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Queen Victoria

Rare black-bordered diplomatic document—including black-bordered seal—

by the widowed Queen less than two years after Prince Albertʼs death

Alexandrina Victoria, 18191901.  Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, 18371901.  Rare partially printed document signed, Victoria R, two pages (recto and verso), 8" x 12½", Court of St. James's, September 29, 1863.  Countersigned by Foreign Secretary John Russell.

We have never seen a black-bordered document by Queen Victoria before, and our search of auction records and inquiries with colleagues in England has found none.  This therefore appears to be a rare item.

Queen Victoria never got over the death of her consort, Prince Albert, who died December 14, 1861.  She virtually worshipped him, and his early death at age 42 plunged her into deep mourning and depression.  She wore black for the rest of her life.  For 25 years she lived in seclusion on the Isle of Wight, in Scotland, and rarely appeared in public.  Although she used black-bordered mourning stationery for letters for some time, this black-bordered diplomatic document—especially with a black-bordered seal as well—is exceptional. 

In this document, signed less than two years after Albertʼs death, the widowed Queen acknowledges the appointment of the Danish consul at Belfast.  The Queen notes that "our Good Brother The King of Denmark has by a Commission . . . constituted Mr. Edward Frederik Münster to be His Consul at Belfast; and whereas having thereupon approved of the said Edward Frederik Münster as Consul for Our said Good Brother according to the Commission before mentioned, – Our Will and Pleasure are, and We hereby require that you do receive, countenance, and, as there may be occasion, favourably assist him the said Edward Frederik Münster in the exercise of his office, giving and allowing unto him all the Privileges, Immunities, and Advantages thereunto belonging.

The "Good Brother" to whom Victoria refers was Frederick VIII of Denmark (1808–1863), the last Danish king to rule as an absolute monarch.  He who would die about six weeks after Victoria signed this document.  Edward Frederik Münster, also known by the anglicized spelling Edward Frederick Munster (1832–1913), was born in Belfast and apparently lived there his entire life.  He and his wife, Mary Caughey, had four children.

Victoria married Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha in 1840.  Their nine children married into many of the other royal families of Europe, including those of Denmark, Germany, and Russia.  She had 42 grandchildren.  Two of her grandsons were enemies during World War I:  King George V ruled Britain, while Kaiser Wilhelm II ruled Germany.  One of her granddaughters married Nicholas II, who was deposed during the Communist revolution in Russia.

She reigned for the next 63½ years until she died, at age 81, on January 22, 1901.  At her death, it was said, Britain had a worldwide empire on which the sun never set.

This document is countersigned Russell by the Foreign Secretary, John Russell, 1st Earl Russell, KG GCMG PC (1792–1878), who served twice as Prime Minister, 1846–1852, 1865–1866. 

Were it not for missing fragments in the lower center of the document, we would grade this document as very good to fine.   The damage to the document has been skillfully repaired, and the paper loss affects only six words of text on the front and nothing on the back.  Still, under The Manuscript Societyʼs grading criteria, we must call it poor to fair.  Nevertheless, apart from the repaired damage, the document has typical intersecting folds, slight bleed through of the text from one side to the other, a light stain on the paper and wax seal and the backside underneath it, and what appears to be light staining from whatever damaged the document.  The detailed black-bordered seal is intact.  Queen Victoria has signed with a nice 3¼" brown fountain pen signature in the blank area at the top. 

In our judgment, the black border on this document more than makes up for the missing fragments.  The six words that are affected by the damage are not entirely missing, so one loses nothing of the sense of the text.  Even with its flaws, this piece belongs in any fine collection of Queen Victoria or British monarchs.




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