A Royal Day Out – Queen Victoria in Gorey

September 2, 1846

Queen Victoria is coming and the Island is on fire. It is a hot night for fireworks, and some fool at Noirmont has set the entire hillside ablaze. The flames rage uncontrolled for hours, burning bright like a wild beacon from Norman days. The sleek Royal Yacht, the Victoria and Albert, is safely anchored far below in the darkness, nestled deep in the black embracing reach of St Aubin’s Bay. The immaculately liveried crew note the fire raging onshore and silently resume their duties. Suddenly the sky above is drenched in light again, as welcoming rockets explode like meteors over the bay. It is eleven o’clock and the royal couple stay out on deck, feasting their eyes on the extravaganza.

Philip John Ouless (1817-1885) artwork. Image source: (c) That Was Jersey, courtesy of Jersey Library and Jersey Archive at www.jeron.je

The hot September morning finally breaks. Twenty-seven year old Victoria awakes to sunlight sparkling over the deep ultramarine waters of St. Aubin’s Bay. The young Queen is astounded by the view; it is as beautiful as the Bay of Naples, she remarks to her husband. Albert, no stranger to the charms of the Neapolitan Riviera, dutifully agrees.

The energy and feverish optimism in the Island is contagious. Delirious crowds surge forward at the harbour, ready to throw flowers before their Sovereign. Parish Constables are fervently adding the finishing touches to magnificent floral arches. Destiny is calling little Jersey, if only for a day. The British Empire is ascending to greatness and the Queen commands the Workshop of the World, where a new era of Progress and Peace is self-evidently dawning. She is Defender of the Faith and Mother of the Nation. And best of all, she is our beloved Duc de Normandie, coming home to her oldest realm and surely its most beautiful Parish.

The Royal carriage is on its way to St Martin now, charging at a gallop through Five Oaks and making good time on the country roads. “It is extremely pretty and very green – orchards without end”, the Sovereign will note in her private diary later that evening.

Queen Victoria at last crosses into our tiny, loyal parish of St Martin-le-Vieux. The Royal carriage speeds downhill through Faldouet, shielded from the hot sun by the natural arch of trees over the road. And as the carriage clatters to a halt in front of Mont Orgueil, cheers erupt like fireworks. The parishioners of St Martin erupt in loud and loyal acclamation: “God Save Victoria!”

The arrival of Her Majesty at Mont Orguiel

Philip John Ouless (1817-1885) artwork. Image source: (c) That Was Jersey, courtesy of Jersey Library and Jersey Archive at www.jeron.je

Text from A Royal Day Out: Young Victoria in Gorey (published in Les Nouvelles de St Martin, May 2014)