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  • Writer's pictureVictoria Regina

Queen Victoria’s Journal - The laying of The V&A’s foundation stone, 17th May 1899

On the 17th May 1899, Queen Victoria travelled in an open landu from Buckingham Palace to South Kensington to lay the foundation stone of the new Victoria and Albert museum buildings.

The grand ceremony included the laying of the foundation stone and the placement of a casket shaped time capsule, which contained; a copy of the Duke of Devonshire’s address to Queen Victoria; on which he spoke about the history of the museum; and also a set of coins supplied by the Royal Mint.

The Queen laying the foundation stone of the Victoria and Albert Museum, 17 May 1899 Royal Collection Trust / © HM King Charles III

Although visitors today can see the foundation stone next to the main entrance, it is not in the original place where Queen Victoria laid it. This is because the laying of the buildings foundation did not begin until the following year. It is likely that the date chosen to lay the foundation stone in 1899 was to coincide with the Queens 80th birthday.

To coincide with the laying of the foundation stone of the new buildings it was decided to change the museum’s name from ‘The South Kensington Museum’. Initially Queen Victoria wanted the museum to be called ‘The Albert Museum’ but was persuaded to add her own name. This would be the last offical public state ceremony Queen Victoria attended.

Queen Victoria's Journal:

"Very stormy morning after a good deal of rain in the night, but became bright later. — Whilst at breakfast Lenchen told me that poor Ld Strafford had met with a terrible accident the on railway & that he had been killed. He was standing on the platform, when the express train passed, fell forward & the end was instantaneous. I was greatly shocked & grieved. He had been so long with me, as he originally entered my service 60 years ago as Page. He resigned when he became 16 & in later years entered my service, first as Groom & then as Equerry. He was so devoted to me & never happier than when he was in waiting. — Went into the garden with Bertha Lambart. — Lenchen, Beatrice & the others of the family went to Fritz Ponsonby's wedding in the Guard's Chapel. — Saw Affie before luncheon, whom I found calm & sensible. He is getting less opposed to the idea of Charlie & is anxious Arthur should go & see William. — After luncheon saw good old Mrs Taylor, how has known all my children their childhood. — At ½ p. 4 started in the open landau at 4, the postillions in Ascot Livery, with Lenchen, Beatrice & Arthur, the rest of the family following, as well as the suite. I had a Sovereign's Escort. Went up Constitution Hill, down Knightsbridge & Brompton Road to South Kensington, to the site of the new Victoria & Albert Museum. Immense & enthusiastic crowds everywhere, reminding me of the Jubilee. On arriving I entered a Pavilion, which was very handsome & full of people. Bertie & the rest of the family were on the Dais as well as Ministers, Ambassadors & many Notables. Two verses of "God save the Queen" were sung, as also an Ode, words by the Poet Laureate, & music by McKenzie. Before the latter, the Duke of Devonshire, as Ld President, read an address. I handed my answer & said "It gives me great pleasure to lay the foundation stone of this fine Museum which is to bear the name of my dear Husband & myself". I then laid the stone, Bertie helping me to spread the Mortar &c, & struck the stone 3 times with mallet, after which Bertie in loud voice said he was commanded by me to declare the stone well & truly laid. A bouquet was presented by one of the students of the Royal College of Music. The ceremony concluded with the Archbishop of Canterbury offering up a prayer & giving the blessing. I drove off amidst a flourish of trumpets, "God save the Queen" & loud cheers. Went straight to Paddington station where there were also immense crowds. Got back to Windsor shortly before 6. — Only the Ladies to dinner."

© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2012

© Bodleian Libraries © ProQuest

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