Victoria, born 24 May 1819, was the daughter of Edward, the Duke of Kent, fourth son of George III and Princess Victoria of Saxe-Coburg. Her father died before she was a year old and she grew up under the strict surveillance of her mother and governess.
Queen Victoria succeeded to the throne at the age of 18 on the death of her uncle, William IV in 1837 and took on her responsibilities with enthusiasm, guided initially by Lord Melbourne, the first of many able Prime Ministers.
The earliest playing cards with decorative back designs appear from c.1830 when Reynolds claimed to have the first which were printed in commemoration of William IV coronation in 1831. This design was to be re-issued by Reynolds again in 1863 to commemorate the wedding of Queen Victoria's son Edward, Prince of wales to to Alexandra of Denmark. The earliest cards I have been able to identify to be directly associated with Queen Victoria are the decks produced by De la Rue in celebration of Victoria's wedding in 1840 to Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha quickly followed by a deck also by De la Rue to celebrate the first born of 9 children to Queen Victoria on the 9 November 1841, the Future Edward VII.
The card to the left is taken from the Jaques game of Sovereigns of England and the earliest picture of Victoria from this published series c.1840.
A few notable events during the middle part of Queen Victoria's reign:
1851 - The Great Exhibition of 1851 was the world's first international exhibition. Conceived by Prince Albert to celebrate the Industrial Revolution, the venture proved a triumphant success. From the time it was opened by Victoria on 1 May 1851 to its closure on 15 October, more than six million people had visited the exhibition. The exhibition was staged at Crystal Palace a purpose built building for the event consisting of over 300,000 panes of glass supported by cast-iron framework. Designed by Joseph Paxton it was erected in Hyde Park London in 1851. The vast interior of Crystal Palace provided space for some 13,000 exhibitors from all around the world, over half of whom were British. Playing card exhibits are known to have been present by at least two printers, Whitaker and De La Rue. Whitaker was to produce a deck in celebration of the Great Exhibition and had a picture of Crystal Palace on the reverse. Two variants are known one with a white background the second with a blue background.
De la Rue and its principal designer Own Jones was to create a set of 4 back designs each with initials of a member of the royal family against a background of flowers. The most commonly found is that of VR for 'Victoria Regina' the second is PA for 'Prince Albert'. The third and fourth decks are exceptionally are with PW for the 'Prince of Wales' and PR for the 'Princess Royal'.
1854 - 6 The Crimean war fought by Britain and France against Russia. Goodall celebrated the event with an early commemorative deck featuring a British & French soldier shaking hands.
Osborne House a private villa designed by Prince Albert in the fashionable Italian style was completed c. 1850. Situated on the Isle of White a small island off the south coast of England it provide Victoria and Albert a private and secluded spot for relaxing and entertaining. Early in the afternoon of Monday 21 August 1854, a young Indian prince was steaming across the Solent. This was the Maharaja Duleep Singh, once the ruler of the Sikh Kingdom. Son of Ranjit Singh, the powerful 'Lion of the Punjab', Duleep had not been allowed to occupy his father's throne for long. At the age of ten, after a period of joint rule, he was deposed by the British. Now he was fifteen, exiled from his home and paying his first visit to the Isle of Wight. He would soon establish a strong friendship with Victoria. Reynolds published a deck of cards which were for export and showed a picture of Osborne house on the back.
After the early death of Prince Albert in 1861 Queen Victoria went into a long period of mourning and retreated from all public engagements for several years.
Commemorative playing cards continued to be issued with a set in celebration of Edward Prince of Wales to Alexandra of Denmark issued in 1863. In the photo gallery one such set was found in a box marked 'cards owned by Queen Victoria'. The cards issued by Reynolds have a back design believed to have been first issued for William IV coronation in 1831. The set re-issued in 1863 has colour added to the back design and is of a better quality. In 1874 De la Rue issued a deck commemorating the marriage of Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh, with Princess Alexandra of Russia. On the aces and court cards European monarchs are shown. The backs are printed with the coat of arms of both parties.
In 1887 Victoria celebrates her Golden Jubilee and several decks of cards are issued in celebration of this event. One of the most interesting designs was done by John Leighton which details various events between the years 1837 - 1887 in a ribbon incorporated within the back design. Another less common deck found is one issued by Goodall with a back design showing Queen Victoria with one of her ministers holding a book on Law.
In celebration of the Diamond Jubilee in 1897 a plethora of commemorative decks were issued including many from overseas makers such as Dondorf and the New York Consolidated Card Company. In 1900 Queen Victoria makes a rare trip to Ireland and this is marked by a Deck issued by De La Rue and in January 1901 Queen Victoria dies at her home Osborne House on the Isle of White. Goodall re-issues the most common of all commemorative decks first issued in 1897 with the oval photograph of Queen Victoria by Bassano. The date was changed from 1837 -1897 to (1901).