Events: 29 Sept 1835 – 11th Jan 1836.
'The streets were ornamented with arches of flowers and flags. The open, free, boundless (to the eye), ocean looked very refreshing. There is nothing between us and France but the sea, here. We have got a small but very nice house, overlooking the sea quite close.' (29th Sept 1835).
The fifteen-year-old Princess travelled by carriage from Kensington Palace to Ramsgate with her mother Victoria, Duchess of Kent, her lady-in-waiting Lady Flora Hastings, her governess Baroness Louise Lehzen and Sir John Ponsonby Conroy, who acted as her mother’s advisor and comptroller. Victoria recorded the warm reception from the locals, noting that the streets were adorned with flowers and flags, the boats in the harbour were decorated with the colours of all nations, cheering crowds waited beneath the balcony of Albion House and a gun salute rang out over the town. Following the arrival of Victoria’s maternal uncle Leopold and his wife Louisa on 29th September 1835, illuminations and fireworks entertained the vast crowds who congregated in Ramsgate to view the Royal visitors.
Built in 1791, Albion House was owned by Mary Townley, one of Britain’s first female architects, and let to a number of illustrious clients owing to its prominent position overlooking the harbour. The young princess wrote that “The open, free, boundless (to the eye), ocean looked very refreshing. There is nothing between us and France but the sea, here. We have got a small but very nice house, overlooking the sea quite close” (29 Sept 1835). The harbour proved a source of constant fascination for Victoria and she took almost daily walks along the East and West piers. On wet days she enjoyed carriage rides, visiting Broadstairs, Margate and surrounding areas and enjoying the company of her beloved aunt and uncle. The Royal Party visit St Lawrence Church for services on Sundays. Victoria also visited Canterbury Cathedral but seemed underwhelmed. She writes “It is very fine and elaborate, but York Minster is by far more grand and chaste. The Monuments are very curious.” Walmer Castle received modest praise as “a curious old Castle, but very comfortable.”
During her stay at Albion House Victoria was taken ill and is unable to write in her journal for most of October. Her recovery is slow and her journal entries for the following month mostly chart her diet and the occasional walk around the rooms of Albion House. Resuming her daily walks along the pier in December, Victoria comments on the amusing dress and mannerisms of the foreign fishermen she sees at work, often stopping to talk to sailors in their native tongues. These daily walks proved her principle source of enjoyment in the dull winter monotony of a British seaside resort. She writes: “I was rather sorry in leaving Ramsgate. I have a very pleasing recollection of our Séjour there, in spite of my illness & various other reasons of dullness; Uncle's & Aunt's visit being one of the principal causes. Our house, though small & very cold, was cheerful, snug, and even comfortable. My little room also small, was a dear cheerful little room. It had 3 windows, all having a fine view of the sea, & a very good view of the harbour & pier.”
Princess Victoria was to return to Ramsgate later in the year, staying this time at West Cliff House