The Victorian period was a time of discovery, rebellion and exploration for those who lived through it. It was also a prosperous time for Sudeley, which saw many improvements under the watchful eye of owner, Emma Dent. As we prepare to host our annual Victorian May Day celebrations, read on find out 11 interesting things you probably didn’t know about the era.
1. Read All About It
Health professionals in the Victorian era were constantly innovating and suggesting new and interesting ways to fight illnesses. In 1875 one recommendation was to cover oneself in sheets of newspaper, providing a warm and comfortable night’s sleep while reducing the onset of pneumonia.
2. An Everyday Poison
Toxic arsenic was widely consumed by Victorians. Women believed it had qualities which made skin appear younger, and so it was a major ingredient in many cosmetics – whereas men would consume arsenic pills as a way of stimulating their libido. Unsurprisingly, these products caused extreme sickness and lead to many fatalities before people understood the true power of the substance.
3. Curious Collections
Many Victorians would specialise in collecting objects, from zoological and botanical to geological and archaeological. People devoted cabinets and spaces for their prized collections, which would often take up entire rooms in their home. During the era many towns and villages had a curiosity shop which sold an array of weird and wonderful objects to avid collectors.
4. Widow of Windsor
It’s well documented that when Queen Victoria’s husband, Prince Albert, died in 1861, she went into mourning and wore black until her death 40 years later. During this time she secluded herself from the rest of the world and was rarely seen in public, earning herself the name of the ‘Widow of Windsor’. But did you know, Victoria disliked black funerals and at her own funeral in 1901, ensured the streets of London were decorated in purple and white.
5. Walk Like an Egyptian
In the Victorian era, people were fascinated by ancient Egypt. Many historians believe this was down to the parallels that could be drawn from their relationships with death. In fact, Egyptian influences can be found in women’s mourning jewellery from the era. This obsession led to an unusual phenomenon whereby experts would unwrap mummies for an auditorium of curious men and women.
6. The Penny Black
The Victorian era has often been described by historians as the ‘Golden Years’ as it was a hugely important time for innovation. One of these innovations was the concept of the postage stamp, which first became available for purchase on 1 May 1840. The first stamps, The Penny Black and the Two Pence Blue, included the image of a young Queen Victoria, and to this day, the UK is the only country which uses the reigning monarch’s head for national identification rather than the country’s name.
7. Sprechen sie Deutsch?
The British royal family is German in origin – in fact Queen Victoria’s mother, Victoria of Saxe-Coburg, was a German princess. The Queen was brought up by her German governess, Baroness Louise Lehzen, from Hanover, and as such, Victoria spoke only German until she was three years old. Even as an adult, German was spoken in Buckingham Palace and at all private occasions, with many of Victoria’s courtiers, including her husband, Prince Albert, being German.
8. 50 Shades Of Black
As well as mourning loved ones, there was another, more practical reason, why so many Victorians wore a lot of black – it was all down to pollution. Industry was booming in the Victorian era, and as such pollution was rife – particularly in the cities – meaning that women who wore light colours would find their dresses turn shades of grey, and so opted for darker clothing.
9. Look Into My Eyes
Victorians were big advocates of spiritualism and believed in the afterlife. Public events involving hypnosis, séances and fortune telling were popular occasions during the era, and it was big money for the people performing these acts. However, unsurprisingly many of these professionals were simply good actors maximising on peoples gullibility.
10. Hostess With The Mostess
If a lady was at home in the day she was expected to be properly dressed and prepared for visitors between the hours of 3pm and 5pm. The time visitors could arrive was dependent on how familiar an acquaintance they were, with closer friends and family permitted to visit later in the day. It would have been seen as poor taste for anyone to arrive earlier than 3pm.
11. Say My Name
Queen Victoria wasn’t actually called Victoria – she was in fact named Alexandrina after her godfather, Tsar Alexander I of Russia. Victoria was a middle name which she shared with her mother. However, until her coronation in 1838 she was known as Drina and many of the public at the time were never certain of her official name.