Queen Victoria's diaries to go online
Thursday 24 May 2012
The Queen has launched a website documenting the life of her great-great-grandmother Queen Victoria in her own words - but revealed she had no plans to publish her own diaries.
More than 40,000 pages of the journals kept by Victoria from the age of 13 until just before her death have been made available online.
The Queen was handed a remote control in Buckingham Palace's throne room today, which she pointed at a screen to officially launch the website, http://www.queenvictoriasjournals.org
The Royal Archives, Bodleian Libraries at Oxford University and online publisher ProQuest scanned the pages - some in Victoria's own hand and some edited and then transcribed by her daughter Beatrice after her death - for the six-month project, carried out to mark the Diamond Jubilee.
When asked by Bodleian librarian Sarah Thomas if she herself wrote a diary, the Queen, wearing a summery floral printed dress, replied to laughter from those gathered to mark the launch: "Mine's not being published."
Dr Thomas said afterwards that she "couldn't resist" asking the Queen about her own journals, having been a part of the project.
She added that it was "an amazing honour" to work on the journals, which include sketches and paintings drawn by Victoria herself to illustrate the books.
She said: "We have been motivated by the intrinsic value of these collections and the idea of sharing them.
"It amplifies the excitement we have in having Her Majesty herself come here, because it shows she has a real interest. She was obviously engaged.
"This is a part of history. It is such an exciting moment, when you can unlock history and make it publicly available.
"The eyes of the world are focused on the Queen and the Diamond Jubilee - and this is the other Diamond Jubilee."
In her diary, Victoria wrote of the scenes that greeted her during a parade to mark her own 60-year reign: "Passed through dense crowds, who gave me a most enthusiastic reception. It was like a triumphal entry. We passed down Cambridge Terrace, under a lovely arch bearing the motto, 'Our hearts thy Throne'.
"The streets were beautifully decorated, also the balconies of the houses with flowers, flags, and draperies of every hue... The streets, the windows, the roofs of the houses, were one mass of beaming faces, and the cheers never ceased."
Writing on the website, launched alongside a Twitter account providing extracts from the journals, the Queen said: "In this the year of my Diamond Jubilee, I am delighted to be able to present, for the first time, the complete online collection of Queen Victoria's journals from the Royal Archives.
"These diaries cover the period from Queen Victoria's childhood days to her accession to the throne, marriage to Prince Albert, and later, her Golden and Diamond Jubilees.
"Thirteen volumes in Victoria's own hand survive, and the majority of the remaining volumes were transcribed after Queen Victoria's death by her youngest daughter, Princess Beatrice, on her mother's instructions.
"It seems fitting that the subject of the first major public release of material from the Royal Archives is Queen Victoria, who was the first Monarch to celebrate a Diamond Jubilee."
The Queen took a particular interest in a drawing of Victoria's wedding head dress when shown the original pages from the diaries today.
The launch was timed to coincide with the 193rd anniversary of Victoria's birth today.
She would perhaps have been interested in how the documents are now available on the internet - as she wrote, again on the occasion of her Diamond Jubilee, of sending a message electronically.
She wrote: "I touched an electric button, by which I started a message which was telegraphed throughout the whole Empire.
"It was the following: 'From my heart I thank my beloved people, may God bless them.' At this time the sun burst out..."
She had certainly envisaged them being read by others, writing on January 24 1843: "Wrote in my journal, which I am vain enough to think may perhaps some day be reduced to interesting memoirs."
Victoria started her journals after being told to document a trip to Wales by her mother as a young teenager - accordingly, the very first entry describes a journey through Snowdonia.
She became a keen diarist, extensively documenting details of both public and private life - underlining important words or phrases two or even three times, and liberally using exclamation marks.
Her daughter, Princess Beatrice, spent 40 years transcribing the journals covering the period 1837 to 1901 - a total of 111 volumes.
Victoria instructed her to modify the text, taking out parts that could offend other members of the family and other sections not suitable for publication. The originals were destroyed, in accordance with Victoria's wishes.
Other key events detailed in the diary include Victoria's coronation, her entry for that day reading that she was woken by guns in a nearby park at 4am and then could not sleep because of the noise of the crowds gathered outside.
She wrote: "There were millions of my loyal subjects assembled in every spot to witness the procession. Their good humour and excessive loyalty was beyond everything.
"I really cannot say how proud I feel to be the Queen of such a nation."
She also writes at length of her love for Prince Albert, describing her wedding day on February 10 1840: "Albert repeated everything very distinctly. I felt so happy when the ring was put on, and by my precious Albert."
Two days later, she wrote: "Oh! was ever woman so blessed as I am."
Her sorrow at his illness and death are palpable, writing in her diary on January 1 1862, her first entry after his death: "This day last year found us so perfectly happy and now!!.., All these recollections were pouring in on my mind in an overpowering manner. Felt as if living in a dreadful dream."
Pam Clark, senior archivist at the Royal Archive, said she had learned a lot about Victoria while working on the project.
"She's a natural writer, and a natural painter," she said. "She had a way with words and a way with her pen. It's very exciting to see all this coming together."
The Twitter account QueenVictoriaRI will be active during the Jubilee period.
The online release of the diaries, which have been transcribed up to the year 1840, mark the start of a year-long programme to digitise work from the Royal Archive.
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