Among the many treasures in the textiles collection at Te Papa there is one very large pair of drawers.
These drawers were owned by Queen Victoria. After her death in 1901, Queen Victoria’s underwear was distributed to members of the Royal Household. This particular pair was owned by Lady Louisa Seddon, wife of Rt. Hon. Richard Seddon, the Premier of New Zealand. Lady Seddon attended the coronation of King Edward VII in 1902 with her husband and may have acquired the drawers then. Definitely not your usual travel souvenir! The drawers were donated to Te Papa in 2009 by Louisa’s granddaughter.
These voluminous drawers have a waist circumference of 1186mm. They are made of cream linen and have the royal cypher of Queen Victoria embroidered into the waistband. They also have the number ’35‘ embroidered below the cypher. This number was intended to help the Queen’s staff keep track of her clothes and linen when it was laundered.
This curious collection item made us wonder where in the world the rest of Queen Victoria’s numbered drawers have ended up. Our investigations have revealed that Kensington Palace in London has at least one pair, and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London have a pair too (numbered ‘6’).
Have you seen pairs of Queen Victoria’s drawers in other museums? If you have, we’d love to hear about it! Let us know in the comments section.
Andrea Hearfield, Collection Manager Humanities
Tamara Patten, Communications Officer, National Services Te Paerangi