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  • Writer's pictureVictoria Regina

Queen Victoria's Journal - The laying of The Royal Victoria Military Hospital foundation stone, 19th May 1856

Updated: May 22

On 19 May 1856, Queen Victoria laid the foundation stone of The Royal Victoria (Military) Hospital before an enormous crowd of 11,000 people.

During the Crimean War it became evident that the layout and facilities of existing military hospitals in Britain were inadequate. The Royal Victoria Hospital was built at Netley near Southampton to counter this. The hospital eventually opened for patients on 11 March 1863. It was a quarter of a mile (435 m) long, had 138 wards and approximately 1,000 beds, it was classed as Britain's largest military hospital. Costing £350,000 to build, unfortunately the design had its flaws and was even criticised by Florence Nightingale.

The 2 tonne Welsh granite foundation stone was laid above a copper casket containing the plans of the hospital, an early prototype of The Victoria Cross, a silver Crimea medal with all four campaign bars, and coins of the realm.

The stone bore the inscription: 'This stone was laid on the 19th day of May in the year of our Lord, 1856, by Her Most Gracious Majesty Victoria, Queen of Great Britain and Ireland as the foundation stone of the Victoria Military Hospital intended for the reception of the sick and wounded soldiers of her Army’

Queen Victoria laying the Foundation Stone of the Royal Military Hospital at Netley, 19 May 1856 by William Simpson Royal Collection Trust / © HM King Charles III

Queen Victoria's Journal:

"'Still very windy, though an improvement on yesterday. - Started at 10, embarking at Trinity Pier, with Vicky, the 2 Boys, & our Ladies & Gentlemen (the latter & Albert in uniform). Steamed across to Southampton Water. The sea was rough, & I went below, where one did not feel the motion much, but it was still rough even in Southampton Water 10 Gun Boats & the "Arrogant" met us, escorting us up to the spot, where we landed, from the barge, on the beach, the waves washing over the jetty, which had been prepared. Lord Panmure, Ld Winchester (Ld Lieut: of Hampshire) the Admiral, General & the authorities, & C-received us. An Address from the Mayor & Corporation of Southampton was read by line, to which I read my answer, & we then walked a short way up to where the ceremony was to take place, preceded by the authorities &c-, troops lining the way. Though windy, it was fine, & the scene a very pretty one. I irst looked at the plans, put the coins, Crimean medal & Victoria Cross, into the box, as well as the Document, which we signed, then laid the stone, which was lowered & proved, upon which Ld Panmure declared that the Hospital was to be called the "Royal Victoria Military Hospital. A Salute was fired, & the Bands played, then the Bishop of Winchester offered up Prayers & the singing of the 100th Psalm by Choristers, concluded the whole, after which we went into a large tent, specially prepared for us, where we conversed with the different Gentlemen there, going afterwards to see the soldiers at their dinner. We left, in the same way as we came, embarking from the beach, & got home atter a roughish crossing at ¼ p. 1. - In the afternoon, we walked & drove. It was very fine & bright, & the wind had gone down a great deal. The nightingales sing charmingly in the woods, - Poor Ld Adolphus Fitzclarence, of whose paralytic seizure we heard on the 17th, died yesterday evening. We are truly sorry, as he was very good natured & kind hearted, but he positively killed himself by living too well. He was only 54, though he looked quite 10 or 12 years older. - Vicky & Gen: Breton, (who sat next to me), were the additions to our dinner party. Gen: Breton has served so much abroad, that out of the 40 years he has been in the Army, he only has spent 7 in England!'

© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2012

© Bodleian Libraries © ProQuest

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