- Wrote diary from 1832 until her death in 1901
- Entry from January 1843: ‘Wrote in my journal, which I am vain enough to think may perhaps some day be reduced to interesting memoirs’
- Journals illustrated with sketches and paintings, also online, by Victoria herself
- Launch timed to coincide with the 193rd anniversary of Victoria’s birth
- Six-month project carried out to mark Diamond Jubilee
- Queen Elizabeth ‘has no plans to publish her own diaries’
By Nick Enoch
PUBLISHED: 18:01 EST, 24 May 2012 | UPDATED: 19:18 EST, 24 May 2012
‘This book, Mamma gave me, that I might write the journal of my journey to Wales in it.’
So began the first volume of a journal written in 1832 by Princess Victoria of Kent, aged 13.
It was a diary that the young royal – later to become Queen and ruler of the British Empire – would continue to add to until her death in 1901.
And now, her great-great-granddaughter Queen Elizabeth has launched a website documenting Victoria’s life in her own words.
The monarch was handed a remote control in Buckingham Palace’s throne room yesterday, which she pointed at a screen to officially launch the website, www.queenvictoriasjournals.org – but revealed she had no plans to publish her own diaries.
The site contains 40,000 pages of the surviving volumes of Victoria’s journals, along with sketches and paintings she drew to illustrate them.
The newly launched website www.queenvictoriasjournals.org contains scanned pages – some in Victoria’s own hand – from the monarch’s diaries
Princess Victoria’s first diary entry outlined a trip to Wales in 1832 when she was 13; right, an entry from August 12 that same year
The Queen views some of the private journals of her great-great-grandmother, accompanied by curator of the Royal Collection, Lady Jane Roberts, during a reception to launch the Queen Victoria Journals Online project at Buckingham Palace yesterday
The first entry relating to Wales concerned a trip that was planned partly as a holiday, and partly as an opportunity to introduce the young princess to the nation to whose throne she was heiress. She wrote the passage as they travelled through Snowdonia.
Her mother, the Duchess of Kent, and her Governess, Baroness Lehzen, wanted her to keep the diary to aid her education – that she might write well and observe what she saw.
The Royal Archives, Bodleian Libraries at Oxford University and online publisher ProQuest scanned the pages – some in Victoria’s own hand and some edited and then transcribed by her daughter Beatrice after her death – for the six-month project, carried out to mark the Diamond Jubilee.
When asked by Bodleian librarian Sarah Thomas if she herself wrote a diary, the Queen, wearing a summery floral printed dress, replied to laughter from those gathered to mark the launch: ‘Mine’s not being published’.
Dr Thomas said afterwards that she ‘couldn’t resist’ asking the Queen about her own journals, having been a part of the project.
She added that it was ‘an amazing honour’ to work on the journals.
She said: ‘We have been motivated by the intrinsic value of these collections and the idea of sharing them.
The site contains 40,000 pages of the surviving volumes of Victoria’s journals, along with sketches and paintings she drew to illustrate them. Above, an entry from September 12, 1883; right, the front cover of volume 1 of Victoria’s drafts
Last Scene Of The Charade At Chatsworth. This watercolour, one of many used to illustrate her journals, was painted by Princess Victoria on October 30, 1832
Louis & Alice In The Railway Carriage. A pencil sketch of Princess Alice and her future husband, Prince Louis of Hesse, by Queen Victoria, drawn on December 12, 1860; right, Shrewsbury, a watercolour by the young royal, after Richard Westall
‘It amplifies the excitement we have in having Her Majesty herself come here, because it shows she has a real interest. She was obviously engaged.
‘This is a part of history. It is such an exciting moment, when you can unlock history and make it publicly available.
‘The eyes of the world are focused on the Queen and the Diamond Jubilee – and this is the other Diamond Jubilee.’
In her diary, Victoria wrote of the scenes that greeted her during a parade to mark her own 60-year reign: ‘Passed through dense crowds, who gave me a most enthusiastic reception. It was like a triumphal entry.
‘We passed down Cambridge Terrace, under a lovely arch bearing the motto, “Our hearts thy Throne”.
‘The streets were beautifully decorated, also the balconies of the houses with flowers, flags, and draperies of every hue… The streets, the windows, the roofs of the houses, were one mass of beaming faces, and the cheers never ceased.’
Writing on the website, launched alongside a Twitter account providing extracts from the journals, the Queen said: ‘In this the year of my Diamond Jubilee, I am delighted to be able to present, for the first time, the complete online collection of Queen Victoria’s journals from the Royal Archives.
From The Drawing Room Window, Muckross, a watercolour done in August 29, 1861; right, Landscape, watercolour practice sheet, painted c.1846
T. Coutts & C. Campbell Watching The Deer. A pencil drawing of two ghillies lying in the undergrowth, by Queen Victoria on October 1, 1851
‘These diaries cover the period from Queen Victoria’s childhood days to her accession to the throne, marriage to Prince Albert, and later, her Golden and Diamond Jubilees.
‘Thirteen volumes in Victoria’s own hand survive, and the majority of the remaining volumes were transcribed after Queen Victoria’s death by her youngest daughter, Princess Beatrice, on her mother’s instructions.
‘Wrote in my journal, which I am vain enough to think may perhaps some day be reduced to interesting memoirs’
‘It seems fitting that the subject of the first major public release of material from the Royal Archives is Queen Victoria, who was the first Monarch to celebrate a Diamond Jubilee.’
The Queen took a particular interest in a drawing of Victoria’s wedding head dress when shown the original pages from the diaries today.
The launch was timed to coincide with the 193rd anniversary of Victoria’s birth today.
She would perhaps have been interested in how the documents are now available on the internet – as she wrote, again on the occasion of her Diamond Jubilee, of sending a message electronically.
She wrote: ‘I touched an electric button, by which I started a message which was telegraphed throughout the whole Empire.
‘I really cannot say how proud I feel to be the Queen of such a nation,’ she wrote in her journal. Left, the Queen at Buckingham Palace in the year of her Diamond Jubilee; right, the monarch in her carriage leads a procession driving through London during her Diamond Jubilee celebrations in June 1897
‘It was the following: “From my heart I thank my beloved people, may God bless them.” At this time the sun burst out…’
She had certainly envisaged them being read by others, writing on January 24 1843: ‘Wrote in my journal, which I am vain enough to think may perhaps some day be reduced to interesting memoirs.’
She also writes at length of her love for Prince Albert, describing her wedding day on February 10 1840: ‘Albert repeated everything very distinctly. I felt so happy when the ring was put on, and by my precious Albert.’ Above, the pair in May 1854
Over the years, Victoria became a keen diarist, extensively documenting details of both public and private life.
She underlined important words or phrases two or even three times, and liberally used exclamation marks.
Her daughter, Princess Beatrice, spent 40 years transcribing the journals covering the period 1837 to 1901 – a total of 111 volumes.
Victoria instructed her to modify the text, taking out parts that could offend other members of the family and other sections not suitable for publication.
The originals were destroyed, in accordance with Victoria’s wishes.
Other key events detailed in the diary include Victoria’s coronation, her entry for that day reading that she was woken by guns in a nearby park at 4am and then could not sleep because of the noise of the crowds gathered outside.
She wrote: ‘There were millions of my loyal subjects assembled in every spot to witness the procession. Their good humour and excessive loyalty was beyond everything.
‘I really cannot say how proud I feel to be the Queen of such a nation.’
She also writes at length of her love for Prince Albert, describing her wedding day on February 10 1840: ‘Albert repeated everything very distinctly. I felt so happy when the ring was put on, and by my precious Albert.’
Two days later, she wrote: ‘Oh! was ever woman so blessed as I am.’
‘All these recollections were pouring in on my mind in an overpowering manner. Felt as if living in a dreadful dream.’
Pam Clark, senior archivist at the Royal Archive, said she had learned a lot about Victoria while working on the project.
‘She’s a natural writer, and a natural painter,” she said.
‘She had a way with words and a way with her pen. It’s very exciting to see all this coming together.’
The Twitter account @QueenVictoriaRI will be active during the Jubilee period.
The online release of the diaries, which have been transcribed up to the year 1840, mark the start of a year-long programme to digitise work from the Royal Archive.