Some touching mementos that Britain’s Queen Victoria kept of her children will go on display at Buckingham Palace this summer, including a casket of baby teeth, marble casts of their feet and hands, and a pair of blue velvet baby shoes, the Press Association news agency reports.
The items will be revealed to the public as part of the “Queen Victoria’s Palace” exhibition, which will run from July 20 to September 29 to mark 200 years since Victoria’s birth.
The queen, once Britain’s longest-reigning monarch before Queen Elizabeth II surpassed her record in 2015, commissioned a gilt casket with satin-lined compartments to store her children’s baby teeth in in the 1860s. Blue velvet lids are embroidered with the names of her four oldest children: Victoria, Albert Edward (later King Edward VII), Alice and Alfred.
Victoria had five more children with her husband, Prince Albert: Helena, Louise, Arthur, Leopold and Beatrice.
Marble casts of future king Albert Edward’s arm and hand, as well as Victoria, Princess Royal’s left foot will also be displayed at Buckingham Palace — four of the 14 marble hands and feet Queen Victoria collected. Each one was carved from a plaster cast, typically applied to her children’s limbs while they slept.
Portrait of Queen Victoria (1819-1901) of England. Undated photograph. Credit: Bettmann/Getty Images
The Queen also preserved Albert Edward’s first baby shoes; on the soles, the words “The Prince of Wales first shoes worn – July – 1842” are written.
Victoria had a difficult relationship with her children, but the mementos reveal her love for them, according to the exhibition’s co-curator, the historian Amanda Foreman. “Victoria had great trouble showing simple affection towards her children… She didn’t have the normal upbringing that would have enabled her to be a normal mother herself so she expressed her love through things,” Foreman told PA.
The marble casts, Foreman acknowledged, might seem odd to a modern audience. “I mean you would think ‘What was going on her head?’ We might even associate it with death — gravestones, but that’s not at all how it was associated then,” she told the news agency. “There’s so much love in these marble hands and feet.”