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  • Writer's pictureVictoria Regina

Victoria’s first visit to France September 1843 -

The arrival of Queen Victoria at the Château d'Eu c.1843 ©Royal Collection Trust / HM King Charles III 2024

Queen Victoria’s visit to see the King of the French at the Château d’Eu in Normandy on 2 September 1843 made headline news. She was the first British monarch to visit a French monarch since Henry VIII of England visited Francis I of France on the Field of the Cloth of Gold in 1520. Queen Victoria’s visit was also a symbolic gesture of friendship and remarkable because only three years earlier, Great Britain and France had been on the brink of war with each other.

The drums beat to arms, the National Guards turned out, the whole of the officials appeared en grande costume, the King’s carriages, to the number of about a dozen, were prepared and brought into the court-yard of the chateau, and, in short, everything was prepared to do honour to her Majesty of England on her arrival in France; but, after all was got ready, and the troops had been stationed along the road leading to Treport, a rumour went abroad that there had been some mistake, and after a short interval the truth came out that the commandent of artillery at Treport had mistaken a small steamer, which happened to pass, for the cortége of the Queen of England.

Over the course of the next few days, Queen Victoria’s visit included such activities as the Fête Champêtre held at the Mont d’Orleans in the center of the forest d’Eu. There was also a concert, a review of the cavalry, and a visit by the whole royal party to the old church of Eu. The French King had spent considerable sums on beautifying and repairing it because it was the ancient burial site of the family of Guise and of his maternal ancestors, the Counts of Eu.

Although it was enjoyable, the Queen Victoria’s visit was brief and ended when she and her party departed Treport about ten minutes past nine on Thursday morning 7 September. They arrived at Brighton later that same day after being spotted about a quarter past 3pm offshore. A royal salute was fired as the yacht approached and about a half hour later, it was docked off the pier, having accomplished “73 miles of the sea-way in little more than six hours.

Queen Victoria’s fond association with the French royal family was greatly strengthened by the marriages of three of Louis-Philippe’s children to members of the Saxe-Coburg-Gotha line. In 1832 the eldest daughter, Louise, had married Leopold I, King of the Belgians, who was uncle of both Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. Members of Louis-Philippe’s extended family gathered at Eu for the visit of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert.

© 2024 by Chaletcouleursdefrance

Queen Victoria records her very first day in France in her diary -

Saturday 2nd September 1853

''At ½ p. 4 this morning, we awoke, & being at a stand still, we asked where we were, the answer being "8 or 10 miles from Cherbourg, but that it was hazy & they did not know where we were". We were horrified, as we had expected to be at Cherbourg at 3! — Tried to go asleep again, but could not, & therefore got up at ½ p. 5. A lovely morning & the sea as smooth as a glass. We began to dress, but were not half ready when we heard a Salute & saw the "Plûton" near us. A few minutes more, & we heard Joinville was on board. Albert dressed in a great hurry & went on deck. He soon returned, saying, that Joinville would stay with us on board & advised our not going in to Cherbourg but proceeding at once to Eu. the Pilot was on board the "Prometheus" & we sent for him. At ½ p. 6, I went on deck, where I found Joinville, in uniform, who was all kindness & civility.

We set off (the day being again heavenly) & proceeded along the French coast, which is extremely pretty. Passed the Forts of Querkeville & Cherbourg, & by la Digne all, saluting. We breakfasted into Joinville at 7 & he was charmed with our dear Yacht & her delightful cabins. We lost sight of land, for some hours, but after that, at a great distance, he told us that Fécamp was situated. Remained on deck till ½ p. 12, & then went below & wrote &c. Joinville joined us later. He is such an amiable, agreeable companion, but his great deafness is a serious drawback to general conversation. We lunched with him & at 3 we 1rst descried "la terre". It seemed a complete dream that we were to be in France so soon! We went on very fast, & the sea was still as a lake, really wonderful. At 4, we saw Ste Valéry en Caiuex, & ½ 4 Dieppe, which has a very pretty old Castle. Joinville kept explaining as we went along, where we were, & looking through a telescope. I got more & more agitated as we approached Tréport, situated in a small creek, with Downs rising behind it, a very picturesque old Church, — very unlike anything English. All the ships saluted. At length Joinville descried the King's Barge approaching, & it soon came close containing the King, Aumale Montpensiér, Augustus Coburg, M. Guizot, Ld Cowley, & various Ministers & Officers. The good kind King was standing up in the boat, & so impatient to get out, that it was very difficult to prevent his getting out of the boat before it was close enough. Then he came up as quickly as possible & warmly embraced one. It was a fine & really affecting sight, & gave me a feeling I shall never forget. We then got into the Barge with the King, Joinville Aumale, Montpensier, Augustus's l'Amiral Mackan (Minr of Marine), our people, & the others, going in other boats. The King again & again expressed how delighted he was to see me. The King's Barge is a very fine one, with many oars, & the men were dressed in white, with red sashes, red ribbons round their hats. The landing was a beautiful sight, which the extreme beauty of the evening, with the setting sun, — enhanced. Crowds of people (all, so different to our's) numbers of Troops, the whole Court & all the Authorities were assembled on the shore. The King led me up a somewhat steep staircase to the Pier, where the dear Queen (in deep mourning) received me with the kindest welcome. She was accompanied by dearest, Louise, Hélène by Clem, Françoise & MmeAdélaide. All the cheering of the people & of the Troops, crying "Vine la Reine", — "Viva la Roi", was quite moving our welcome was certainly most cordial. The Queen conducted me to a tent, where were presented the "Dames de la Cour", the Marquise de Ronce (now in attendance on Françoise, or Chica, as Joinville calls her). Mmede Chabot (with the Queen), the Csse de Montesquiou (with Hélène) Mme de Rumigrey (with Mme Adélaide) & Mme Angelet. Lastly, the the Authorities, including the Curé, were presented. We then got into a curious old carriage, a sort of Char a' Bancs, with a top to it, in which we sat with the King & Queen, & all the ladies of the family. There were 8 horses, harnessed "à la Françoise" (something like the way our state horses are harnessed) 2 outriders mounted on handsome horses, quite "dans la vieux style", & the Princess & several officers rode near the carriage. The country reminds one of Brighton, but the houses & the population are so different. The women wear white caps. At Tréport "hommes at femmes" are fishing folks & are famous for their fishing. Squadrons of "Carabiniers", a fine Regt in blue, with gilt enirasses & helmets, were stationed at distances. We met with what might have been an accident. As we were trying to go through a gate, only ½ of the horses would obey, the others refusing to do so, & the carriage was all one side, the King, in despair saying "cela me désole". After some trials, we finally went on straight & came in at another Gate. The Château lit up, with a fine garden, in front, had a charming effect. We entered a large very handsome courtyard, which was lined with soldiers.

The King led me upstairs into a fine Gallery called la Gallerie des Guises, full of old pictures. I went with the King on to the "Perrou" to receive the General Salute, & then he & the whole family took us to our "appartements", which are very convenient, consisting of 4 rooms a small salon, with our bed room & Albert's & my dressing rooms, on either side. The Queen, &c kindly stayed with us a little while, & Paris Philippe & lovely little Gaston appeared. — After 8, we dined, the whole family party & Court, which amounted to the number of 80. The King led me in, & I sat between him & Joinville. The "Service", was very splendid, but everything differently served to with us. The King & Queen carve themselves. Joinville was very funny about all the people who were there & about the great large dinner which he said was "un petit diner de famille". His wife Chica, is very dear, & sprightly; she has a beautiful figure & fine large brown eyes. After dinner we went through the Gallery & up to the rooms upstairs, where we sat round a table, only the Family & the Ladies being there. The Queen is quite delightful & so like dearest Louise. She has a very good still young figure, but her hair is quite grey. The King repeated over & over again to me, how happy he was at my visit, & how attached he had been to my Father & to England, which latter he still continued to be. — We entered at ½ p. 10. —'

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