Victoria in Ramsgate
Kent Life|October 2020
On holiday in Ramsgate 185 years ago, Princess Victoria contracted typhus and ‘went missing’ for three weeks. Had she died, the future of the royal family could have been quite different
Stephen Roberts

When we go on holiday, we just want nice weather, decent snaps and some happy memories to sustain us. For Princess Victoria (the Queen to be), life was not always so straightforward or indeed accommodating.

Her first holiday (Devon, aged eight months) was marred by the death of her father, Edward, Duke of Kent, who contracted pneumonia and was gone quicker than you could say ‘sandcastle’. A later holiday in Ramsgate, when Victoria was aged 16, would almost result in her own death.

We need to bear in mind that Victoria was not expected to be queen when she was born. Sixth in line to the throne, her destiny was to be an obscure minor royal, except that those ahead of her in the queue dropped like nine-pins, including her own father.

The annual seaside holiday was a treat that Victoria had come to expect. Her Belgian uncle Leopold apparently bestowed a grand annually on her mum so that they could dip their toes in the water.

Ramsgate was a popular choice, which they’d already frequented many times (Victoria had been four when she first came here).

The journey was made by steamer from London to Margate, where all the riff-raff disgorged, leaving the well-to-do to make their own way to Ramsgate.

In the autumn of 1835, the royal party was to stay at Albion House, which is today a hotel in Albion Place. Original features date to 1791 and a refurbishment in 2014 has left everything looking spic and span. I’m tempted to say Victoria would have been ‘amused’, except there’s no evidence that she ever actually said this.

It was a big thing to have royals not just visit a town but actually stay, so the bunting was out in Ramsgate to greet Victoria & Co.

In addition, the princess was no longer a minor royal. The rate of attrition among those further up the queue had left her next in line, behind the current incumbent, King William IV.

‘The princess was no longer a minor royal; the rate of attrition had left her next in line ’

Victoria’s young life was not great, as a power struggle began developing around her for influence over the future queen.

Although it was a vacation, Victoria was still hard at work at her studies. She had a bedroom on the first floor but dutifully did her lessons in the room of her governess, Louise Lehzen.

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