With the forthcoming British Royal Family wedding the media have their microphones and lenses trained squarely on the happy couple. However, an ancestor of Prince William’s is also receiving some attention, Queen Victoria no less.
Shrabani Basu has recently updated her bookVictoria and Abdul using recently discovered archival material. The book explores Victoria’s relationship with her Indian servant Abdul Karim. Queen Victoria has captured the imagination, and frequently adulation, of the British people and beyond since she assumed the throne in 1837.
A rather out-of-place object in the Living Cultures collection demonstrates this adulation perfectly. It is a bar of soap which was donated to the Museum in 1897 by William Worthington. This particular bar of soap was believed to have been used by the Queen when she visited Manchester on 1st July 1888 to open the Victoria University. Worthington was Head Porter at the time and in the perfect position to collect the soap.
The object was clearly acquired because of it’s imperial association and to commemorate a significant event in Manchester’s history. The soap’s quality is not in doubt but whether is was used by Victoria remains dubious.
Stephen Terence Welsh
Curator of Living Cultures