The Royal Family, Assembled in the Green Drawing Room, Windsor, 1878
Research Brian Turner (edited by Anne Matthews) Donor research Marjorie Gregson
This steel engraving, in an English gilt frame, depicting Queen Victoria’s extensive family at Windsor, was donated on 27 March 1939 by Charlotte Twitchett, nee Brierley, who was born on the 19 July 1863 in Rochdale, Lancashire, to John Brierley, a wine and spirit dealer and his wife, Alice. In 1886 she married Frederick William Twitchett, born in Suffolk in 1859. He was an Inland Revenue officer and they lived in Rochdale before residing in Liverpool. They had no children. Later, on moving to the Fylde coast, they lived at 15 Highbury Road, St Annes. When Frederick died in 1930 Charlotte continued to live at that address, with, in later years, a companion help. Mrs Twitchett died in St Annes War Memorial Hospital on 16 November 1940.
By coincidence, one of the oldest remaining artefacts in the former Lytham Institute building (housing Lytham Library until September 2016) was of the same image. Mounted behind glass in a gilt frame it bore the inscription Presented to the Lytham Institute by The Dowager Lady Bazley, 1886. Her husband, Sir Thomas Bazley, Bart, was Liberal MP for Manchester before retiring to a villa in Lytham in 1882. He died in March 1885.
We have Brian Turner, author and local historian, to thank for the extensive research he carried out with regard to the Lytham Institute engraving and the following details are taken from his comprehensive account, including images.
The originator and driving force behind this picture was Lachlan M’Lachlan, 1824-1891, who was born in Oban, before moving first to Glasgow and then to Manchester, where he worked as a cabinet-maker. In 1854, turning his hobby of photography into a living, he opened a photographic studio on the top floor of 4 St Ann’s Square, moving to 9 Cross Street in 1859.
The Royal Family, Assembled in the Green Drawing Room, Windsor was M’Lachlan’s second epic picture. His first was of the Central Committee, formed in 1862, to distribute funds to alleviate the distress caused in Lancashire by the Cotton Famine. M’Lachlan conceived a plan for photographing each member of the Committee in his studio and then merging their individual portraits into a composite picture – a technique which he later refined for The Royal Family at Windsor. It took five years to complete with, from 1864, the assistance of the Manchester based Pre-Raphaelite artist, Frederic James Shields (1833-1911), who had the daunting job of setting the individual photographs – over 7000 - into the overall design and then turning them into a painting.
Shields, understandably, found the work unduly stressful and persuaded his fellow Pre-Raphaelite, Arthur Hughes, to take over the commission and finish the painting. It eventually went on show at the beginning of November 1869 at the gallery of Thomas Agnew and Sons in Manchester.
In 1871, following the approval of Queen Victoria, work began on the royal painting. Although it has been suggested that it was against their better judgement, once again Hughes and Shields agreed to assist M’Lachlan.
Despite many differences regarding design, it was eventually agreed that the painting should be based around Prince Beatrice presenting a birthday bouquet to Queen Victoria. Requiring a canvas 17 x 11 feet, the 22 figures which made up the painting were Queen Victoria, her four sons and five daughters (plus spouses), six grandchildren and, for completeness, a bust of the late Prince Albert. It was not without its problems. As M’Lachlan stated ‘it was impossible to twist royal personages into position like other people’. In addition, whereas the photographs for the Cotton Famine picture were taken in the controlled environment of his Manchester studio, this commission involved carrying his cumbersome equipment around the capitals of Europe and as a result M’Lachlan was forced to secure financial backing through a series of loans.
Shields, who started the task in 1874 at Ordsall Hall, his home in Salford, worked in Blackpool during 1874 and 1875, where he rented Prospect Cottage on the sea-front at South Shore. Finally, in March 1876, Shields finished what he described as his ‘loathsome task’. Arthur Hughes in London then began the job of turning the composite photographs into one huge super-detailed monochrome painting; it took him three months. The nature of the work, although well paid, did not sit well with Hughes. He told M’Lachlan that ’he did not want his name to be mentioned in connection with the picture, because he did not feel he was in a dignified position in copying photographs. He had all his life been painting original subjects, and he did not want to come before the public in any other capacity’.
Eventually, the picture had its first public appearance on 7 April 1878 at Agnew’s London gallery in Old Bond Street, transferring to their Manchester gallery from February to April 1879, where it proved a great success. There followed a twelve month tour of Liverpool, Southport, Sheffield, Huddersfield, Leeds, Bradford and Glasgow, a standard practice with Agnews. During this time orders for the subsequent engravings were taken. A total of 1407, with a sales value of £10,396, was achieved; available in 4 sizes, Lady Bazley’s was one of the largest, (4ft 6ins x 2ft 6 ins) priced at 15 guineas - at the present time the size of the one in the Collection is unconfirmed. Following various delays, not least M’Lachlan personally taking over the production of the engravings from Autotype as he was dissatisfied with their work - he later took Autotype to Court claiming their prints were unsatisfactory but lost the case - they were, finally, sent out to subscribers in April 1881, ten years after the work commenced.
The last recorded appearance of the painting was at the Crystal Palace for the Imperial Victoria Exhibition to mark the Diamond Jubilee in 1897.
REFERENCES - ARTIST
The Royal Family at Windsor, The Story of a Remarkable Picture
(Brian Turner, 2017)
Citing as his principal sources:
Life and Letters of Frederic Shields
(Ernestine Mills, 1912)
Arthur Hughes. His Life and Works
(Leonard Roberts and Stephen Wildman, 1997)
Manchester Couriereron, Town Clerk, of Manchester since 1838 that he was made Honary Curator of the newly established Manchester Corporation Photographic Museum in 1866.
REFERENCES - DONOR
www.findmypast.co.uk/ births, marriages, deaths/ censuses/
The Lytham St Annes's Town Clerk's file entitled Municipal Art Gallery - 11 Jan 1934-22 Nov 1948 held in the Lancashire Archives, Preston