As the earliest photographic processes were invented during her reign, Queen Victoria also holds recognition as one of the first monarchs to enjoy highly detailed and realistic portraits taken in film.
Through the ages, monarchs and wealthy aristocrats have always found themselves under close scrutiny not only of the public at large, but also of many painters, sculptors, and photographers. Before the advent of photography, monarchs commissioned many talented painters to immortalize important events, create timeless portraits, and document historic milestones during their reign. But, once the early photographic processes came into the picture, the monarchs and the aristocrats couldn’t resist having more detailed and realistic portraits.
One of the monarchs who had her portraits taken during the early years of photography was Queen Victoria, who reigned over the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland from June 20, 1837 to her death in January 22, 1901. She also became the first Empress of India in 1876 as the British Empire made significant expansions to the East. The Victorian Era, her reign of 63 years and 7 months, is the longest reign of any British monarch and female monarch known in history.
It was also during Queen Victoria’s reign that one of photography’s most significant developments took place—the invention of an early photographic process called calotype by William Fox Talbot in 1840. The calotype, also called talbotype after the inventor’s name, created negative images on paper coated with photo-sensitive silver iodide. As photography during this era required long exposures, people, including Queen Victoria, had to keep a “straight face” than smile at the camera.
Let us go back to the late 1800’s and look at the Queen Victoria’s photos, some of the earliest portraits of monarchs captured in film:
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