In Queen Victoria's words Arundel Castle was ‘small but very cheerful’. On the first evening, the couple attended a fireworks display and the following day they explored the castle gardens and the surrounding countryside. They ventured ‘up a very steep path, which was a complete scramble. In parts, I, and the Duke, nearly fell down but picked ourselves up and went on the deer park’. The same evening, entertainment was organised in the castle’s library, which included performances by ‘the Ethiopian singers’, a Victorian equivalent of the Black and White Minstrels. Queen Victoria described in her diary how ‘they sang a number of their songs […] ‘The comic ones, though laughable, I thought rather tiresome’.
Her diary entries for the following day include a description of their visit to Petworth House. ‘We found it intensely cold, but the scenery was beautiful. Such expanses of country and so hilly’. In her view, the castle was ‘fine and large, with a handsome suite of rooms full of beautiful pictures’. The couple returned to Arundel the same afternoon and in the evening further entertainment was organised with music and dancing. ‘Afterwards, a conjuror performed tricks, and we danced a little, concluding with a very merry country dance which I danced with the Duke’. They left the following morning, ‘having enjoyed our stay very much’.
Penny Horsfield described how the pages from the journal brought Queen Victoria to life and revealed a different facet of her character:
‘We’re used to seeing Victoria portrayed as a widowed dragon, but when I read
these diary extracts it brought home that she was a young woman, with her own
tastes and views’.
With the release of the film The Young Victoria on Friday, the discovery of the diary extracts is particularly timely. Key scenes of the film were notably filmed at Arundel Castle, which was used as a stand-in for Windsor.
One of the feature articles in our April issue is also devoted to ‘The Hastings Affair’, the scandal that struck the faction-riddled court of the young Queen Victoria. The April issue will go on sale and be available on our website on March 19th, in just a couple of weeks!
For a preliminary insight into the life of Queen Victoria and some of the tensions between her public and private selves, read our article Victoria.
Right: The bed special created for Queen Victoria's visit to Arundel Castle in 1846.