Northern Ireland

Fuss 'n' flurry: Queen Victoria's 1900 visit to Ireland

Queen Victoria
Image caption Queen Victoria visited Ireland in April, 1900

A file detailing the fuss and the flurry for Queen Victoria's visit to Ireland in 1900 could prove sober reading to those planning her great great granddaughter's trip in May.

An Irish Office of Public Works file which is to be sold at Whytes auctioneers in Dublin on Saturday details a "misplaced" royal yacht and chaotic last-minute preparations.

The papers, published for the first time, are being sold by an Irishman in the United States who inherited them from his father.

They include some 200 letters, memos and telegrams about everything from the yacht to the royal railway train, to the right frockcoat to wear for the occasion.

Telegrams between London and Dublin show that the royal yacht got "lost" temporarily just days prior to the April visit.

The admiralty in London told Dublin that the yacht was already with them in Dublin.

The Irish officials queried that. They couldn't see it. Two days later, London admitted that the yacht was actually off the south coast of England.

A special wooden pier was built at Kingstown harbour (now known as Dun Laoghaire). But it was expensive and the OPW said the work which went on all night and right up to the moment Queen Victoria set foot on Irish soil was "most unsatisfactory".

The OPW wanted to get the bill reduced, but the builders argued they had faced "exceptional pressure" and would not budge on price.

There were notes about keeping the noise of train whistles down and mail boats not sounding their steam horns so as not to disturb Her Majesty.

In a telegram, the Harbour Commissioners in Ireland ordered special flags from a Southampton flag maker. But the reply was short and sharp.

"We are quite unable to make the flags required, we are so busy," said Messrs S W Wolff.

Auctioneer Ian Whyte said the files dated from the old British administration of the 1920s and during the Irish War of Independence, many of the buildings housing such documents were burned down.

These papers ended up in private hands and cast an interesting light on the background flurry for a royal visit.

Image caption Detail from the OPW file for the 1900 royal visit

"There seems to have been a lot of panic among civil servants about Queen Victoria's visit. They wanted to know the length of the royal yacht so that they could build a special place in the harbour," Mr Whyte said.

"Then the Admiralty misplaced the boat. There were no computers or tracking devices in those days."

He said the files documented much to-ing and fro-ing.

"The gangplank had to be level so that Her Majesty would not have to walk up a slope. They built a special plank to take cognisance of the tides and that cost a lot of money," he said.

As for the local building contractors, they were "rubbing their hands in glee," as emergency work done at the last minute for the visit prompted huge bills afterwards, he explained.

Other documents are full of plans to get the "better class yachts" into the harbour for the royal visit and wearing frock coats for the Queen's leaving ceremony.

Queen Victoria arrived in Dublin on 4 April and stayed until 26 April.

The OPW file is expected to fetch between 400 and 600 euros (£356 - £534) when it goes up for sale in Dublin at the weekend.

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