London Bridge on the Night of the Marriage of the Prince and Princess of Wales William Holman Hunt Buy Art Prints Now
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Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
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London Bridge on the Night of the Marriage of the Prince & Princess of Wales is an oil on canvas painting displayed at the Ashmolean Museum of Art an Archaeology, Beaumont Street, Oxford.

When the Prince of Wales, who was to become King Edward VII married Princess Alexandra of Denmark the future queen and later Queen Mother on March 10th, 1863 the day became a National holiday. Subsequently, nationwide festivities were organized to celebrate this joyous occasion. Among the crowds of revellers, that night that found themselves on London Bridge was William Holman Hunt who had also attended the wedding ceremony. Being interested in the practicalities of how to show historical events through the experiences of ordinary people. The scene on the bridge was the perfect subject for him.

Making sketches of the scene he did not complete the work until 1864 although he did retouch several areas of the picture in 1866. With this modern Victorian social gathering, the site and the unusual lighting created by the gas lighting creates a painting that is a historical social comment that celebrates the event and all that is Victorian. By the juxtaposition of the gaslight on the bridge with the moonlight in the cloud strewn sky, he is perhaps commenting on both the celebration, and he fears of the royal wedding and the moral angst of the industrialization and social changes and reforms that were evident in this era.

Hunt decided to include himself and several of his friends in this picture. We can find hunt in the left-hand corner arm in arm with Thomas Combe in a top hat and Robert Braithwaite Martineau. Although these were both friends and painters it is not clear if they were on the bridge at the time of the celebration. There are more of his friends in other parts of the painting suggesting that he understood their importance in the social scene of England, during this historically important era. Unusually the frame of the picture was designed by Hunt as well. There are elements in the frame that celebrate the wedding and merging of the royal families of England and Denmark. The coat of arms of both families is clearly visible.