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Richard Rivington Holmes, 1835-1911

Nationality: English
Date of Birth: 16 November 1835
Place of Birth: London
Place of Death: London


Richard Rivington Holmes was Librarian at Windsor Castle from 1870 until 1906, and Sergeant at Arms to Queen Victoria. He was the second child of John Holmes, assistant keeper of manuscripts at the British Museum, and Mary Anne Holmes, the eldest daughter of the bookseller Charles Rivington and the sister of Francis Rivington. He had four siblings, including Rev. Charles Rivington Holmes (d. 1873), an elder brother, who became the father of the landscape painter and art critic Charles John Holmes, who became director of the National Portrait Gallery in 1909 and of the National Gallery in 1916. On 27 October 1880 he married Evelyn Gee, the eldest daughter of Richard Gee, canon of Windsor. They had two daughters. However, the eldest died in 1904.


At his father's death in April 1854, Richard Holmes became an assistant in the manuscript department of the British Museum. In 1868 he was appointed archaeologist to the Abyssinian expedition and was awarded a war medal. In 1870 he became librarian at Windsor Castle, succeeding Bernard Bolingbroke Woodward. He was responsible for the acquisition of a large number of books and images connected with the history of the royal family and castle. He also supervised the rearrangement of old master drawings in the castle and advised concerning the acquisition of miniatures. Holmes was good friends with JW and JW considered asking him to testify on his behalf in the Whistler v. Ruskin trial in 1878 (#11945). Holmes secured an almost complete set of JW's etchings for the royal collection. However, it was sold after JW's death.

Holmes also carried out artistic work himself. While an assistant at the British Museum he executed Outlines for Illumination: Fifteenth Century, and in 1860 collaborated with Henry Le Strange and Thomas Gambier Parry on the decoration of Ely Cathedral. The influence of D. G. Rossetti is apparent in some of his pen drawings of this date. He designed five stained glass windows in 1867 and three in 1889 for Highgate School chapel. At Windsor he designed bookbindings for the royal library and painted watercolour landscapes. He also drew a series of illustrations for Mrs Oliphant's Makers of Venice (1887). He was a frequent exhibitor at the Royal Academy, Grosvenor Gallery and New Gallery.

Holmes' portrait was drawn by Heinrich von Angeli in 1877, an oil portrait by William Gibb around 1895, a silver-point drawing by Alphonse Legros about 1902, and a chalk drawing by William Strang in 1907.

Holmes' published works include Queen Victoria (1897), Edward VII: His Life and Times (1910), Specimens of Bookbinding in the Royal Library, Windsor Castle (1893), Naval and Military Trophies (1896-7), The Queen's Pictures (1897), Windsor (1908).

Holmes was lieutenant-colonel in the first volunteer battalion of the Berkshire regiment and received the volunteer decoration. He was elected a fellow of the Society of Antiquaries in 1860, becoming vice-president in 1907. He was also treasurer of the Royal Literary Fund. He was nominated Serjeant-at-Arms to Queen Victoria in 1898, made M.V.O. in 1897, C.V.O. in 1901 and K.C.V.O. in 1905. He retired in 1906.


Dictionary of National Biography Online, Oxford, 1997.