Spotlight On … Queen Victoria’s Saddle.

Spotlight On … Queen Victoria’s Saddle.

Written by Victoria Green.

We are trying to raise £5,000 on JustGiving to open our museum to the public. To read more about our fundraising campaign, please visit our page here.

Our monarchy is a highly treasured and intrinsically British institution. People from all over the world are enthralled by our Royal Family, and visit Buckingham palace in the hopes of getting a glimpse into their lives. I confess to being a little guilty of this monarchy mania. I enjoy all the pomp and circumstance of royal traditions but, most of all, I enjoy the centuries’ worth of gritty history behind the institution. The Tudors were bloodthirsty reformers, the Stewarts restorers of culture and arts. Though things have changed a lot since then, the fascination and glamour surrounding our Royal Family still remains.

Queen Victoria is the second longest ruling monarch in British history, on the throne from 1837 – 1901. She is perhaps best known for implementing Victorian rectitude and her perpetual inability to be amused. Queen Victoria undertook many civic duties to restore the reputation of the monarchy at a time when public opinion was waning. Though just 4”11, the queen was an imposing figure in terms of temperament and power, ruling as both Empress of India and sovereign of the British Empire during the so-called ‘Golden Age’.

The National Leather Collection features one of Queen Victoria’s saddles, designed to allow her to ride astride or ‘side-saddle’, as was proper at the time. The so-called ‘saddle of Queens’ had been popular since Tudor times, and were designed as a chair with an attached footplate. Typically, these saddles would be highly decorated, padded and built upon a man’s astride saddle. This style of riding gave the rider little control so where a lady could, in theory, ride independently, she would usually have been led. Some famous women chose to ride solo, using a front-facing chair with a high back and pommel, around which they could hook their right leg. This is possibly the style of saddle used by Elizabeth I and Anne Boleyn.

Queen Victoria’s saddle is a beautiful example of aside saddlery. It was made by Gordon & Co. of Curzon Street, London. The makers used pigskin to create a quilted seat and panel. This particular design doesn’t feature a ‘leaping horn’; this was a later addition to the saddle that allowed ladies to jump, usually to keep up with the hounds when hunting. It is a front-facing saddle with a pommel, around which the Queen could hook her right leg when riding. This maintains a very Victorian sense of decorum in that the lower limbs remain fully covered. The saddle itself is recorded as having first been used by Her Majesty on the 18th August,1856. As it is now, the saddle shows areas of wear, indicating frequent use.

Queen Victoria certainly had a love of horse riding, and was an accomplished equestrienne. This saddle represents a familiar, domestic item from Queen Victoria’s everyday life and is a real British treasure.

This Gordon & Co. saddle is just one example of the countless treasures in the National Leather Collection! To learn more about the collection, visit our homepage. All support is greatly appreciated, so please visit our support page to find out how you can get involved.

We are trying to raise £5,000 on JustGiving to open our museum to the public. To read more about our fundraising campaign, please visit our page here.