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Prince Albert driving the Queen and Princess Royal in their Sledge, at Brighton, 1845

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This print of Queen Victoria’s last recorded visit to the Royal Pavilion, in February 1845, was published in The Illustrated London News. It is one of the most popular images in our collection, perhaps because it looks utterly romantic.

Who’s in the driving seat of that magnificent sledge?

Prince Albert, Victoria’s husband since 1840, is shown proudly driving a dark green and golden sledge through a wintry landscape on 11 or 12 February 1845. Victoria is sitting in it, looking at Albert. They are accompanied by either the Duchess of Kent or Lady-in-Waiting Sarah Lyttleton, who is holding Victoria the Princess Royal, their second child. They ventured as far as Patcham and Clayton in their ‘pretty, smart sledge’. It was made by Hooper & Co and survives in the Royal Collection. In other prints the sledge is depicted as red, and this is the colour of its upholstery now.

Pretty horses

Victoria loved horses and was a good rider. On her first visit to Brighton, in 1838, she had brought her favourite horse, Comus. About this sledge trip she noted in her diaries, ‘The horses with their handsome red harness & many bells, had a charming effectThe bright blue sky & sunshine, together with the sound of the bells, had a very exhilarating effect.’. The bells were made of silver, and the horses were sporting ostrich feathers. The horses were in fact Scottish ponies, named “Keith” and “Kintore”.

A snow-capped Pavilion

We can see the Pavilion’s snow-capped domes in the distance, looking very much like a fairy-tale palace. The tall fir trees shown to the right of it add to the romantic feel, and may even be a nod to Prince Albert introducing the German Christmas tree to England.

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Alexandra Loske, Curator