‘My darling Dash’ — This is the way a young, mid-teenage Victoria would refer to the pet dog of her household. A predominantly black coloured Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Dash did not initially belong to Victoria. The patriarchal figure of her household, Sir John Conroy, had given the dog to Victoria’s own mother as a gift. It did not take long for Victoria to ‘adopt’ the little dog. He was — perhaps, the only valuable heirloom she had ever inherited from Conroy. It would not be an exaggeration to say that Victoria had hate and contempt for Conroy, who was at the helm of both she and her mothers lives. Her mother had depended on this domineering figure, but Victoria had only suffered in his shadow.
It is safe to say that Dash became a form of solace for Victoria. She would walk him, bathe him and even dressed him up in tiny outfits. She was enamoured and devoted. As she was growing a little bit older, she had to think a little more seriously about her duties. However, guarding and caring for Dash was an important one, nonetheless. In the biographical film ‘The Young Victoria,’ Emily Blunt — who plays the young Queen, is seen bathing Dash on the day of her coronation. “A queen has many different duties.” — she says to her Prime Minister, Lord Melbourne (Paul Bettany.) He looks on as Victoria then proceeds to dance around the room with Dash; while she merrily hums a tune.
As we fast-forward to a more advanced stage of her life; Victoria’s husband Albert has long died. She lays his bed clothes out each night, still — as if he had never left. ‘Spiritualism’ is the new and growing trend in Victorian England, as well in the United States. Spiritualism gathered an audience among women, who were thought to be more spiritual than men. An older woman and a grieving widow; Victoria herself seemed like the perfect candidate for wanting to communicate with the afterlife. It is rumoured that she tried to contact the spirit of her husband Albert, and even succeeded. The story goes that Prince Albert, who had died of Typhoid, left a cryptic message for his widow from beyond the grave. He had called her by a pet name known only amongst the two of them. Of course, this sensational story is subject to doubt and interpretation.
Nonetheless, the Victorian fascination with the supernatural is an interesting topic to me. At a time long before television an
d the internet; spiritualism and supernatural topics appeared in the printed media. Furthermore, the Victorian’s would entertain themselves with ghost stories, seances and fables of cryptic legends. Victorian society was somewhat of a reflection of Victoria herself. In my view, she was a boisterous and complex character. I have often wondered if she was a feminist figure or not. On
the one hand; she broke away from the confines of a patriarchy. On the other; she depended on the guidance and companionship of her beloved Albert. After Albert’s passing — the public perception of her was that of a widow draped in black, with hardly a smile on her face. There is some amount of truth in this. Even to this day, we see photographs of her looking like a rather colourless old lady.
Despite the merit of her lengthy reign, it is also worth remembering her youth. Such as the portrait of her as a young lady; dancing and singing joyously with her precious Dash.