Left to right: Queen Victoria passing through Boar Lane, Leeds in 1858. Queen Victoria. Royal connections at Castle Howard.
ork was just the first stop on a tour that the young princess was making of the area’s great houses. This was a kind of publicity circuit carefully organised by her guardians to present their future queen to the county’s aristocrats, in order to build anticipation for her coming reign and she commented upon the fine, hilly park of her host the Earl, at Harewood. But just as any teenager would, she grew restless with the requirement to be ‘on duty,’ with having to meet and greet her loyal subjects. Her diary also records the difficulty she found in facing up to the challenges of her role: a dinner for 300, the people crowding round her carriage, the tour’s accumulated ‘fatigues which were not slight and which I begin to feel.’ Nevertheless, she paid a sad ‘final adieu to Yorkshire’ upon leaving. She’d decided that this part of her future kingdom was ‘a very pleasant county’. In 1835, she’d journeyed to Yorkshire by carriage, with frequent stops for the changing of horses, yet many of her subsequent visits were stops for ‘luncheon’ at York while whistling through on the new railway up to or down from Scotland. It’s striking how much Britain seems to
shrink during the course of the queen’s long reign. When she visited Leeds in 1858, for example, for the opening of its Town Hall, she started out from her holiday home at Osborne on the Isle of Wight in the morning. A carriage, a steamer and a couple of fast trains got her to Yorkshire by half past six the same day. An estimated half-a-million people turned out to see Victoria in Leeds and her time in Yorkshire was usually spent in pursuit of official duties. Indeed, as she became queen, then married and then became the mother of nine children, she couldn’t keep them all up. She handed over some of her responsibilities to her husband, Prince Albert, who became known as the ‘Prince of Trowels’ for the vast collection of tools with which he had ceremonially laid the first stone of ever so many public buildings. It was the Prince, not the Queen, who travelled to York in 1848, to visit the ‘Show of Implements’ at the county show and to eat his dinner with 1,400 farmers. Two years later, they were both back in Yorkshire for more of a pleasure visit, staying at Castle Howard. Here the scholarly Prince Albert was ‘enchanted’ by the house’s collection of art and antiques. But it was not all fun: after lunch, the family had to show themselves on the steps of the house, to the delight of ‘an immense crowd’ that had gathered for the purpose, cheering ‘vehemently’. It was particularly important that the ‘children should be seen,’ said their host, Lord Carlisle. So her young ones, like royal children through the ages, must have stood awkwardly on the steps getting used to being stared at.