Royal Influences: The Queen at the Library

A statue of Queen Victoria in front Sydney's Queen Victoria building, exterior

This past Monday was Victoria Day, and while this spring long weekend brings to mind images of gardening tools, sprouting plants, and BBQs, it also reminds us of all the little homages to Queen Victoria that reside in Osgoode Hall, including the Great Library.  

To begin with one of the more overt nods to the Queen, Osgoode Hall plays home to her rather large portrait currently hanging in the atrium. “Formidable” may be a more accurate descriptor of this portrait, weighing in at a whopping 300 pounds! Loaned by the City of Toronto in 1965, it took 6 men and 3 days to move the portrait from its original home at Old City Hall to Osgoode Hall despite the short journey– a mere 300 metres (I will not be volunteering to help if ever they want to move it again)! Read more about Queen Victoria’s portrait on the Osgoode Hall Virtual Tour webpage

Moving on to the Great Library, you need only take a closer look at the etched windows in the Main Reading Room for more royal easter eggs.  

Do you see the image of the crown towards the middle of the pane, along with the initials “VR”? Both refer to Queen Victoria, with “VR” standing for Victoria Regina, who was the reigning monarch at the time the room was built.  

Like the Queen’s portrait, the next artifact was also given to the Great Library, though here the donor’s identity is the cause for stir – the Queen herself! Not only this, but our copy of The Early Years of His Royal Highness the Prince Consort includes the signature of Queen Victoria. This item is kept safe in our Rare Books Room, but images can be viewed below: 

Lastly, one cannot forget the reception ball in 1860 thrown to celebrate the formal opening of the new Osgoode Hall and Botanical Gardens, at which the Queen’s son, the Prince of Wales, attended and danced in the halls of the Great Library. It must’ve been quite a sight to see the prince and robed lawyers spinning amongst the shelves. (No librarians were there to supervise or SHUSH their revelry). 

The invitation to the 1980 Osgoode Hall Reception [1]

Here is an excerpt of an observation from the night’s events:  

“For a while the stern duties of the law were forgotten…. Places reserved for learned counsellors were occupied by the fairest ladies Canada can boast. Crinoline made itself comfortable in the capacious seats of their Lordships…. Imagine, though, what Sir J.B. Robinson must have felt, at seeing a scarlet cloak in his chair, or Chief justice Draper at finding his desk covered with ladies’ shawls; their retiring-rooms filled with looking-glasses, their consulting chambers bedecked with confused heaps of female frippery. It was enough to try their inmost souls…but they bore it well.”[2] 

We can only imagine how the library looked at the end of it!  

[1] “Royal Visits to Canada: The Prince of Wales (1860)” by Toronto Public Library Special Collections is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0. To view a copy of this license, visit

[2] Robert Callem, Visit of His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales to the British North American provinces and United States in the year 1860 (Toronto, Henry Rowsell, 1861).