Events with dates: 10th Nov 1842 – 3rd Dec 1842
'It is the most delightful sea-residence to be found anywhere, particularly for children. They can be out all day, on the ramparts and platforms quite dry, and the beautiful gardens and wood are enclosed and sheltered from the severe gales of wind.' The Duke of Wellington to Sir Robert Peel in a letter written from the castle on 26th October 1842.
Queen Victoria, Prince Albert and their two young children stayed at the Duke of Wellington’s residence, Walmer Castle in 1842. She records in her diary: We have settled to go to Walmer Castle on the 10th, for 10 days, as there is still scarlet fever at Brighton. The Duke of Wellington has kindly lent us Walmer. Its situation is charming, and one can see quantities of ships, which one never does at Brighton, and it has the great advantage of being private, but the house is very small, which, however, will be rather fine.1
The royal party travelled in three carriages, changing horses at Blackheath, Dartford, Gravesend, Rochester, Sittingbourne, Ospringe, Canterbury & Sandwich. The Queen read despatches, whilst the Prince read St Simon. She notes that the "The road was very hilly, but we came along quickly." The Duke of Wellington met them near Sandwich, accompanying them for a while before riding on to receive them at Walmer. It was dark when they arrived and the Queen observes that:
Most of the rooms are very oddly shaped, from forming part of a circle, the Castle being, in fact, a large Martello Tower. The Nursery is over the Moat, of course, connected, as there is one long passage, going all along, rooms opening out of it on either side. Our sitting-room, a little anteroom, and small dressing room, all give out on the fine Battery, which makes a charming walk.2
The journey had exhausted her and she felt 'very tired and headacy'.
The next morning was wild and stormy but the Queen enjoyed the views of the sea during breakfast, which she describes as 'splendid, so close, so open, & so many ships to be seen'. H.M.S. Thunderer which had fired a royal salute on her arrival was clearly visible from the window. After breakfast, the royal party took a walk along the beach towards Dover, for about a mile, but the wind was very fierce and they returned to read and write letters. They did not see a soul on the beach and the Queen muses: 'One is out in a moment, so different to Brighton; this is so private.'3
The weather continued to be inclement, and on the next day, they waited until the rain cleared before taking a walk along the footpath towards Deal. The Queen found the steeply shelved shingle beach difficult to walk on complaining that it was 'hard work scrambling up the bank again'. She was not impressed with Deal, which she described as 'not attractive, and the country about here decidedly not pretty'. Later in the visit, the royal party took a walk on the cliffs, which seems to have suited her more, as she wrote, 'We took a nice long walk along the Cliff and then, over the fields, on to the Downs, from whence one has a beautiful view'.
On the first Sunday, the weather was atrocious and 'dreadful pouring rain, with tremendous wind' meant they could not go out. However, on the following day, the weather broke and the royal party took a walk after breakfast. The children played on the beach and Albert visited the Thunderer, whilst Victoria watched. She records, 'The sea like a lake, and quite blue, and the sun shining on the white sails of the ships was lovely. I counted 80 ships, irrespective of fishing boats'. On the days that followed, passing ships such as the 'Hyacinth' and the 'Southampton' saluted and Victoria meticulously recorded this in her journal, along with the clear skies which afforded her views of France. On one morning she enthuses: 'a splendid sunrise, the sky & sea being all one glorious mass of crimson. The French coast has been clearly seen the last two days.'
The weather continued to be changeable during their visit, but this was not to be unexpected on the Kent coast in November and the royal party either walked or read, played piano or cards. The Queen took her first 'shower bath with sea water' which she enjoyed very much and the Prince experienced his first fox hunt at Betteshanger. He also visited the Safety Beacon, on the 'Goodwin Lands'[sic] but the water was not low enough for him to walk on them.
During their visit, the royal party visited Dover and Ramsgate. Although the Queen did not record her impressions of Dover in her journal, the report is carefully reported by the Dover Telegraph and Cinque Ports General Advertiser. The excitement was palpable as 'Flags were soon seen floating in the breeze at every point, and the Castle Hill and Road to Walmer were quickly thronged with anxious faces of both sexes, and of all ages, each desirous to catch a sight of their Queen, some on foot, and others in private carriages, flies and on horse-back.' The crowd was rewarded with gracious bowing from the Queen and Prince whose carriage took them through the streets of Dover.4
Despite the wonderful seclusion and bracing sea air at Walmer, the Queen's holiday was marred by a sore throat and neuralgia and the children caught heavy colds. At the end of their visit, she writes: 'Felt quite sorry this was our last night here. The bedroom was very small & dreadfully cold & draughty, but still I had formed an affection, for it all, and for the whole house, in spite of being small & cold, and I regret leaving the sea side, though I have suffered there so much'.
This article was published: 10 July 2021.
From the Letters of Queen Victoria, Vol 1, ed Arthur Christopher Benson and Viscount Esher, online at Project Gutenberg
Journal Entry : Tuesday 1st November 1842 http://www.queenvictoriasjournals.org/ ↩
Journal Entry : Thursday 10th November 1842 http://www.queenvictoriasjournals.org/ ↩
Journal Entry : Friday 11th November 1842 http://www.queenvictoriasjournals.org/ ↩
Dover Telegraph and Cinque Ports General Advertiser - Saturday 19 November 1842 ↩
Journal Entry : Saturday 3rd December 1842 http://www.queenvictoriasjournals.org/ ↩