Rosemary Shrager and Tim Wonnacott look back at what they've found out about Queen Victoria, choosing some of their favourite stories that helped them get to know her.
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The past few weeks we've been scooting all around the countryside
following in the footsteps of Queen Victoria,
as she visited some of Britain's most spectacular houses and castles.
And we have been discovering the most amazing preparations for each royal visit.
I'm so excited about this pie.
And at each stop-off, we've delved into Victoria's diaries.
"The bedroom was very small, and dreadfully cold and drafty."
The result has been a revealing picture of our longest-reigning monarch.
Today we're going to look back
and recollect what we've found out about Victoria,
and see how she changed over the years.
We've travelled with Victoria
during every stage of her extraordinary life,
from childhood to teenage Queen,
becoming wife to Albert and mother to nine children,
and finally, in her years as a widow.
Today we'll be looking back at her life through the visits she made,
choosing some of our favourite stories that helped us get to know that thoroughly modern monarch.
We started at Chatsworth House,
where we met a 13-year-old princess
who was being paraded around the country to introduce her to her future subjects.
I loved the story of how tiredness got in the way of her first grown-up dinner.
She stayed here for four days in October 1832.
The host was the 6th Duke of Devonshire,
one of the richest men in the land, and desperate to wow the Princess.
She and her mother had arrived late,
and Victoria probably wanted to chill out.
But no such luck. The Duke had laid on a dinner party starting at seven o'clock.
He even had a dress rehearsal the night before
because this particular dinner was so important.
This wonderful dining room was the setting
for Princess Victoria's first grown-up dinner party.
But Victoria, in her journal, writes,
"I dined by myself in my room with Lehzen."
That's Baroness Lehzen, her governess.
So Victoria didn't turn up.
Her first big moment was probably scuppered by tiredness.
Well, we all know how much teenagers like their sleep.
But the Duke must have been a bit cheesed off.
All that effort he'd put in.
But it just showed us
how these long journeys and visits
wore out the little Princess.
But despite her complaints,
her mother, a rather power-hungry old girl,
who couldn't wait for her daughter to inherit the crown,
kept the Victoria show on the road.
When we got to Holkham Hall, three years later in 1835,
she was sweet sixteen.
And we heard a great story
of how her mother's PR offensive seemed to be working,
if the reception she got from the locals was anything to go by.
When she got to King's Lynn,
a group of very enthusiastic agricultural labourers
decided to detach the horses from her carriage,
and then pull her all around the town for a couple of hours,
as an expression of their extreme loyalty.
And I loved hearing about how Victoria's arrival
had consequences below stairs at Holkham Hall
when a baby made an unexpected appearance, as archivist Mary-Anne Garry explained.
So tell me about this extraordinary story that I've heard whispers about.
Well, the story goes
that the children's nurse, whose name was Jane Salmon,
had secretly married the head gardener Hugh Girvan.
And was pregnant.
And the excitement brought on by the arrival of the royal party
meant that she went into a premature labour
and gave birth to the baby the day Princess Victoria arrived.
Because the wedding was a secret,
most of the household thought she was a single mum
and the child was illegitimate,
which would have been a huge scandal during the royal visit.
But, in fact, she was married and all was well.
Princess Victoria, who was only 16 at the time,
was also very intrigued by this and demanded to see the baby.
And out of respect for the Queen,
the baby was a girl, luckily,
and was duly christened Victoria Jane.
What a lovely, lovely story!
It's been funny to learn that almost wherever Victoria went, babies were named after her.
Luckily for the boys, they were usually called Victor.
Well, it's wonderful for us that the young Princess kept a diary,
and she comes across as very different from today's teenagers,
royal or otherwise.
Just two years after her visit to Holkham, Victoria became Queen.
She was only 18 years old,
but the first new year's resolution after her coronation
recorded in her diary
shows she was becoming a serious-minded young woman.
"Almighty God, preserve me safely through this year,
and make me daily more fit for my station."
Then just three years after Victoria had become Queen,
wedding bells were in the air.
The pace of our journey suddenly hots up. Victoria marries Albert.
And we find ourselves traipsing all over the countryside
following the newlyweds, literally from bed to bed.
Every host wanted to make sure she had a comfortable night's sleep,
and provided her with the most divine divans that money could buy.
Almost every house we visited seemed to have purchased a bed from Royal Beds R Us.
After all, they didn't want her complaining like the princess and the pea.
When we visited Walmer Castle in Kent,
it was lovely to hear how new hubby Albert brought out another side of Victoria,
the romantic Queen.
They stayed at the castle for a month in 1842,
when she was 23 years old,
and the two lovebirds liked nothing more than to be in each other's company far from the madding crowds.
As Tim discovered in a revealing extract from her diary.
Victoria wrote in her diary,
"At half past nine we sallied forth
and walked at least a mile along the beach,
where there is not a house."
"So different to Brighton."
"This is so private."
One morning the royal lovebirds slipped out of the castle with their favourite dogs
and set off for Kingsdown.
And according to the Illustrated London News,
on her return, "she was the very picture of blooming health."
And at Walmer, I did the sums and made a rather exciting discovery.
Victoria was, in fact, about 12 weeks pregnant when she was there.
When we visited Belvoir Castle in Rutland,
the focus was not on Victoria for once,
but Albert, who was not popular with the people.
While Victoria clearly loved Albert to pieces,
her subjects weren't quite so enamoured with him.
On their visit to Belvoir in 1843,
Albert had to prove himself to the public and grooming classes
by taking part in the Hunt.
Michael Clayton, an expert on the Belvoir Hunt, told me more.
-Ah, Michael, very nice to see you.
Most appropriately, we've discovered your gorgeous girly hounds.
Hello, girls, how are you? Look at that chatter.
-They are magnificent.
-One of the great packs of England.
So your normal field would be how many mounted?
Well, in those days they would have had up to 200 on a good day with the Belvoir,
although many days they'd have less.
But when Albert came?
-Well, they had 800 people came.
-Yes, people came from all over Leicestershire.
Did they come to watch Albert fall off?
That's always at the back of hunting people's mind when visitors come to their country.
They say afterwards, "Well, he may be good but he couldn't ride our country."
Imagine the adrenalin coursing through Albert's veins
as the Master of the Hunt sounded the horn,
and so with the weight of expectation on his shoulders,
just how well did Albert do?
Albert passed with flying colours. His aides fell off, which probably pleased local sentiment.
Both of them, he recorded later, "fell to the right and left of me".
But Albert did jolly well. He could do it.
Victoria was proud of Albert,
but like any loyal wife, she was also a bit put out at the stir it caused.
She never doubted his prowess.
Writing to King Leopold of Belgium,
she said, "It rather disgusts one."
"But still, it does good, for it put an end to the impertinent sneering about Albert's riding."
In every one of Victoria's visits,
the food played a very important part.
Every host wanted to show off to the Queen.
The chefs and the cooks were incredibly skilled,
more than they're given credit for today.
And talking of day, our very own Ivan Day the food historian
has enabled us to unlock some of those cooks' secrets.
-And then it's a very swift and careful movement.
And here is our perfect shortbread.
One Victorian kitchen gadget that I just loved,
used in almost every kitchen we've cooked in,
was the mould.
And boy, did they use them!
From risque jellies...
Just put it down!
..to tipsy cakes.
And from OTT ice creams to amazing pies.
Originally they used cardboard to do this,
and the fashion was to have a pie that looked a bit like a corset.
You see, it's waisted just like a Victorian corset.
And amazingly, originally,
this cardboard corset you made to put round your pie
even had laces on the back to pull tight so you got that shape.
But by the 1820s they were making these things.
-They're beautiful, aren't they?
-Yes, some of them are extraordinary.
The moulds also allowed the food to be so elaborate,
another classic feature of Victorian cookery.
I also learned how Victoria's cooks had to be extremely skilled.
Even the most traditional methods of cookery were surprisingly, very technical,
as I discovered on a visit to Penrhyn Castle,
where Victoria and Albert stayed in 1859.
Ivan explained how the wonderful spit-turning mechanisms in Penrhyn
were effective only if you really knew what you were doing.
Most people, when they think of spit cookery, think of campfire cookery.
But this is all a different level,
it's really sophisticated, very flexible cookery.
Timing is absolutely important so you don't overdo it.
But also, I see it almost, how you're describing it,
as actually very like a barbecue.
This is a high-end barbecue.
This is a high-end barbecue, but that's it.
The spit or rotisserie was powered by a smoke jack rotated by heated air rising in the chimney.
It was a skilled job to make sure the joint was cooked at the correct distance from the fire
and for the right amount of time,
while continually basting the meat in its own fat.
A lot of visitors to these old kitchens,
they see these extraordinary, large spits,
and think they must have roasted a whole pig or an ox on it.
But that's not the case.
A Victorian meal had lots of roast meats at different intervals.
So what that's for is for cooking lots of different types of meat,
rather than one great big, massive ox.
It was a recipe of a different sort
that I got excited about at Scone Palace in Scotland.
One for cleaning all those blooming moulds we'd used.
We're going to use a very old mixture
of flour, salt, and vinegar.
We're not given any measurements for this.
It's all really rule of thumb.
You've certainly got the elbow.
I certainly have.
That looks perfect.
Right, now, let's get started.
I bet those upstairs didn't quite know what went into keeping all this clean.
They would never have had a clue.
I think most of us have a vision of Victoria dressed mournfully in black,
saying, "We are not amused."
And that is a pretty fair picture of her life after Albert died,
when she was only 42 years of age.
But we've discovered that much of her life,
she had a jolly good sense of humour.
She liked to laugh.
-She loved to laugh.
-A bit like you.
And one of my favourite stories
involved the Queen, a chair, and a giggling fit at Warwick Castle.
Victoria was on a tour of the castle
during a brief visit with Albert in 1858,
part of a wider tour of the Midlands,
and was shown the boudoir.
As the Warwickshire Standard describes,
"The boudoir was a perfect picture,
fitted out with blue and white satin."
But it wasn't quite perfect.
Unfortunately for the poor Warwicks,
some dodgy seating provided a true moment of farce.
A relative of the Earl had a contretemps with a chair in front of the Queen,
as the 5th Earl's memoirs reveal.
"My mother's kinswoman, old Lady Mexborough was with us,
and the Queen, who knew she was even older than she looked,
said to her very kindly, "Please sit down"."
"Lady Mexborough thereupon sat down
on one of the new and incomplete chairs...
..and her partial disappearance was very swift and dramatic."
"Queen Victoria's strict sense of decorum
was not quite proof against this incident."
Clearly, Victoria had a complete fit of the giggles.
And we came across more laughter at Penrhyn Castle,
where Victoria visited in 1859,
in a story where upstairs met downstairs.
I'm on the grand staircase, and grand it certainly is.
It's just the sort of staircase you can imagine a queen ascending.
The staircase was very regal,
but it was a heck of a long route to her apartments.
The account written about the visit by one of the Pennant family
who hosted Victoria and Albert,
shows a Queen happy to be a mere mortal.
And according to the story,
Victoria liked to take a short cut to her suite of rooms
using the spiral staircase.
This was the servants' staircase.
But you must remember, there was no electricity in those days
and the family hired a lamp man.
They brought him specially from London to light up the Queen's way.
But Adela tells us that the man deserted his duties, and she wrote,
"When my mother took the Queen to her room,
she found the stairs in complete darkness."
"My mother begged the Queen to wait while she ran upstairs for a light,
but on returning to the head of the steps,
she found the Queen had laughingly groped her way up behind her in the dark."
Well, imagine Queen Victoria stumbling up these steps without even a candle,
wearing the wide, long dresses.
She was laughing!
What has become increasingly clear
is Victoria's intense desire for privacy.
Now, whilst there may not have been any paparazzi knocking around in those times, chasing her about,
her subjects certainly wanted to get as close as possible. Urgh.
None more so than in Brighton.
The Royal Pavilion was a family holiday home that she'd warmed to over the years.
But during our visit there,
I was intrigued to learn that by 1845,
when she'd been on the throne for eight years,
the public started to overwhelm her.
And it was all down to a Victorian invention.
Ironically, it was one of the greatest technological advances of the age
that led to her increasing headache.
The railway arrived in Brighton in 1841.
The prospect of rubbing shoulders with royalty
attracted tremendous crowds.
In fact, the traffic of 50,000 tourists a year by stagecoach,
increased in the railway age
to 250,000 visitors to Brighton every year.
All at the cost of 15p return.
For Victoria, the sudden increase
in the numbers of visitors wanting to get close to her was alarming.
OK, here we go.
Could I have your autograph, please?
Nowadays with the cult of celebrity, we're used to it.
Well, some of us are.
But in 1845, a local newspaper even reported that
several errand boys accosted her
and lifted her bonnet to get a glimpse of her face beneath.
The young Queen could stand it no longer.
This vast influx of ghastly people all trying to rub shoulders with her
was just too much.
There was no privacy in the Pavilion gardens,
and even stopping the tourist trains on the outskirts of Brighton
when she was in residence
did absolutely no good.
She didn't come to the place after 1845,
and in 1850, she sold it.
At Floors Castle, which she visited in 1867,
we discovered a Queen
who had removed herself from the public's gaze even further.
Her beloved Albert had died six years earlier,
and she was now a lonely widow.
Victoria, whose heart, even six years after the loss of Albert,
was aching uncontrollably,
had this to say from her diary.
"The children were close at hand,
but the feeling of loneliness when I saw no room for my darling
and felt I was indeed alone and a widow, overcame me very sadly."
"It was the first time I had gone in this way on a visit,
and I thought so much of all dearest Albert would have done and said,
and how he would have wandered about everywhere,
admired everything, looked at everything."
"And now, oh, must it ever be so?"
Her grief almost cost her the monarchy itself,
as I was fascinated to discover at Hughenden,
home of her beloved Prime Minister Disraeli.
As the years without Albert passed,
her involvement in public life had grown ever more distant
by the time she visited in 1877.
This was much to her advisors' despair, as I was fascinated to hear from historian Jane Ridley.
He did one terribly important thing, Disraeli.
Queen Victoria, after Albert died,
retired into seclusion.
She was hardly seen, she was always dressed in black,
and after ten years of this, there was a lot of criticism.
The monarchy is supposed to be a public institution, and the Queen was invisible.
The person who really managed
to charm Victoria out of this was Disraeli.
He was able to sort of persuade her to appear in public, to open Parliament.
He was able to flatter her and tell her she was wonderful.
So in a way, Disraeli saved the monarchy, you could argue.
So at the end of her reign,
it was Disraeli's turn to convince Victoria of the importance
of engaging with the public.
Just like at the beginning of her reign,
when it was her mother the Duchess of Kent,
who had insisted on keeping Victoria in the public eye.
So, Rosemary, what do you think the most surprising items were that we found?
Well, Tim, I think some of the archive materials we came across
in the great houses that Victoria visited,
From scraps of paper to whole books.
At Hatfield House,
I encountered the most enormous record book I have ever seen,
which showed the amazing lengths hosts went to
to impress Her Majesty.
This is the biggest account book I have ever seen.
This is the account book dating from 1846,
which shows the household expenses.
We've got it open on the week of the royal visit.
So you can see along here are all the provisions that were purchased.
Over the page, here,
the week before the visit, they spent £13 on turtle,
which would almost certainly have been made into turtle soup.
That was very popular, wasn't it?
Yes, and a bit of a status symbol
to have served turtle soup because it was so expensive.
Expensive, and of course, nowadays illegal.
I love this, the turtles came to thirteen pounds, five shillings and eight pence.
That would be an incredible £800 today.
They certainly pulled all the stops out for Queen Victoria's visit.
They did. They spent over £1,200 during the week on food.
That's some food bill.
In fact, in today's money, that's over £70,000.
And I think the most astonishing piece of archive was at Walmer,
where the royal family stayed
in the Duke of Wellington's residence in 1842.
It's the actual slip of paper
that reveals the medical records of the royal nippers.
Wellington's own physician, one Doctor Hulk,
was called to attend the family.
Walmer still has his amazing journal
that reveals a day-by-day account of treatment for the royal tots.
Dr Paul Grassby, a pharmacist with knowledge of the Victorian era,
deciphered the good doctor's squiggles for Tim.
On 14th, a Monday,
it says, "The Princess Royal seemed slightly oppressed."
"Gave her goobly goobly goobly googly guck
in a powder."
Can you decipher what those are, those drugs?
I can actually only make out one drug, which is magnesium carbonate.
Now, I think on this occasion,
the doctor was using some fairly simple powders,
and I think this equates to liver salts or something like that.
Cos you see, by the time we get to the Wednesday, he's saying,
"The Princess Royal passed a good night. She ate her breakfast." That's all very nice.
"But the Prince had his diet slightly altered."
"Arrowroot, the bowels being a little relaxed."
So this is the one-year-old, right?
Something's happened in the old gippy tummy department overnight.
Would you prescribe arrowroot for that? Gippy tummy?
-I'd prescribe arrowroot for anything.
Arrowroot is not going to hurt anyone.
It's mainly composed of starch.
You powder it up, you can make it into a paste,
and it's useful for all sorts of things, because it coats the throat,
which can be good for coughs.
It mimics some of the cough mixtures we have today.
At the same time, the child gets quite a lot of carbohydrate
if they're off they're food they're taking in carbohydrate.
Taking in a lot of starch, if you are a bit loose down the bowel area,
it can sort that out as well.
But for sheer commemorative beauty,
I don't think the very personal scrapbook at Stoneleigh Abbey can be topped.
The Leigh family were delighted and honoured
to have their beloved monarch come to stay, and it shows.
-We've got all these delicious images, look.
-We've got here...
-Oh, look at Albert.
-Albert looking so proud.
And so this thing goes on. Each of the memories exquisitely preserved.
What a wonderful record.
Isn't it lovely?
And just look at this bit here.
They've actually preserved and pressed...
-Oh, look at that!
-..the posy that she was carrying.
-I mean, really special, isn't it?
-That is very, very special.
Well, Tim, I have left a real surprise until last.
We have got Queen Victoria's favourite tipple.
It is claret and a single malt whisky.
-I beg your pardon?
-It's claret and single malt whisky.
-Mixed equal quantities.
I may not like it, but maybe that's what kept Victoria going.
But even she succumbed eventually.
In January 1901, Victoria wrote in her diary,
"I am feeling so weak and unwell."
It was to be her last entry.
Two weeks later, at the age of 81, she died.
Her monumental reign was at an end.
I think we should toast Queen Victoria.
To our longest-reigning monarch.
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Antiques expert Tim Wonnacott and chef Rosemary Shrager have been travelling in the footsteps of Queen Victoria, looking at the houses, castles and stately homes she visited throughout her life and discovering the amazing preparations that went on for each royal visit, upstairs and downstairs.
At every stop along the way, they've delved into Victoria's diaries and other first-hand accounts to discover what was really going on behind closed doors. The result has been a revealing picture of Britain's longest reigning monarch. In this final programme, they look back at what they've found out about Victoria and how she changed.
They look at her life from childhood to teenage queen, becoming wife to Albert and mother to nine children, and finally in her years as a widow - learning about her through the visits she made, and choosing some of their favourite stories that helped them get to know that thoroughly modern monarch.