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  • Writer's pictureVictoria Regina

Queen Victoria’s Journal - The opening of The New Royal Exchange 28th October 1844

Updated: Jan 21

The opening of The Royal Exchange by HM Queen Victoria © Royal Collection Trust / HM King Charles III 2024

The Royal Exchange was founded as a ‘comely bourse for merchants to assemble upon,’ by wealthy land mercer, Sir Thomas Gresham, whose family crest was the grasshopper. It was opened by Queen Elizabeth I in 1571, but the original building was destroyed by the Fire of London in 1666. A second building, opened in 1669, was again destroyed by fire, this time in 1838. The Royal Exchange building you see today was designed by William Tite and opened by Queen Victoria in 1844.

When Queen Victoria opened The New Royal Exchange on the 28th October 1844, she went in full State to the City.

Queen Victoria and Prince Albert in the state coach © Illustrated London News

The elaborate State Coach was used, a carriage procession preceded The Queen whose coach was attended by a Sovereign's Escort of Cavalry, while footmen in ceremonial livery walked beside the coach. At Temple Bar the Queen was formally greeted by the Lord Mayor of the City who presented the City Sword, which Victoria ceremonially returned. Victoria herself was in full Court dress glittering with jewels. Newspaper reports provide some clues as to what she wore, as did the Queen in her Journal entry for that day

As always readers were assured that the Queen's dress was entirely of English manufacture

The press noted that diamond ornaments adorned the dress but did not provide a description; however, Queen Victoria recorded that her "big Diadem" had been "taken to pieces" and used to trim the dress. On her head, Victoria wore Queen Adelaide's fringe necklace/tiara. The diamond bracelets she wore were most likely her own wide diamond bracelet (now an heirloom of the Crown) plus the one which contained Albert's miniature portrait, which can be seen in most paintings of Queen Victoria.

Mural from inside The Royal Exchange, depicting Queen Victoria and Prince Albert opening the building ceremonially.

Her diamond necklace may have been the one which had to be given to the King of Hanover in 1858; however, because Victoria said her necklace was arranged with her fringe, I suspect that her necklace & earrings were what we call her Turkish necklace & earrings.

As the press report shows, additional sparkle came from the diamond Garter bar brooch and the diamond encrusted Garter worn on her arm.

Queen Victoria's journal 28th October 1844 -

“ There was a good deal of fog, early before breakfast, but it gradually became clearer. — At 11, we set off for the City. I feel I cannot attempt properly to describe the splendour of the whole scene, of the procession, or of the proceedings in the Royal Exchange, so I will confine myself only to remarks, observations, & these are all of the most pleasing kind & most gratifying nature. I wore a dress of white & silver brocade with big Diadem taken to pieces & used to trim the dress, my diamond fringe & necklace being arranged as a Diadem, with the little diamond Crown behind, thus: Albert was in the uniform of Captain of the Artillery Company. Ly Canning & Ld Jersey were in the State Coach with us. The day cleared & there were occasional gleams of sunshine to light up the brilliant cortège. There was an escort of Life Guard, Yeomen of the Guard, walking footmen & grooms surrounded the Coach, drawn by the stately prancing Creams, & there were 6 other carriages.

The troops, Life Guards, Blues, Lancers, were stationed at distances. The thousands & thousands of people, who crowded the streets, windows, & housetops, everywhere, were indeed a very striking light. The loyalty & enthusiasm with which we were received was most gratifying. We can see that we are dearly beloved, & (as the Papers very prettily put it) more so than any other Sovereign, from the fact of our happy domestic life, which I all owe to my beloved Albert. He is so beloved & respected by all the influential people, by the bulk of the Nation, the only ones who are inimical being a few fashionables of doubtful character, who would prefer Albert leading a dissolute, disreputable life to being a devoted & exemplary husband, pure & moral, — in the highest degree. — At the City Boundary, the Ld Mayor brought the Sword of State, with uncommonly good grace to the carriage, & carried it throughout the whole ceremony. His name is Maquay & he is extremely gentlemanlike. We reached the Royal Exchange, a fine & imposing building, at ½ p. 12. The scene here, was very fine, — The acclamations of the people, — the playing of Bands, the ringing of bells, — all, very striking, — & quite moved me. The slow procession rowed the Quadrangle, beautifully decorated in Encaustic) was very stately & impressive. We found Mama & Uncle Cambridge in the room in which the Chair of State was prepared, & here we received the Address. In returning my answer to the Ld Mayor, I said: "It is my intention to raise Yr Lordship to the rank of Baronet, in commemoration of this day." We then proceeded with Mama & Uncle Cambridge (who always leads her immediately behind us) & our Ladies, to 2 private rooms where we waited until the "Dejeuner" was announced, where we moved on to the so called Lloyd's Room. the Ld Mayor preceding us. I sat between Albert & Uncle Cambridge The "Dejeuner" was splendid, & put me in mind of the City Driver in 37, only this time I had my beloved Albert with me, which made everything so much pleasanter The Toast, the Ld Mayor gave out exceedingly clearly & well, — from behind my chair, being prefaced by a flourish of trumpets, & they were most enthusiastically received. Immediately afterwards we went for a few moments to our rooms, & then formed a procession to the Quadrangle, where in the open part in the centre of the tessellated pavement, I read the following Declaration, surrounded by numbers of people: It is "my royal will & pleasure that this building be hereafter called the Royal Exchange." This was followed by a flourish of trumpets, & tremendous applause. It was indeed an eventful ceremony & peculiarly interesting to me, as but 2 years ago Albert had laid the foundation stone. We returned in a Dress Carriage, with a pair of horses & there was no walking procession, as before. We reached Buckingham Palace, amidst the cheers of the assembled multitudes, shortly after 3, & were highly gratified & pleased. At ½ p. 4 was left Buckingham Palace & return to Windsor getting there at ½ p. 5. We found all the Chicks well. — No one extra to dinner, during we talked much of the day's proceedings. Had great fun afterward with some new games, (new to us) which Albert brought back from Germany. —'

© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2012

© Bodleian Libraries © ProQuest

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