potential to inherit Victoria’s symbolic role as a British matriarch of empire following the accession of her husband as George V. I will also consider why Holmes and Victoria seek to display their history of Victoria’s girlhood, specifically, to the public, and the impact of this on public perceptions of monarchy in the twilight of the nineteenth century.