Everybody knows Queen Victoria. She’s like Fat Elvis or Santa Claus or Colonel Sanders. That’s her scowling out at you from the label of Bombay Gin.
Lord knows she’s seen enough of me over the years. Gin and tonic is still the primo summer drink among luminaries like me. The tradition of mixing gin with quinine water goes back to a time when India was a part of the British Empire. Soldiers were given quinine, the only known treatment for malaria, and they liked to mix the nasty tasting stuff with gin. It’s associated with hot weather drinks to this day. And although it’s considered very hoity-toity now, gin was the poor man’s drink back then. And Victoria? Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland starting in 1837 until 1901, and Empress of India after the Mughul Empire fell apart in 1876. Hence the “Bombay.”
So the time period coincides with the appellation “Victorian.” Who in the Dickins was Queen Anne, and why are Victorian Houses mostly Queen Anne style?
Queen Anne was monarch of England, Scotland and Ireland for 12 years until her death in 1714.
1714? What the hell would she know about a wrap-around porch? And she doesn’t even look like she was as much fun as Victoria was known for, which is not much. Here’s her picture from Wikipedia:
She would have sat on brutish dark oak furniture, and not much of it, and lived in a drafty glum masonry castle. She looks pretty brutish and dark herself. Why the hell are whimsical woodframe houses built half a world away two centuries after she bought the farm in a country that didn’t exist yet get named for her?
By mistake, mostly. The second most popular writer of the 19th century was William Makepeace Thackery, and he wrote a book called The History of Henry Esmond, Esq. A Colonel in the Service of Her Majesty Queen Anne and her name was floating out there in the zeitgeist, sorta like Paris Hilton’s now. Everyone’s talking about her at once for no real reason.
While her name was in the air, Richard Norman Shaw, a British architect, decided that he’d try his hand at picturesque country houses that didn’t derive their style from Gothic themes. He published some pattern books, and some American architects like Henry Hobson Richardson picked up on the style and made an American go at the idea. And the appellation Queen Anne just sort of stuck with it. Queen Anne furniture doesn’t look anything like furniture that Queen Anne would have had, either.
So Queen Anne in America means one of a series of styles featuring steeply angled rooflines with lots of cross gables, especially facing front; shingles with patterns in them; wall surfaces tricked out to avoid any plain areas; bays and niches; asymmetrical floorplans; and wrap around porches. There were all kinds of subtypes, including the Stick Style we already looked at, Eastlake, Shingle Style, Spindle Style, Free Classic, and Half Timbered, and probably some I’ve forgotten.
Just call them all Victorian. The realtors do.