y the time of her death, Queen Victoria, Empress of India, ruled over nearly a quarter of the population of the globe. But not least among them were her subjects in Yorkshire, a county she particularly admired. Two hundred years on from Victoria’s birth on 24 May 1819 it’s almost as if the queen still makes royal progresses to the county, in the form of actress Jenna Coleman. Coleman plays Victoria as a captivating, complex character in the ITV drama series Victoria, much of which is filmed in a huge set of Buckingham Palace erected in an aircraft hangar at Leeds East Airport. But how often did the real Queen Victoria visit Yorkshire and what did she think of it? Her life
is wonderfully rewarding for a historian to study because of her immensely detailed diary, which she kept up to date each and every day. These journals were a key source for my new biography, Queen Victoria, Daughter, Wife, Mother, Widow, and they also reveal happy - and sometimes stressful - times she spent visiting God’s Own County. ‘The streets are very narrow and the crowd was immense,’ wrote the sixteen-year-old future queen in September 1835, ‘but very good-humoured and extremely friendly.’ The Princess Victoria was visiting York for the first time, beginning a succession of stays in Yorkshire that would continue until a final goodbye to the county in 1897 when she was aged 77. During this first visit, she stayed with the Archbishop of York in his palace and each day went with her mother to the Minster to hear the concerts of the York Music Festival. What a fine church, she wrote in her diary, ‘much finer than Westminster Abbey’ and she was thrilled to hear the opera stars she admired so much, soprano Giulia Grisi and bass Luigi Lablache.
Left to right: Her Majesty leaving Leeds railway station en route to Woodsley House, 1858. Beverley Minster, also was used as Westminster Abbey and St James' Palace for the coronation and wedding scenes in ITV’s Victoria.