July 30, 2013 by Victorian Body Parts Conference
Parts Party – Royal Babies in Bits, Part II
I don’t know if any of your parents kept your baby teeth to treasure, but unless you’re lucky enough to be the offspring of Susan Sarandon (really, look it up) or Her Imperial Majesty The Queen-Empress (aka Victoria), they won’t wear the blighters as accessories. It brings a whole new meaning to the idea of having a ‘sweet tooth’!
Albert favoured a Thuringian tradition of setting stag’s teeth into jewellery – an incongruously lovely necklace can be seen in the royal collection, with the date of the beast’s kill engraved on each tooth.
But this tradition went a step further when Albert not only pulled their eldest daughter’s milk tooth himself, but had it set into a brooch for his wife, with its origin story engraved on the back.
What does it mean to wear a segment of a child to which you gave birth, pinned to your dress?
The Victorian Tactile Imagination conference – fabulously organised by our Birkbeck colleague Dr Heather Tilley – was held the weekend before last, and we were lucky enough to be able to attend. A theme which kept appearing in my mind again and again, whether provoked by taxidermied pets (Dr Jenny Pyke, Holyoke), comfort blankets (Dr Nicola Bown, Birkbeck) or public mummy unrollings (Dr Constance Classen) was the movability of the moment of squeamishness, or the point at which something becomes acceptable to handle in the quotidien world. For all their sentimentality the Victorians seem to have been very good at dissipating the mystery which might attach to something which was once sensible, or part of a sensible organism.
Yet it’s probably only a matter of time before hair jewellery et al comes back into fashion – and I’ve caught myself looking at some of these adornments and wondering whether I could carry off something so macabre. In other words, Ms Sarandon…
Lock up your molars.
There’s a lovely blog post which touches on tooth jewellery here: http://lisawallerrogers.wordpress.com/2010/03/15/victoria-albert-art-love/
And if you can turn your face from the “sidebar of shame” (fair warning), there’s more in a Daily Mail article: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1257493/The-stag-tooth-necklace-Prince-Albert-gave-Queen-Victoria–blasting-animals-death.html