For decades I’ve found that huge lumpy statue of Queen Victoria at the front of Belfast City Hall an eyesore. Stern, joyless, imperial. And it’s not just in Belfast. Most places where she’s given a statue, it’s similar to this life-denying eye-offender.
But this morning I discovered what I should always have guessed – Victoria had another, more life-affirming side. It seems herself and Albert were never happier than when giving each other presents of semi-naked ladies and suchlike. Not real semi-naked ladies – although that’d have been even more interesting- but paintings of semi-naked ladies. “She was open to nudity and the sensuous – more open than Albert, who perhaps surprisingly was the more prudish of the pair” says Michael Hunter, who is putting on a display of this stuff at Osborne House on the Isle of Wight, a grand seaside retreat where Vickie and Al used to go.
An example is the one above, which Victoria bought Albert for his 33rd birthday. It was hung on a wall facing their writing desks in their sitting room. I should think a glance at that would have released the most stubborn of writer’s block that either was experiencing.
Wouldn’t it have been fun if Charles yesterday could have had that garden party in Fermanagh with as central item a painting like the one above? Charles and Camilla could then have taken turns in pointing out the things in it they particularly liked?
Judging by the way he was eyeing those Irish dancers and how flushed he looked, Charles certainly would be open to revealing his more Dionysian side. His great-great-great granny may have hidden hers but she still had it. If Charles could get his hand out of that jacket pocket, who knows how wild he could become? That would give the Fermanagh ones something to be really excited about.
Meanwhile, maybe Belfast’s new mayor, John Finucane, could lead a campaign to have a more, um, rounded statue of Victoria in front of City Hall – say, with a revealing robe on her like one of the beauties above. That is, if we must have a statue of her in the first place.