Updated from original 2014 post...
177 years ago, Gosport and Royal Clarence Yard became global news with the arrival of King Louis Philippe of France aboard his paddle-frigate, the Gomer. Greeted by Prince Albert and the Duke of Wellington, the King travelled in the Royal train to Windsor where he spent several days with his great-niece, Queen Victoria.
There is an interesting exchange of letters between Queen Victoria and Louis Philippe’s daughter, Louise, Queen of the Belgians (Louis Philippe's daughter) in which the two Queens exchange ideas and suggestions for ensuring that the elderly King would be happy and comfortable during his visit to England.
Colin Baxter's latest painting, available from Colin at the Driftwood Studio in North Meadow, captures all the glory and spectacle of the Royal visit to Gosport in 1844.
Several artists of the time were inspired to create paintings of this momentous occasion and there are a number of engravings illustrating the French King's arrival and journey.
Perhaps the most famous work was by William Turner, but for many years his two paintings were incorrectly thought to be of Venice. It was only in 2003 that they were identified as being portrayals of the Royal visit to Gosport. The paintings and sketches are now in the Tate.
The King's arrival at Royal Clarence Yard had been a great success. His departure at the end of the week was quite another story. He was accompanied on his return journey by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, who were on their way to stay at Osborne House on the Isle of Wight. Thousands of people lined the route and the railway crossings as the Royal train sped towards Gosport. The plan had been that Queen Victoria and Prince Albert would board the Gomer before boarding their own yacht, the Albert and Victoria, to travel to the Isle of Wight. In the event, due to extremely poor weather in the Solent and the Channel, the disembarkation was postponed and eventually cancelled.
While their Majesties were waiting for their officials to come up with alternative plans, they took refuge in the Storekeeper’s house in Flagstaff Green (now the Superintendent's House), where a buffet had been prepared for the staff involved in the Royal visit. These people were unceremoniously bundled out of the back door as the Royal party arrived at the front and subsequently ate the meal which had been prepared for the staff.
Eventually arrangements were made for King Louis Philippe to return to France via London and Dover. According to the report in The Spectator, that journey was also full of incident including a delay caused by a fire at New Cross station which meant the King had to pick his way over the fire-hoses to get to the red carpet leading to the special train which had been laid on for him. After a long night journey by rail, he arrived at Dover, had breakfast with a hastily assembled group of local dignitaries and then had to walk through the mud and the ‘pelting’ rain to board the awaiting French Post Office steamer, the Nord.
Queen Victoria expressed her gratitude for the hospitality of Mr Grant, the Storekeeper, with a gift of a Tatzer silver vase with a lid, suitably engraved with thanks. This was later sold and is now in a private collection.
(image: King Louis-Philippe. Portrait by Franz Xaver Winterhalter)
The still-visible remains of abandoned private Hampshire railway built for Queen Victoria in Gosport (Hampshire Live 20 March 2021)