2017 promises to be the most exciting season at Harewood House to date. Many people know Harewood for its wonderful 18th century Adam interiors, wonderful Chippendale furniture and Capability Brown landscapes, and yet the Victorian story of Harewood is far less well known.
Queen Victoria came to Harewood House in 1835 as a 17 year old Princess, staying overnight in the state bedroom and dining in the wonderful gallery. It is therefore with great pleasure that we welcomed ITV to film their “Victoria” series at Harewood last year. The series chronicles the life of Queen Victoria, starring Jenna Coleman and has been seen by more than seven million people. The house was used as a set, to recreate Buckingham Palace and Kensington Palace, including the wonderful below stairs storyline in our kitchens.
After Prince Albert’s death, Queen Victoria’s reign was characterised by rather formidable images of her in black, but the young Queen understood the importance of dress as an outward expression of her status. Very little remains of the Queen’s original dress, so the costume designers had to work with paintings and historical documents to recreate the final pieces.
Set in Harewood’s beautiful Cinnamon Drawing Room and Gallery, costumes worn by Jenna Coleman as Queen Victoria and her ladies’ in waiting are on display. These include the dress she wore when she proposed to Prince Albert, the beautiful green shot silk dress from the opening sequence and the sumptuous coronation gown.
Harewood’s Victorian history is shaped by three other influential ladies of the time. Lady Louisa, the third Countess of Harewood arrived in 1841 with a growing family of 13 children. She set about creating her vision of Harewood to make it more comfortable, efficient and fashionable using the most celebrated architect of the time, Sir Charles Barry, who had recently designed the Houses of Parliament. Most notable of Lady Louisa’s renovations was the terrace and as the season develops, please do come and see how the planting in the parterre creates a wonderful tapestry of colour.
Charlotte, Lady Canning, another of Victoria’s ladies-in-waiting, was a renowned watercolourist, painting scenes from her travels and giving Queen Victoria lessons in watercolour painting. Harewood House owns 80 albums of her watercolours and we are delighted to have the opportunity to change this display to reflect her time in India after 1856. This will coincide with the 70th anniversary of the Independence of India, a theme which we will reflect in Gavin Fernandes’ contemporary photographs.
The fifth Countess, Florence Bridgeman, arrived at Harewood towards the latter half of the Victorian period and developed a passion of photography. The notion of the snapshot was developed at the turn of the century by Kodak, as photography was now accessible to everyone. Our wonderful collection of informal photographs capture life at Harewood, as friends and family are snapped sledging, sword fighting with sticks and balancing glasses of water on their heads whilst out on the lawn!
As the season develops, we will also spend the summer celebrating one of Queen Victoria’s favourite authors, Lewis Carroll, displaying our first edition of “Alice in Wonderland” and taking this as inspiration for a summer packed full of family fun activities.
I am delighted to have joined as director, as Harewood House is clearly held very dearly in people’s hearts. As a charity it would not be possible to preserve the house, collections and grounds and tell the stories of our history, without our visitors and members’ support. We greatly appreciate that and look forward to welcoming you throughout 2017.