It was a full house at the Te Huinga Centre for Mark Stocker’s lecture. Mark’s role at Te Papa is as Curator Art. His aim, he said, was to provide insights into Queen Victoria’s personality, life and role during her 63 year reign.

Victoria ascended the throne a sheltered, fatherless 18 year old. She was ignorant of politics and yet managed to hand over to her son Edward VII, a constitutional monarchy we would be familiar with today. She had always had definite opinions on politics but had learnt to rein these in.

Was there a psychological need for attractive and powerful male role models in her life? Luckily Lord Melbourne, her beloved Prince Albert and Prime Minister Disraeli proved good mentors. As for accusations that Victoria disliked her own children –there’s no real evidence, says Mark.

Scotland became a regular retreat for the family and at Balmoral she, Albert and their children established what came to be seen as Victorian Family Values –a picture of domestic happiness with the wife happily subservient to the husband.

After Albert’s death Victoria was out of sight for many years, polarizing the Public. She managed to redeem herself from the late 1870s onwards as she began to take an interest in State and Colonial affairs. Her Diamond Jubilee saw the erection of statues in many colonial countries including NZ’s major cities. The remarkable half length sculpture of Victoria –Kuini Wikitoria of Aotearoa – stands proudly at Ohinemutu, honouring the role of Te Arawa and Ngati Whakaue as kūpapa in the Land Wars. This was a gift from Royalty.

Mark read Victoria’s journals at Windsor and discovered ‘someone aware of her unique responsibilities and the necessity of carrying them out to the best of her abilities.’ She donated to charities and abhorred racial prejudice whilst managing also to oppose Irish Nationalism and Women’s Rights.

This was a polished and well-presented lecture, enhanced by the constant stream of excellent colour slides of art and statuary. Mark is leaving Te Papa shortly so sadly this was his final lecture for us. Elizabeth Kay thanked him warmly for his valuable support to ‘Friends’ over the last five years. She also presented him with a gift –a five year membership to Friends of Te Papa. Following prolonged applause for Mark we moved to enjoy the refreshments. A memorable evening.

Dorothy Corry
Member, Friends of Te Papa