Of the few monarchs who have actually visited the Channel Islands, Queen Victoria holds an important place in their history, having come twice to both Guernsey and Jersey.
Although his father Charles I was dead, Charles II was not on the throne when he paid his second visit to Jersey in 1649, Britain still being under the grip of Parliamentary rule.
So excited was the island at the prospect of what would be the first official visit by a reigning monarch when Queen Victoria and Prince Albert announced their intention to visit in 1846, it was decided that something special must be done in her honour. Eventually it was decided to resurrect plans for the construction of a school for boys, first mooted in 1669. Land was purchased on the outskirts of St Helier and the school was named in her honour, Victoria College.
The Royal Yacht with its three accompanying vessels arrived in St Aubin's Bay in the late afternoon of Wednesday 2 September 1846. A contemporary report noted:
- Exactly at six o'clock the Victoria and Albert royal yacht rounded Noirmont Point, followed by the Black Eagle, and rapidly entered that part of St Aubin's Bay called the Great Roads, separated from the town of St Helier by Elizabeth Castle. From the hills and acclivities, and all around the cheering was tremendous, and the roaring of the battery cannon, with the music of the bands, formed a greeting for the Queen at once hearty, stirring and sublime! At precisely ten minutes before sunset, the Royal Squadron, consisting of the Victoria and Albert (Royal yacht), the Fairy, Black Eagle, and the Garland, came to anchor in that part of the bay just mentioned, and as the dark set in, rockets darted upwards from the earth, and fires were lighted on all the surrounding hills."
The Bailiff, a representative from the Lieutenant-Governor and the Queen's ADC, Sir John Le Couteur all boarded the Royal Yacht. Sir John had with him a copy of a book by Jersey artist Philip Ouless to present to the Queen.
Arrangements for the following day were discussed and it was agreed that the Royal party would land at 11 the next morning.
The Royal party which landed the following morning consisted of the Queen, Prince Albert, the Prince of Wales, the Princess Royal, Lady Jocelyn, the Honourable Miss Kerr, the Dowager Lady Littleton, Earl Spencer, Viscount Palmerston, Lord Adolphus Fitzclarence, Colonel Grey, and Sir James Clark. The harbour was renamed Victoria Harbour in the sovereign's honour. In later years another arm would be built and named for Prince Albert.
The arrival of the Queen was greeted by thousands of Islanders, "the thundering cheers of twenty thousand voices". There was a military precision to much of the proceedings; but there were also more relaxed moments to her visit.
From the Harbour the procession went past the Weighbridge and along the Esplanade as far as Gloucester Street, where it passed under the first of many arches which had been constructed to celebrate the occasion. This was "indisputably the largest, the loftiest, and the most handsomely decorated" of all the arches. It included a balcony where people could view the procession. The arch was located between the prison and the hospital, and was commissioned and paid for by Nicholas Le Quesne, whose house it adjoined.
After Gloucester Street came The Parade and the approach to the Royal Square along Broad Street. The triple arch here shows the initials V and A either side of the crown at the top. All available windows were taken by waving crowds.
The procession passed through the Royal Square, Peirson Place into King Street, and then north into Halkett Place. The market had been handsomely decorated, and there were arches at almost every corner. The route continued along Beresford Street and up Bath Street towards St Mark's church.
The arch here was distinctive in its design, being square and supported with four Norman arches. The Queen, noticing that the States members had accompanied her on foot, suggested they should be released from that duty.
The Queen's procession continued along Windsor Crescent and towards St Saviour's Hill. At Government House the Queen's A D C thanked the police escort for all their work in maintaining safety and order, and they too were released from the procession. The Queen decided that she would like to proceed swiftly to Mont Orgueil Castle, so the Royal Party set off again, this time at full gallop.
On arrival at the Castle, the Queen climbed as far as the grand battery, while Prince Albert explored more thoroughly, enjoying particularly the views across to France and around the Island's east coast. The Queen commanded a record to be made of her visit in the Castle's Visitors Book.
The return journey to town was past La Hougue Bie and the Prince's Tower, and on through "the village of the Five Oaks", at which point the horses were slowed to a walking pace for the remainder of the drive back to the Harbour. They drove along St Saviour's Road, Belmont Road and into Bath Street. They returned to the harbour along Conway Street. The farewell to the Queen and her party was as grand as her welcome had been. Thousands of people crowded the quays to glimpse the Royal procession and to wish their monarch well as she left the Island. There was singing and cheering, firing of guns and much satisfaction at Her Majesty's visit.
The following is the official report of the visit, published in John Le Capelain's book of etchings:
- "The unexpected visit of Her Majesty and Prince Albert to our sister Isle of Guernsey had awakened in the loyal hearts of her subjects in Jersey the anxious expectation of a like honour; it was, therefore, with heartfelt sorrow that intelligence was received of the return of the royal squadron to England. This dash to our hopes was soon to be forgotten in the joyful anticipation of a promised visit in the course of the ensuing week, fortunately giving time to prepare a fitting welcome.
- "The States of the Island were convened, and a committee appointed to make arrangements for the approaching ceremony. The new South Pier, just completed, afforded a locale most appropriate for the purpose: the vast sweep of the promenade above and surrounding the quay offered every facility for the erection of many tiers of gradually rising seats, capable of containing upwards of six thousand spectators. For the reception of Her Majesty one of the pillared recesses under the promenade was decorated; the interior, lined with crimson damask, bordered with gold fringe, relieved the ultramarine colour of the roof; between each of the columns hung festoons of the choicest flowers; in two niches on either side of the recess were placed busts of the Queen and Prince Albert, and above them waved the royal standard of England and the Jersey flag, richly wrought in silk.
- "In the town all was activity; triumphal arches spanned every street, whilst flags, mottoed banners, and floral crowns, were ready to be launched from every window. Such were the preparations which the enthusiasm of the inhabitants had made for Her Majesty's reception. Towards evening, and in the middle of all this joyful labour, two guns, fired from Fort Regent, sent thrilling through every heart the welcome news that the royal squadron was in sight."
- "The workman dropped his hammer, the tradesman closed his shop, the busy and the idle all rushed to the pier, the esplanade, and to every point from which the royal squadron could be seen. The day, hitherto clouded, lifted its grey mantle as the royal squadron turned Noirmont Point, the setting sun throwing its last rays over the scene with magical effect. The anchors were dropped, and the vessels berthed for the night. The civil and military authorities waited on Her Majesty, to tender their homage and receive commands for the landing, which it was decided should be the next day at eleven o'clock. Never did a more beauitiful day shine on our beloved Island! At an early hour the country had streamed its thousands into town. The militia were under arms, lining the road Her Majesty was to pass."
- "A royal salute from Elizabeth Castle announced that the Queen had left the Victoria and Albert, and was approaching; every eye was fixed on the Fairy, eager to catch a first glimpse of our beloved Sovereign who, for the first time, landed on this most ancient portion of her dominions. Amid the roar of cannon and the cheers of thousands, the sweet voices of two hundred choristers were scarcely heard, who, singing the national anthem, strewed Her Majesty's path with flowers. After resting a few minutes, Her Majesty rose to receive the Addresses presented by the States and Militia of the Island. Passing the "guard of honour", Her Majesty and Royal Consort approached the carriage, which then slowly moved onwards towards town, where demonstrations of equal loyalty were everywhere shewn."
- "After a pleasant drive through the parishes of St Saviour's and St Martin's, the royal cortège arrived under the ivy-covered walls of Mont Orguiel castle: the keys of this ancient fortress were then presented to Her Majesty, who, returning them, ordered the gates to be opened, and the royal party drove into the courtyard of the old building."
- "Her Majesty, attended by her suite and some of the Island authorities, ascended to the platform, and much enjoyed the beautiful scene there offered to her view. Her Majesty was particularly struck by the nearness of the French coast. His Royal Highness Prince Albert visited the various apartments contained in the donjon, amongst others, the cell where the celebrated Prynne is said to have been confined."
- "The royal party then left the castle, and proceeded towards town, in passing through which an incident occurred which ought not to be omitted. The militia, who lined the streets Her Majesty had to pass, were at their stations, awaiting her return; but the royal cortège came in by another route."
- " When these loyal soldiers heard the cheering ahead of their lines, they broke their ranks, and rushed pell-mell after the royal carriage to the pier, where Her Majesty and Prince Albert were received with the same honours as at the landing."
- "Embarked aboard the Fairy, Her Majesty left the shores of Jersey amid the regrets of the whole population, whose most heartfelt wish was, that it might not be the last visit of Her Majesty and Royal Consort to their beautiful Island.
- "Early next morning the Royal Squadron weighed anchor and returned to England."
- The Ouless book of etchings of the visit
- The Le Capelain etchings of the visit
- Le Capelain pictures of Jersey scenes
- Flowers for the Queen