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from Dog Painting, 1840-1940, A Social History of the Dog in Art
by William Secord

Queen Victoria came to the throne in 1837 at the young age of eighteen, herself almost a child, and ill-prepared at such an age to rule the vast empire then under British rule. William IV's reign had been short lived (1830-1837) and Victoria, born in 1819, had been the only child of William's brother Edward. Victoria's father, The Duke of Kent, and the 4th son of George III, had not married until the age of fifty, when on May 29, 1818 he married the dowager Princess of Leiningen, now part of Germany. The couple soon gave birth to little Victoria on May 24, 1819, and while some in the Royal family had reason to doubt that she would ever come to the throne, from the very beginning her father the Duke of Kent had no doubt. She was virtually brought up by her governess, the beloved Baroness Lehzen, and her childhood was ordered and disciplined in a manner befitting a future queen.

As a child, she lived by a timetable: she did her lessons from 9:30 to 11:30, then played and went for a walk after which she had dinner at 1 pm., did more lessons from 3-5 pm and learned poetry by heart (English, French and German) from 5 to 6. Her instruction was very regulated, with lessons in foreign languages, music and strict religious training in the Church of England.

In her private life, her affection for animals soon became obvious, and as a child she sketched many of the household pets. At the age of eleven she is portrayed by her early art teacher Richard Westall, for instance, with her favorite Black and Tan Terrier, the little Nellie, frolicking by her side (illustration 3-125).

The artist most closely associated with the Queen, however, was Sir Edwin Landseer, whose youthful output alone outshone the life's work of many of his contemporaries. By the age of sixteen Landseer was a regular exhibitor at The Royal Academy, and he quickly became established among an aristocratic social set from whom he was to receive patronage the rest of his life.

Landseer was not from the aristocracy himself, however, and his acceptance among them was a reflection of his talent, but also his attractive good wit and strong ambition. The artist was born of a family of modest means, but one to whom the importance of education and the arts was always stressed. His father John, for example, was a well-known engraver who for years fought to have the art of engraving promoted to the status of a primary art form.

The art of engraving, or in effect copying an artist's image onto a plate from which prints were then pulled, was well established in early nineteenth century England. Such prints were sold for modest sums and in many cases actually established the reputation of artists.

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