Museums at Night 2013: An audience with Queen Victoria at Leighton House

By Ruth Hazard | 18 May 2013

Museums at Night Report: Victorian Delight, Leighton House Museum, May 17 2013

a photo of the ornate ceiling of Leighton House
© Ruth Hazard
Strange things happen in a museum at night. “Queen Victoria just complimented my scarf” shrieks a woman across the room. A well dressed chap with a cane and top hat is berating a group of Russians for their involvement in the Crimean War.

Lines of women bob up and down to instruction, tirelessly attempting to perfect their courtesies.  Leighton House has come alive for the evening.

Transporting us back to the Victorian era when the house was designed and built, the former residence of prominent artist and Royal Academy President Lord Leighton is abuzz with historically accurate activity.

From a lesson in the finer points of fan etiquette to sitting for a caricaturist, the evening is a recreation of how the Victorians got their kicks.

Whatever time of day you decide to visit Leighton House, you can’t help but be struck by its opulence. Shimmering gold ceilings and intricately patterned tiling mean the rooms explode in a riotous kaleidoscope of colour.

But thanks to the dimming light outside and bustle of corsets and silk gowns, it’s easy to imagine that we’re guests at an extravagant Victorian soirée.

The highlight of which is of course, meeting her majesty, the Queen. Decked out in her finest regalia, her Royal Highness is none too impressed at our unmarried status and enquires as to whether we might be ‘ladies of the night’.

After brief inspection she decides we look ‘clean enough’ allowing us to back away relatively unscathed, unlike the girl behind us who foolishly dared to wear open toe sandals...

  • Museums at Night continues until Saturday (May 18 2013). Visit museumsatnight.org.uk to find out what's on near you.

More pictures:

a photo of peoplein period costume inside Leighton House
© Ruth Hazard

a photo of two people dressed as Queen Victoria and her Maid
© Ruth Hazard

a phot of a man and woman in Victorian dress
© Ruth Hazard

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