Personal etchings by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert were the subject of a ground-breaking privacy court case brought by the royal couple against a journalist in 1848.
A book of etchings belonging to Harewood House will go on display for the first time in a major exhibition titled ‘Victorian Harewood’ (24 March – 29 October 2017). The exhibition features costumes from the ITV blockbuster series ‘Victoria’, which used Harewood House as a location standing in for both Buckingham and Kensington Palaces.
Gifted to Princess Mary (daughter of King George V and wife to the 6th Earl of Harewood) on her wedding day from a descendant of Prince Albert’s private secretary, the book of 75 personal etchings of the royal couple’s children, pets, and each other, feature handwritten annotations by HRH Queen Victoria. It will go on display alongside beautiful objects owned by Queen Victoria including her pocket watch and writing set.
“We spent a delightful, peaceful morning – singing after breakfast, and etching together”.
Queen Victoria, Friday 28th August, 1840.
Victoria and Albert were taught to paint by legendary artists Edwin Landseer and George Hayter. In 1848 Jasper Judge, a reporter, got hold of copies of the etchings via a print maker in London and threatened to publish them.
Prince Albert and Queen Victoria immediately sought legal advice and launched lawsuits and injunctions attempting to ban the display and protect his family’s privacy. These actions led to the first super injunction taking place; the Prince and Queen were successful and the display and never took place. Seen as the first injunction of its kind to protect the privacy and image of a high profile person, the actions of Victoria and Albert are now familiar in today’s celebrity world.
After the case, Barrister Sir J. Knight Bruce, noted that the printmaker’s actions had been “an intrusion not alone in breach of conventional rules, but offensive to that inbred sense of propriety natural to every man – if, intrusion indeed, fitly describes a sordid spying into the privacy of domestic life – into the home (a word hitherto scared among us)”. The case remains a defining judgement in the development of the law of copyright.
Professor Ann Sumner, Historic Collections Advisor at Harewood House explains, “This book of etchings is incredibly rare. It is a beautiful and personal collection by the royal couple who were known for protecting their privacy. It shows a beautiful insight not only into the private lives of Victoria and Albert and their family, but also the real talent that they both had for art.”