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  • Writer's pictureVictoria Regina

The laying of the V&A’s foundation stone

On this day, 17th May 1899, Queen Victoria travelled in a semi-state pandas from Buckingham Palace to South Kensington to lay the foundation stone of the new Victoria and Albert museum.

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

Although visitors today can see the foundation stone next to the main entrance, it isn’t in the place Queen Victoria laid it. This is because the laying of the foundation didn’t begin until the following year. It’s likely that they chose to lay it in 1899 to coincide with the Queens 80th birthday.

Queen Victoria described the event in her journal:

"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. Ihanded 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.”

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