Treasures from the Royal Archives 17 May 2014 - 25 January 2015

Since 1914 the iconic Round Tower of Windsor Castle has been home to the Royal Archives, an unparalleled collection of documents relating to the history of the British Monarchy. From diaries and personal correspondence to account books and speeches, the Archives record and reflect some of the most significant moments in British history and provide a fascinating insight into the lives of monarchs and their families.

To mark this centenary year, 25 of the greatest treasures from the Archives will go on public display at Windsor Castle, many for the first time. A book about the Royal Archives will be published by Royal Collection Trust in May to coincide with the exhibition opening.

Treasures from the Royal Archives 17 May 2014 - 25 January 2015It was the death of Queen Victoria in 1901 – and her legacy of over 60 years of correspondence – that prompted the creation of an archive for documents relating to the Royal Family and the Royal Household. The Queen's son, King Edward VII (1841–1910), appointed Lord Esher as the first Keeper of the Royal Archives and asked him to arrange the Queen's official correspondence, a process that had been started by Prince Albert in the 1840s. In fact it was not until 1914 and the reign of King George V (1865–1936) that a permanent home was created for the Archives in the Round Tower of Windsor Castle.

Documents pre-dating Queen Victoria's reign were gradually added to the Archives, including some of the papers of James II (1633–1701), the exiled Stuarts and those of William Augustus, Duke of Cumberland (1721–65). The collection continued to grow with the support of King George V's consort, Queen Mary (1867–1953), who encouraged relatives to deposit their papers in the Archives. Other records were acquired by purchase, including the oldest item in the Archives – a list of jewels in the Wardrobe of Edward I, written in Norman French and dated 1297 – bought by King George V in 1911. Documents relating to the Sovereign and the Royal Household continue to be added to the Royal Archives today.

Many of the documents preserved in the Archives provide a glimpse into the lives of members of the royal family. Queen Victoria, a prolific writer, kept a journal throughout her life. The earliest of the surviving 141 volumes (numbering more than 40,000 pages) was given to her at the age of 13 by her mother, the Duchess of Kent, so she could write about a visit to Wales in August 1832. Colourful paper dolls created by the young Victoria demonstrate the Princess's burgeoning artistic abilities.

Treasures from the Royal Archives 17 May 2014 - 25 January 2015
On display for the first time will be one of the many love letters exchanged between Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. Written in the Prince's native German during their engagement, the letter reveals the depth of Albert's devotion to his bride-to-be. It begins 'Dearest deeply loved Victoria' and continues 'your image fills my whole soul. Even in my dreams I never imagined that I should find so much love on earth'.

Treasures from the Royal Archives is at Windsor Castle from 17 May 2014 until 25 January 2015. The book of the same title (240 pages and over 120 colour illustrations) is published by Royal Collection Trust in May, price £19.95 from Royal Collection Trust shops and £29.95 from all good bookshops.

Tickets and visitor information: T. +44 (0)20 7766 7301.

Images (left to right):

Letter from President Lincoln to Queen Victoria sending
condolences on the death of Prince Albert, dated 1 February 1862
Royal Archives / (C) Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2014

Princess Victoria's paper dolls, c.1830
Royal Archives /
(C) Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2013.

Princess Victoria’s journal, 1832
Royal Archives /
(C) Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2014

Account books for works at Windsor Castle undertaken
during the reign of Charles II, 1676-87
Royal Archives / (C) Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2014

Event date: 
Saturday, May 17, 2014 - 00:00 to Sunday, January 25, 2015 - 00:00