The Queen’s Resolve: Queen Victoria in the Special Collections

Following the 200th anniversary of Queen Victoria’s birth, Liaison Librarian Bethan Davies takes a closer look at our Special Collections and the surprising connections with the famous monarch.

Housed in the red brick building designed by Alfred Waterhouse for Alfred Palmer, it is hard not to see the connection between the Victorians and Special Collections. Our Children’s Collection is particularly strong in 19th Century titles, and many of our business archives cover the Victorian period (including Huntley & Palmers, De La Rue, Chatto & Windus). We hold an entire collection focused on The Great Exhibition of 1851, patronised by Prince Albert, and the Spellman Collection focuses entirely on Victorian piano hall music covers. Several of our archives hold documents on Victorian illustrators and authors including Audrey Beardsley, Pearl Craigie, and Violet Fane.

Therefore, it is not surprising that Queen Victoria herself makes appearances throughout our Collections, especially around moments of change and commemoration. The breadth and age of our Collections also allow us to view Victoria throughout history, and chart the various changes throughout her life.

A children's book with a white background, and the text Queen Victoria. An older woman is on the cover, wearing black clothes and a white veil.

Queen Victoria (1976), part of our Ladybird Collection

Changing Faces

When we think of Victoria, we often think of the image we see on the cover of the 1976 Ladybird title Queen Victoria (see above). This depiction is from Victoria’s later years. However, we can see images of Victoria’s youth from the children’s book The Queen’s resolve : “I will be good” and her “doubly royal” reign (1897), written by Charles Bullock. The front cover depicts two oval images of Victoria facing each other, one a child, the other the elder Queen (see below). Bullock notes in his title that whilst the book is intended for younger readers, it might also be of interest to “Old England,” looking back to the beginning of the Queen’s reign and the “boundless enthusiasm” which accompanied her coronation. The title refers to a popular story that upon discovering that she was heir to the throne, Victoria exclaimed, “I will be good!” Written in commemoration of the Queen’s Silver Jubilee, Bullock not only celebrates her rule, but her role as a mother and wife, which he calls her “double rule”.

The Spellman Collection, which offers fascinating depictions of Victoria throughout her reign, is equally interested in both Victoria’s personal life. A key example of this can be seen in The Royal Record March (1897), composed by Alfred Lee, and the notorious Marquis de Leuvilles in celebration of Victoria’s Silver Jubilee. Similar to The Queen’s Resolve, two images (one younger, one older) of Victoria face each other, although the younger Victoria is shown just before she took the throne. The cover also depicts her husband, the late Prince Albert, explicitly denoting his continuing importance in her life, even after his death.


Coronation and Childhood

The “boundless enthusiasm” noted by Bullock regarding the Queen’s coronation in 1838, can be seen in a rare special edition of The Sun held in our Printing Collection (not connected to the modern newspaper of the same name). Created with the “special exertion of M. De La Rue”, the edition is noted for using gold ink rather than black, and includes a poem to mark the occasion created by the editor Murdo Young. Through both items, the general excitement of a new monarch can be felt, alongside the youth of the new Queen, who was then only 18 years old. Young’s “Sketch” of the new Queen makes note of her childhood, future reforms which needed to be made to the monarchy, and in particular her short stature.

The coronation was also commemorated by composer J.B. Arnold with The Grand state march: composed for the coronation of her most gracious majesty Queen Victoria (1837). Our copy from the Spellman Collection depicts an image of the young Queen on the front cover, enthroned and about to be crowned.


Change and Exhibition

The image of the younger Victoria is also present in the Stenton Coin Collection. Although the collection focuses on coins from the Anglo-Saxon and Norman period, it also includes this 1839 copper halfpenny, from the Isle of Man. At the time, the Isle of Man had separate coinage issued compared to the rest of the country. This was overturned in the Act of 1839, which aligned the Isle of Man with the United Kingdom’s currency. The 1839 coinage, updated to include Victoria’s face, was the last update to the Isle of Man’s currency, until the introduction of decimal coinage in 1971.

One of the most well-known examples of Victoria’s legacy was in the creation of the Great Exhibition of 1851, housed in the Crystal Palace. The moment was commemorated by the lithographers the Leighton Brothers, with The Queen’s March (1851). Now part of our Great Exhibition Collection, this stately march shows the Queen, alongside Prince Albert, who was the patron of the Great Exhibition. Our Collection includes the official Catalogue and reports on the Great Exhibition and its influence upon the British Society, alongside ephemera and souvenirs!


This is only a glimpse into all our holdings on Queen Victoria. Click the links to find out more about our Collections! Want more information? Contact Special Collections at


In the spotlight: Coins continued – Gloriana to Victoriana

Georgia Charitou, intern from Greece, shares some further highlights from her work on the Stenton Coin Collection, which spans the 7th to the 20th century. Previously: Bloodaxe, Vikings and other early coins. Today Constantine to Victoria!

Constantine X  (1006–1067) (574*)


Constantine X Doukas was Emperor of the Byzantine Empire from 1059–1067. During his reign he issued silver and copper coinage bearing the portraits of himself as well as the portraits of his powerful wife Eudocia Makrembolitissa.

Constantine was the first emperor since the second reign of Justinian II to consistently depict himself full-length on seals, beginning from the eighth century CE. This is a Histamenon nomisma, showing on the one side an enthroned Christ and on the other side the emperor standing on a footstool, wearing a loros and holding a labarum (a type of scarf and a military standard).

Elizabeth I of England (1533–1603) (403*)


Elizabeth I was Queen of England and Ireland from 17 November 1558 until her death in 1603, variously referred to as The Virgin Queen, Gloriana or Good Queen Bess. She was the fifth and last monarch of the Tudor dynasty. Elizabeth’s reign is famous for the flourishing of English drama, led by playwrights such as William Shakespeare and Christopher Marlowe. The Queen is sometimes depicted as a short-tempered and indecisive ruler but is also acknowledged as a charismatic performer and a dogged survivor in an era when government was ramshackle and limited.

Coins like this were minted in Angel, Half Angel and Quarter Angel denominations. On the obverse is the Archangel Michael slaying a dragon. The reverse shows a ship holding a quartered shield with a cross above. Alternately, the pattern may represent the bowsprit of a ship heading directly toward us, with a quartered shield.

Charles I of England (1600–1649) (673*)


Charles I was monarch of the three kingdoms of England, Scotland and Ireland from 27 March 1625 until his execution in 1649. Controversy and dispute dogged Charles throughout his reign. This eventually led to war, first with the Scots from 1637 and later within England itself (1642–46 and 1648).

This Charles I half-crown was struck from a piece of hammered silver plate during one of the Civil War sieges of Newark, Nottinghamshire. The coin has a diamond shape and on the obverse has a crown with three crosses, and on the reverse has the inscription ‘OBS, NEWARK, 1646’. The half-crown was first issued in 1549, in the reign of Edward VI. No half-crowns were issued in the reign of Mary, but from the reign of Elizabeth I half-crowns were issued in every reign except Edward VIII, until the coins were discontinued in 1967. During the reign of King Charles I silver half-crowns were issued, including those struck out of necessity during the Civil War period.

Philip and Mary (383*)


Mary Queen of Scots turned her attention to finding a husband and producing an heir at age 37, thus preventing the Protestant Elizabeth from succeeding to the throne. Edward Courtenay and Reginald Pole were both mentioned as prospective suitors, but her cousin Charles V suggested she marry his only son, Prince Philip of Spain. Philip had a son from a previous marriage, and was heir apparent to vast territories in Continental Europe and the New World.

After about six weeks after her accession, Mary took the first public step in monetary policy by issuing a proclamation, in which she declared her intention of providing ‘coynes as well as gold as of silver of the perfect fineness’. After her marriage to Philip of Spain a similar coinage of base shillings and groats was produced, dated in Arabic numerals.

The Shilling depicts on the obverse side Philip and Mary facing each other and on the reverse there is the emblem of their reign.

Queen Victoria (1819–1901) (501*)



Victoria was Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland from 20 June 1837 until her death in 1901. Her reign of 63 years and seven months, which is longer than that of any other British monarch and the longest of any female monarch in history, is known as the Victorian era. Her reign was a period of great cultural, political and military change within the United Kingdom which saw a marked expansion of the British Empire.

This specific coin is a copper halfpenny which depicts on the obverse Queen Victoria and on the reverse a triskelion, composed of three armoured legs with golden spurs. The triskelion has been the official flag of the Isle of Man since 1931, situated in the Irish Sea, midway between England, Scotland and Ireland. Although the isle has been a dependency of the British Crown since 1765, it was only through the Act of Tynwald (the island’s parliament) that its currency was superseded by British Imperial coinage from 1840.