Portraits Page 9

Great Canadian Portraits


Queen Victoria Needlework - Annie Rogers, 1872

Annie patterned her embroidery on the picture left which she had obviously seen somewhere.

It is an oil portrait, a very uncommon view, done in 1837 by Alfred Edward Chalon, of Victoria as she looked at 18, during her first public appearance as Queen, when she prorogued the UK Parliament in July 1837.

There was nothing special going on in the British Empire in 1872, or in Canada, that would explain the sudden patriotic fervour in Annie's breast which caused her to embark on this long and patriotic labour of love, in honour of a distant sovereign she, as a Canadian, would never see.

In 1872 Queen Victoria had already been on the throne for 35 years and was 53, which was old by Victorian standards. But in all that time she had done nothing to endear her to her subjects.

Though Annie created her tribute embroidery in 1872, Victoria was not really very popular, at all, with her British subjects at the time, spending most of her time hiding in her palaces, and moping about the loss of her husband in 1861.

Her later popularity would not begin to grow until 1887, in anticipation of her 50th year on the throne.

So Annie's creation would have elicited yawns of boredom in Britain, or dismissive expressions like "Why bother?"

But not in Canada where the colonials were always more British than those who remained in the Mother Country.

But then the British in Canada were fighting for their survival against the warring Americans, and the ever separating French-Canadians.


Annie probably had someone with great talent paint the head of Queen Victoria around which she would stitch her magic tapestry of yarn.

The wonderful British lion is also hand painted as are the flowers.

The curtains, the flower pots, the balustrade, as well as the pillars, are done in yarn.

Her loving creation has been wondrously cared for by many successive generations of her family's descendants.

It is as bright and unblemished today, as it was when Annie crafted it 136 years ago.

It remains as a stirring testament to the fierce British patriotism that beat in the heart of Canadians in the colonies, where loyalty to Britain and to the Queen grew stronger the further away they were.

27 years later this fierce pride made thousands of British expatriates in Canada sign up for a chance to die, for Queen and Country, in the Boer War in South Africa.

The embroidery is also a fine testament to real life skills that children were expected to master at an early age in Victorian times.

Today people her age only know how to turn a personal phone or an iPod off and on.

What will any of them leave behind that will make people marvel, in 136 years, like Annie Rogers did?

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure

A more fabulous example of superb needlework embroidery does not exist than this huge and exquisite work.

Annie Rogers was 14 when she made this piece in 1872, only five years after Canadian Confederation.

The Rogers were Americans who were relatives of the Cox family of St. Thomas, Ontario.

After Annie died, this work was willed to the Cox family, who in turn willed it to Donna Powles, a collector of Victoriana whose estate sale, in 2008, finally brought this fabulous artistic treasure to public auction for the first time.

This superlative creation by a teenage girl started with a painted sky backdrop and lion, as well as the face, neck, and hands, of the Queen.

Almost everything else is laboriously constructed with individual threads of coloured yarn tightly stitched to form the patterns of curtains, gowns, flowers, and column.


Signed Needlework of Queen Victoria - Annie Rogers, 1872
Orig. woolen needlework - Image Size - 61 x 71 cm
Found - St Thomas, ON
Copyright Goldi Productions Ltd. - 1996, 1999, 2005