To mark the bicentenary of Queen Victoria’s birth, just up the road at Kensington Palace, on May 24th 1819, we have a range of the many biographies of her in our collection. We have coffee table books beautifully illustrated with portraits, and detailed analyses of her relationship to the huge changes that took place during her reign – politically, socially, industrially and culturally.
Every aspect of her unique life has been documented by a biographer at one time or another, making use of the incredible resource of her copious diaries, so you can read about her role as a mother, her celebrated love affair with her husband Prince Albert, her childhood, her sense of humour, her leisure pursuits, her health, and her relationships with the politicians and statesmen of her day, as well as with her royal relations all over Europe.
Her six and a half decades on the throne spanned the transition from one world to another, and her qualities as an intelligent and curious woman make her a fascinating observer of her own life and times.
Our second display is on “Londoners’ Diaries”, and is linked to Cityread London, whose choice this year is Sofia Khan is not Obliged by Ayisha Malik, the funny and touching fictional diary of a young woman negotiating the Muslim dating scene in present day London.
There is something uniquely intimate and vivid about reading the private thoughts a diarist put on paper perhaps centuries ago, and we invite you to share the excitement of travelling back to the London of earlier eras through their observations. We’ve included some of the greatest diaries ever written, like those of Samuel Pepys and Virginia Woolf, as well as the diaries of less famous Londoners like the nineteenth century schoolboy John Pocock, and contemporary diaries whose writers celebrate different aspects of life in the capital – dog walking with Edward Stourton, ambling and observing with Tim Bradford.
We can learn how Londoners experienced huge historical moments through the immediacy of daily records, like Joan Wyndham hilariously juggling her love life during the Blitz, or Kate Parry Frye, a young Kensington woman pursuing her cause as a tenacious and passionate suffragrist. Come and meet your fellow Londoners of ages past – you never know, it might even inspire you to start keeping a diary of your own!
This is a guest blog post from Sutherland Forsyth from Kensington Palace. We regularly work with staff from the palace on events for adults and children in our libraries.
To celebrate Valentine’s Day Sutherland tells us about one of the greatest love stories in history.
‘My dearest Albert put on my stockings for me. I went in and saw him shave; a great delight for me.’
Queen Victoria, 13 February 1840
Oooh-er – that’s a bit racy! A gentleman running his hand up a lady’s leg, her sneaking in to watch him as he gets ready….can this really be the prim, proper, grand old Queen Victoria – dressed in black with a scowl on her face – with whom we are all so familiar?
The answer is a resounding ‘yes’.
Queen Victoria was always a woman of passion: strong-willed and spirited as a girl, confident in her role as monarch, and loving as a wife to her husband Albert. The relationship between Victoria and Albert was one of history’s great love stories, and it started on the Stone Staircase at Kensington Palace on 18 May, 1836 when her cousin Albert arrived to visit her and her mother. She felt an instant attraction to him, and over the next few years they corresponded regularly.
After marrying in 1840, Victoria and Albert went on to have nine children, 39 grandchildren and over 1,000 other descendants. There was deep affection as well as mutual respect between this royal couple, and when Albert died at the age of 42 from typhoid fever in 1861, it left Victoria devastated, plunging her into a state of mourning which would last until her dying day, over four decades later.
People remain fascinated by Victoria and Albert’s love affair. When I speak to community groups, run projects with them or take them to Kensington Palace as part of my job as an Outreach & Community Involvement Officer at Historic Royal Palaces (the charity which looks after the public side of the palace), it is striking how some of the small details of their story really strike a chord. There may be well over a hundred years separating us from them, but the emotion of their story still resonates today.
Sutherland Forsyth is the Outreach & Community Involvement Officer for Adults at Historic Royal Palaces, the independent charity which cares for the State Apartments at Kensington Palace
If you want to find out more about Victoria’s life you can visit Kensington Palace and see her story told in her own words and through objects which once belonged to her – from her wedding dress to her stockings, her paint set to her jewellery in the Victoria Revealed exhibition.
We’re starting to feel Christmassy at Kensington Central Library- hence the picture of the library in the snow!
The decorations are up in the library and we have Christmas books on display in the adult and children’s library. Pop in to take a look- they may help if you’re lacking in inspiration!
We’ve also had some Christmas events with the help of the fantastic staff from Kensington Palace.
On Saturday 10 December there was a Christmas event for our readers at Kensington Palace in Queen Victoria’s bedroom! Everyone had an excellent time listening to some classic Christmas poems and readings whilst munching on mince pies and Christmas cake.
On Monday 10 December the palace came to our children’s library to make Victorian Christmas cards and decorations. 25 children came along and had a fantastic time with ribbons, lace and Victorian pictures!
We thought for this month’s blog post we’d introduce you to some more of the staff at Kensington Central Library and what they do. Before I hand over to them let me wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from everyone at Kensington Central Library!
Jodie Green, Lending Librarian
All Change at Kensington Central Library
The recent re-opening of our children’s library now means that our customers, young and old, are now able to fully utilise the lending library once more.
Self service equipment has been installed across all service areas bringing us into line with all other Kensington and Chelsea libraries and it has proved a hit with the public, even self-confessed technophobes are being won round to the convenience of being able to issue and return books themselves.
The layout of the library is the most striking difference when you consider the ‘then’ and ‘now’ of the work that has gone into the refurbishment. Gone is the monolithic issue and return counter and the confusing maze of entrance and exit gates, instead Self service kiosks and a book sorter for returns are directly accessible as soon as you enter the library, flanked by attractive shelving for our new book stock as well as current displays.
Further in you can see the result of the restoration of the listed wooden shelving and pillars which literally gleam as a result of a bit much needed bit of TLC. Newer shelving snake along the middle of the library floor replacing the older, taller, metal stands used previously for our CD’s and DVD’s.
And, arguably, our pièce de résistance is the new Children’s and Young Persons space which looks so impressive! It truly is a more welcoming and brighter space for young kids and teens to enjoy.
So please pass it on, we are well and truly open for business.
Mike Green, Senior Customer Services Assistant
Our Young Readers Recommend….
We have some keen young readers returning a much enjoyed book, are invited to share their choice with others by filling in a short review. The book is then displayed with their review recommending it. These recommened reads are very popular- they fly off the display!
If you’re a teen and you’ve read a fantastic book (or you know a teen who has) then pop in and complete a card!
Penny Girling, Customer Services Assistant
The Biography Collection
As we’ve written about in a previous post, we’ve got an amazing collection of biography books at Kensington Central Library. One of our Customer Services Assistant, Lynn Terrell tells us why she enjoys working with these books:
I love working in the biography collection. There are such a lot of books, and such a variety. My own favourites are the books written by ordinary people – not politicians or celebrities, but stories about what it was like to grow up in a village during the Great War, or how it felt to have a grandmother who didn’t believe in self-indulgence (Grandma Called it Carnal by Bertha Damon).
Part of my job includes creating displays of books from the collection, so that the public have a chance to see some of what we’ve got. Sometimes I tie this in with other things that are going on, for example, in October, we had Black History Month, and at the moment we’ve got American Presidents, following the recent election. I try to change the display about once a month, and Childhood Reminiscences will be coming up in March. (Hollywood stars in January, and great lovers and love letters in February.) It will be interesting to see if others share my enthusiasm for these slightly more obscure but fascinating books.
Because a lot of the books are quite old, and difficult to replace, I have to try to make sure that they are kept in good condition, and sometimes that includes minor repairs. (Photographs in particular have a tendency to fall out, and need to be stuck back in.) Also, it’s very important that they are all labelled correctly, or they’d end up in the wrong place, and nobody would be able to find them. Everything that gets put in the biography collection has to be relabelled first, and that’s my job too.