24th August 1846
Queen Victoria visited Guernsey
Queen Victoria’s visit to Guernsey, the first by a reigning monarch in six centuries, was a far from organised affair. Her yacht and its accompanying steamers had been spotted off St Martin’s Point the night before, seemingly by chance. The Lieutenant Governor was dispatched to meet them by boat.
The piers around St Peter Port quickly filled up with people trying to catch a glimpse of what was going on. Several set out in boats of their own, toward the royal boat, which was somewhat predictably called the Victoria and Albert. When the Lieutenant Governor re-emerged, he announced that the queen intended to visit Guernsey at nine o’clock the following morning. She would tour for two hours before returning to her vessel.
Preparations for a royal visit
Officials were sent out to notify the island that the queen would be coming ashore. A special meeting of the Royal Court was set for 7.30am on the 24th. This gave the magistrates an opportunity to write an official welcome for the monarch.
As the Guernsey Star reported, “Every man, woman, and child who was able to move was afoot before daybreak – many of them much earlier. Some were occupied in collecting and arranging flowers and branches for garlands and festoons, others in preparing flags &c, and others getting ready to perform their military duty, or to secure places for witnessing the scene, in which all took so lively and heartfelt an interest”.
The boats in the harbour were moved out of the way and the streets that the queen would use were covered in sand to quieten the noise of the traffic. The causeway by which she would land was carpeted.
Despite so much effort, Victoria’s tour was far from comprehensive. She looked at Fort George and St Martin’s church but was back at the harbour by 10.20, to be rowed back to her yacht by barge. By 11am, the royal party had left for Portsmouth.
Nonetheless, the event had been so remarkable that plans were put in place to commemorate it. A stone was laid where she had stepped ashore and work began on Victoria Tower, which now overlooks Town.