Queen Victoria’s Portrait

Hi my name is Vanessa and I am a parliamentary tour guide. Her Majesty Queen Victoria is a very important figure, both in as well as outside of Parliament, appearing in statue form outside on the Hill as well as being the central figure inside the Library of Parliament. However, very few people are aware that Queen Victoria is actually responsible for the construction of the very first Parliament buildings, as she is the one who chose Ottawa to be the capital of Canada. Now in the foyer of the Senate of Parliament’s Centre Block building, Queen Victoria appears once again in portrait form, hanging alongside past and present monarchs.

John Partridge is the artist of this portrait, which dates back to 1842. Now not only has this portrait had a very long history, but it has also had a very interesting history, as it has been saved from not one, not two, not three, but four fires in its lifetime. Originally it was found in the Parliament building of the British colony of Canada which was found in Montreal, which one day in 1849 was set ablaze by an angry mob upset over a controversial Bill’s passing. Four men, including Sir Sanford Flemming, a Scottish-born Canadian engineer, involved in the construction in the Canadian Pacific Railway, saved the portrait from the fire. The portrait was saved a second time, again in Montreal, but this time at Donegani’s hotel which was set on fire, again by an angry mob. However, this time the portrait actually had to be cut out of its frame and rolled up in order for it to fit through the door. This is evident in the portrait today as a portion of Queen Victoria’s gown is missing, as well as half of her crown.

In 1854 the portrait was saved a third time at the Legislative Assembly at Québec City, and finally in 1916, when the Centre Block building here in Ottawa was destroyed by a fire, it was saved a fourth and final time. In fact it was one of the very few pieces that was saved from this fire.

So today as it hangs in the Parliament buildings, in Centre Block, the portrait of Queen Victoria reminds us of her importance in Canada’s history. Parliamentarians and tourists alike have the chance to see this beautiful portrait of the very first Queen of Canada, our very first monarch, Her Majesty Queen Victoria, as they walk into the foyer of the Senate, in the Centre Block of the Parliament of Canada.