‘It Is well known that for many years past the Isle of Thanet has been the favourite autumnal retreat of the Duchess of Kent and her illustrious daughter, now Queen of England. Thither they regularly went, accompanied, for their exalted station, by a small retinue, and during the stay throwing aside much of the cumbersome and formal constraints and chilling ceremonials of royalty, they entered into free intercourse with the respectable resident families ‘and were constantly to be seen passing, almost unattended along the public streets or parades of the principal towns of the island.’ Morning Chronicle - Friday 23 June 1837.

In 1829, The Duchess of Kent rented Pierremont House in Broadstairs for the autumn.1 It was a 26 bedroom house, with a library, a billiard room, a 13 acre garden containing shrubberies, hot house, fruit trees, vegetable garden, a 100 foot long grapery, melon ground and stabling for eight horses. It had been built in 1785 for Thomas Forsyth (1744-1810) of Rutland and designed by Samuel Pepys Cockerell, who also designed Gore Court, near Sittingbourne.2 After the death of Forsyth it was owned by T.W. Payler but by the the 1820s, it was being let for the season as a marine residence. Tickets could be obtained to view the house from Mr Barfield at the town library.3

Broadstairs was quieter than the neighbouring towns of Ramsgate and Margate. It was described in The house book or, family chronicle of useful knowledge, and cottage physician as a resort for “respectable families” who preferred “retirement to the gaiety and bustle of a public place”.4

The Duchess of Kent arrived in the town on the evening of 1 August 1829 with her young daughter Princess Victoria and the royal entourage. They were greeted by pealing church bells and an amateur band playing national airs on the lawn of Pierremont House. In the evening, the village was partly illuminated to mark the occasion.5

The royal presence caused an “unusual demand for houses” in Broadstairs that autumn.6 On 17 August, the residents of Broadstairs celebrated the Duchess of Kent’s birthday with triumphal arches and illuminations. His Royal Highness, Prince Leopold visited his sister, the Duchess, and the royal party honoured the town with a visit. Three miles away in Ramsgate there were still houses to be let, although there were aristocratic visitors and the Misses Burdett.7 W.H. Harrison in his book The Humourist (1831) describes the popularity of the seaside towns at this time: “…to go to Brighton, Ramsgate, Broadstairs, or to any other place whither the industrious bees of the metropolis are wont to swarm, would be to encounter the same eternal round of faces with which I had become sufficiently familiar in London”.8

Later, Queen Victoria wrote of her childhood: “I was brought up very simply — never had a room to myself till I was nearly grown up — always slept in my Mother’s room till I came to the Throne. At Claremont, and in the small houses at the bathing-places, I sat and took my lessons in my Governess’s bedroom. I was not fond of learning as a little child — and baffled every attempt to teach me my letters up to 5 years old — when I consented to learn them by their being written down before me.”9 Baroness Lehzen who was her governess, encouraged the young princess to distrust her mother and depend solely on her.10. At Pierremont, Princess Victoria had piano lessons in the music room which was detached from the main house and also enjoyed walking along the pier or parade.11

On the 3 November 1829, Victoria and her mother left Broadstairs, after a three month stay, attended by Lady Catherine Jenkinson, Baroness Lehzen and Sir John Conroy. They travelled to Eastwell Park, near Ashford, the home of the Earl of Winchelsea.12

Four years later, Princess Victoria’s aunt, H.R.H. Princess Sophia Matilda of Gloucester rented Pierremont house for the summer. At this period, it was owned by a Scottish gentleman called Edward Fletcher, but by his death in 1846, the house was auctioned off and parts of the estate sold to build new housing. Princess Sophia rented it again in 1835 and 1838, after the coronation of her niece.13

In 1835, the Duchess of Kent took Princess Victoria to Ramsgate for the season, and the fashionable members of society followed them. Bell’s New Weekly Messenger mocked the disappointed Broad-starers who stared at all newcomers “to little or no purpose” and advised them to be “content, for they have the Princess Sophia of Gloucester among them, and the Earls Aylesford and Dartmouth, and several other Midland Lords and Ladies who, wherever they are, always make point of existing unmixed with baser matter.”14 This was a stinging remark aimed at Broadstairs, but more specifically at Princess Sophia, whose mother’s illegitimacy had created difficulties for her in early life.

Victoria visited Princess Sophia at Broadstairs during her stay at Ramsgate and wrote: “It began to rain and we got into the carriage and drove to Broadstairs to pay Princess Sophia Matilda a visit. We all walked with the Princess on the sort of Parade at Broadstairs and then got into our carriage and drove home.”15

A year later, she visited her aunt again: ‘At half-past two, we drove with Lady Catherine & Lehzen to Piermont House at Broadstairss & payed Princess Sophia Matilda a short visit’ - Queen Victoria’s Journal, Tuesday 4th October 1836


Hibbert, Christopher (2000). Queen Victoria: A Personal History. HarperCollins.


  1. Morning Post - Tuesday 04 August 1829 

  2. Cust, L.H. ‘Samuel Pepys Cockerell’, Dictionary of National Biography , 1885-1900

  3. Kentish Weekly Post or Canterbury Journal - Friday 06 July 1821 

  4. The house book or, family chronicle of useful knowledge, and cottage physician, London, 1826, 254. 

  5. Morning Post - Tuesday 04 August 1829 

  6. Sun (London) - Wednesday 19 August 1829 

  7. Sun (London) - Wednesday 19 August 1829 

  8. Harrison, W.H. The humourist, a companion for the Christmas fireside, London: Ackermann, 1831, 191. 

  9. The Letters of Queen Victoria : a selection from Her Majesty’s correspondence between the years 1837 and 1861 : published by authority of His Majesty the king 1907, 11. 

  10. Hibbert, 2000. 

  11. The Sketch - Wednesday 21 September 1898 

  12. Globe - Tuesday 03 November 1829; London Packet and New Lloyd’s Evening Post - Friday 06 November 1829; New Times (London) - Monday 09 November 1829 

  13. Sun (London) - Saturday 07 September 1833 

  14. Bell’s New Weekly Messenger, October 1835. 

  15. Victoria’s Journal, Thursday 1st October 1835.