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Queen Victoria and Prince Albert's Trip to Scotland
Chapter II. The Voyage


Being now fully under weigh, the Royal Squadron proceeded down the river, the Lightning steamer leading, to clear the way for the tow vessel and the Yacht, and the other steamers following the royal ship according to the seniority of their respective commanders. In rear of the whole went the Trident, followed by the Waterman’s Company steamer, and an above-bridge boat, called the Matrimony. These two last occasionally pressed rather closely on the Royal Yacht, and Lord Adolphus Fitzclarence was himself obliged to give their skippers a hint to keep a little off. The crew of the Waterman, in new scarlet jackets, were actively employed in the perhaps rather too frequent discharge of several small guns, loyally intended to do honour to the Queen. Her Majesty continued on deck until the flotilla had entered Erith Reach, and then she went below with the Prince, and others. Soon afterwards the clouds, which had hitherto continued so heavy and dripping, broke up a little to leeward, and the rain began occasionally to intermit; so much so, indeed, as to cheer the drooping hopes of the weather-wise seamen, and to encourage them to predict, that “the sun would yet shine upon Her Majesty afore she made Gravesend.”

These prognostications proved to be not without foundation; for by the time the Royal Squadron was abreast of Erith Pier, the weather had given additional indications of permanent amendment. The rain had entirely ceased, and the atmosphere had so far cleared, as to show the Erith shore crowded with people, whose hearty cheers reaching the vessels, were re-echoed by those on board. These were followed by a salute fired from the guns on the pier, which was answered by those of one of the steamers. At this moment the Gravesend steamer, called the Ruby, a very handsome vessel, passed up the river, full of people. Her paddle-boxes were manned in the most admirable manner, and her passengers saluted the Royal Yacht with a deafening cheer, which was taken up by all the other river steamers. At Purfleet this parasitical fleet was augmented by the Star, which joined them from London. She was also well filled with passengers, who, in imitation of those on board the Ruby, manned the paddle-boxes, and cheered heartily as she took up her sailing station.

Now it was that the weather really became promising, and a broad stripe of blue sky to windward raised the spirits of all. The dark clouds breaking into separate masses, rolled heavily away, and with them departed the gloom from every countenance. At about half-past eight, Her Majesty and the Prince again came on deck, bringing sunshine in their very eyes, and the moment the Queen was recognised, she was hailed by reiterated bursts of cheering. Her Majesty acknowledged the compliments paid her, and then occupied herself in making enquiries of Lord Adolphus Fitzelarenee respecting the various houses, villages, and other objects on shore, now gloriously illuminated by brilliant sunshine. The scene became altogether more animated. Several London steamers were seen puffing after the flotilla, making every exertion to join it. This they easily accomplished, for the Monkey was much too weak for her work, and hardly carried the Yacht on more than four knots an hour. But she was cast off between Purflcet and Grays, and her place taken by the powerful steamer the Shearwater, which soon increased the speed to seven knots. The Queen took great interest in the working of the vessels, as well as in that of the shipping by which she was surrounded; and Her Majesty and the Prince put many questions to Lord Adolphus Fitzclarencc regarding the various objects of interest on board the Yacht, and elsewhere. Her Majesty was especially attracted by the graceful operation of heaving the lead, so often performed with anxious dread by the seaman, when amidst unknown rocks and shoals ; and she watched the man who marked it with much interest. The vessels working about on the river, always lay to and lowered their colours or sails, in compliment, as the Royal Squadron passed them majestically by, whilst ever and anon some battery on shore blazed forth its salute, amidst the far drawn sound of the cheering of those who surrounded it. The crash produced by the commingling of the various bands of river steamers just before the Squadron got abreast of Grays, augmented as it was by the repeated discharges of their guns, was quite overwhelming. However gratifying to Her Majesty, as indicative of loyalty, this jarring was anything but pleasing to a delicate musical ear, and consequently upon two of the vessels coming rather closer to the stern of the Yacht than propriety warranted, they were told by signal to sheer farther off, and soon afterwards Her Majesty and Prince Albert retired below.

Abreast of Grays, the Black Eagle was attached as a second towing vessel in aid of the Shearwater, and thus the speed was increased to eight knots an hour. At twenty minutes past nine o’clock, the Squadron arrived off Tilbury Fort, where the spectacle became extremely fine, and pregnant with interesting historical association. The presence of our reigning Queen, Her Majesty Victoria, in the neighbourhood of this spot, recalled the recollection of her great predecessor, Queen Elizabeth, connected as the place is with that monarch’s spirited visit to her troops, encamped here in 1588, previous to the destruction of the Spanish Armada. Mounted on horseback, she rode like a heroine through the lines, addressing the men in speech so animating, as to arouse in their breasts a degree of enthusiasm, which no Sovereign of the other sex could have excited. Her reign was indeed a brilliant and glorious one; and much as the high prosperity of England, during that period, was to be attributed to her vigour, her constancy, her magnanimity, her penetration, her vigilance, and her address, which are the prominent qualities assigned to her by historians, it is a truly gratifying reflection, that the youthful Sovereign, now reigning over this great united kingdom, not only possesses in the highest degree, all these brilliant qualifications for good government, but that they are her’s, unaccompanied by that pedantry, cruelty, and intolerance, which so much tarnish the otherwise bright character of Elizabeth. Happy, then, is the prospect that has dawned on our country by the auspicous commencement of the reign of a young Queen, who, whilst not inferior to the great Elizabeth in those essentials for ruling, has the good fortune to excel her by possessing all the gentler and more amiable qualities of the woman’s breast, as much as she surpasses her in feminine beauty.

Flat and tame as Tilbury appears, it assumed a certain air of importance when the royal salute was fired from its guns, as well as from the garrison drawn up on its fortifications. The ships and small craft at Gravesend, of every possible form and rig, were cruizing about, gay with their clothing of colours of all nations. The breeze was just enough to swell the sails and to keep the streamers and flags floating well out in it; and the light and beautifully shaped cutters, yachts, and pleasure-boats, were seen moving actively about among the heavier vessels. Here the lively appearance presented by the piers, terraces, green slopes and eminences of that pretty town, thronged as they were with crowds of spectators, was very striking. When the Yacht was about half-a-mile from it, the Queen again came on deck, with Prince Albert, apparently for the purpose of gratifying the loyal curiosity of her subjects, with a view of their Sovereign. She was acknowledged by their cheers, which came mellowed over the surface of the water, mingling with the merry sound of bells, and the occasional boom of the guns from Tilbury, pregnant with recollections of Drake and the Armada. Immediately after the Yacht had passed through this stirring scene, the Queen and her Royal Consort again went down into the great cabin; but it soon appeared that Pier Majesty had no intention of remaining long below, for by the time the Yacht had got into the Lower Hope, sofas were placed on deck for her accommodation and that of the Prince.

When within some three or four miles of the mouth of the Medway, the river steamers, which had been continuing to venture nearer and nearer to the Royal Yacht by degrees began to thrust their bowsprits up abreast of the cabin windows, and at a distance of little more than twenty yards from those especially appropriated to the Queen and Prince Albert, who had already found it necessary to shut those opposite to where they were sitting, exposed to the untamed gaze of these worthy but rather too curious people. Lord Adolphus Fitzclarence was sent for by Her Majesty; and when he again appeared, he smartly ordered the intruders to take a wider berth, which they very quickly did ; and it was not observed that any of them were guilty of such indecorum for the rest of the voyage down the river.

The Queen and the Prince came on deck at twenty minutes to eleven o’clock, .and occupied the sofas, in full enjoyment of the ocean view that now opened. The steam having been well got up in both the towing vessels, they pulled the Yacht through the water in gallant style, so that the distance from Gravesend to the Nore was very speedily accomplished. A fresh breeze now rippled the water; and the various sailing craft careened gently and gaily to its influence. The sea, however, was quite smooth; and the Queen had all that enjoyment which the inspiriting onward motion of a vessel, and the free and unfettered view of the sea, always gives to those not apt to be less pleasantly affected by them. She looked extremely well; and the officers of the ship had then, and afterwards, many opportunities, of satisfying themselves of the reality of that smile which has been so generally remarked as especially belonging to Her Majesty, and which is by all allowed to be distinguished for the peculiar beauty of its expression. The mouth of the Medway opened to the right, and Sheerness, with its fortifications and its huge-hulled men-of-war, among which the guard-ship was conspicuous, appeared at a distance. Right a-head was seen the enormous Camperdown line-of-battle ship of 110 guns, contrasting beautifully with the lighter forms of the Pique frigate, and the Daphne sloop-of-war, all rigged with streamers, ensigns, and flags of every colour. As the Royal Squadron approached the Nore, the three ships-of-war manned their yards—a nautical ceremonial than which nothing can be more imposing, from the manly and athletic forms which are thus so suddenly placed, rank above rank, rising into the very skies, and from their hoarse, hearty, and animating cheers. These three vessels presented a very beautiful appearance, with their gracefully-moulded hulls—their bright-burnished copper sheathing—their guns frowning from their ports— their nettings fitted with white hammock cloths — the tall masts, tapering away, stick above stick, and spar above spar, to the slender pole of the royal, where the long pennant quivers in the wind—the yards crowned with active topmen—the ropes and rigging, which, to a landsman’s eye, look to be so infinitely tangled below as to be utterly unintelligible, and scarcely comprehensible above, although there gradually decreasing in complexity. All these, with the gallant hearts that man them, and the wisdom and bravery which commands them, were sufficient to awaken powerful associations in the minds of those who beheld them doing homage to their passing Queen. Nor was it possible to forget that this spot had been the scene of that most alarming mutiny of Britain’s bravest children against their common mother country, and how much the very existence of that country among the nations had depended upon its being crushed.

As the Yacht neared the floating light at the Nore, the Queen was in frequent communication with Lord Adolphus Fitzclarence, and some signals were made. Her Majesty afterwards took Prince Albert’s arm, and moved forward to the bows, evidently looking with much gratification upon the grand spectacle which the Camperdown, the Pique, and the Daphne presented at this moment. After walking for several minutes fore and aft, the whole length of the deck, they resumed their seats. A signal was run up to the mizzen-topgallant-mast of the Yacht, as the Squadron neared the Camperdown, and the other two vessels at anchor, and fire began to flash from their ports, and smoke to curl upwards over their rigging, as their long lines of floating batteries poured out gun after gun. During the intervals between the thunder of each discharge, the shrill boatswain’s whistle was heard. The guns fired towards the Yacht shook the sea, but those on the opposite side returned a sound as if from some distant mountain. The guard-ship at Sheerness joined in the salute, and her guns came like muffled drums over the wide expanse of water. So great was the number of private steamers now added to those belonging to the Royal Squadron, that the coup d'ceil was magnificent, the Iloyal George herself, with her taper spars, and rigging taught like harp-strings, being the most beautiful object of the whole. After the salute, Her Majesty was greeted by deafening cheers. Vice-Admiral Sir Edward Brace came off, in his barge, from the Camperdown flag-ship, and paid his duty to Her Majesty. After the last gun, a very ridiculous circumstance took place. A dapper little steam-boat, from some of the City quays, came briskly alongside of the Yacht, and, after the usual courtesies, a pompous order was heard to “fire a royal salute.” Great excitement took place, followed by the most vociferous laughter, as an important-looking personage placed himself nearly opposite to Her Majesty, and with great gravity produced a cord, with a small ball attached to it, and as it unrolled itself, it discharged regular and successive shots from a series of percussion caps, which detonated, one after the other, in royal saluting time, and tossed the ball on every side, as they went off! This piece of Cockney loyalty was evidently considered extremely brilliant by their motley company ; and, combined with the attitude of the gunner who fired this Lilliputian salvo, and contrasted with the sublime sounds of the guns from the Camperdowm, it produced so ludicrous an effect, that it vras difficult for those in the immediate presence of Her Majesty to control their risible muscles. The Pique and Daphne had prepared to sail as part of the royal convoy, but the wind being right a-head, they were left behind.

By a quarter past twelve o’clock the Yacht had got six or seven miles from the Nore, and the Queen and the Prince had taken up hooks to amuse themselves. Now it was that the Fame, and the other London steamers, began to think of returning; but ere they left the Royal Squadron, they severally came alongside of the Yacht, and greeted Her Majesty with loud and repeated cheers, which were acknowledged in the most gracious manner. As the Squadron proceeded, it was met by numerous steamers, from different parts of the coast, and after their respective companies had been indulged with a sight of their Queen, they gave three hearty hurrahs, and then made the best of their way home.

A fresh breeze of wind arose about four o’clock in the afternoon, and the crew of the Yacht were ordered aloft to strike the top-gallant-yards, and to make all snug for the night. The Trident had hitherto kept company with the Royal Squadron. About six o’clock, when off Orfordness, Captain Sharpe enquired by signal whether he could give any aid to Her Majesty, and having been answered in the negative, he put on his steam, and shot awray a-head. The Squadron now bore awray down the Swin channel, the Yacht still towed by the Shearwater and Black Eagle, the other steamers being arranged two and two on each quarter, whilst the whole were accompanied by the Vestal Trinity Yacht, which excited great and general admiration, by the seaman-like manner in which she took up her position, and kept it throughout the whole of the voyage.

The Maplin Light, which consists of a great iron basket, raised high in the midst of the sea, upon screw posts, appearing as if built of old gridirons, was the next object of curiosity that arose in the Queen’s path over the waves. The channel here is extremely in-trieate and dangerous, being surrounded by shoals on every side. Such a place for human beings to work an insulated light in, is not to be conceived by those who have not seen it, and no one who knows it will deny, that Her Majesty has therein seen the most extraordinary abode in her dominions.

The Squadron received a royal salute from Walton le Soken, on the Naze of Essex, where the rich flat country rises hut little above the surface of the ocean, and by five o’clock in the afternoon they came abreast of the entrance to Harwich. Though the approaches to this harbour are everywhere beset with shoals, and the fairway is extremely intricate, it is the safest port on the whole eastern coast, and if the afternoon had not given promise of tolerable weather, here the Yacht, with its precious freight, must have reposed for the night. Upon this subject an humble hope may be permitted to be expressed, that from the voyage of the Sovereign, her frequent examination of charts, and the numerous enquiries which the desire of useful information prompted Her Majesty to make, she must have learned, that from the Thames to Cromarty Bay, no easily taken harbour of refuge exists,—and that this may lead to the removal of so great a disgrace from our country, by the execution of some grand works for the protection of our commerce and marine from the storms which are often so fatal in the present unprovided state of the eastern coast. The common embouchure of the Stour and the Orwell, is capable of holding three hundred sail at anchor, and among these there might be vessels of the largest size. The town of Harwich, which defends it on the southern side, and the promontory of Land guard Fort, which protects it on the other, with the receding green and tufted slopes within the bay, broken by the forest of masts arising from the shipping, though seen at some distance, were objects producing a most pleasing combination when viewed under an evening sky. The forts saluted, and nearer the eye there was a moving panorama of dredging vessels employed here in fishing up a peculiar sort of stone, used for making Roman cement. Forgetting their occupation for the time, they were cruizing about, earnestly desiring to be blessed with a sight of their Sovereign. Two steamers from Ipswich, called the Orion and the River Queen, the former having the Mayor and authorities of that town on board, came alongside the Yacht, with bands of music, and greeting Her Majesty with loud hurrahs. A little beyond this the Yacht passed through a beautiful line of revenue cruizers, the crews of which smart little vessels manned their rigging, and lowered their gaff-top-sails and pennants as the royal standard passed them, whilst hundreds of white handkerchiefs, waved by the ladies on board, fluttered in the breeze, and the thrilling cheers of as many manly hearts, proved their devoted attachment to their Queen. One of the most touching parts of this spectacle, was a group of beautiful children, who stretched out their little arms towards their beloved Sovereign, as if lisping a blessing on her head.

The Yacht now swept nobly on in tow of the two steamers, that preceded her with the speed of the horses of the car of Neptune, and like them tossing smoke from their nostrils. The Squadron passed the half-ruined seaports of Bawdsey, Orford, and Oldborough, of which the sea has for ages been gradually swallowing up the very foundations. The ancient Norman castle of Oldborough now stands on a small eminence, to seaward of which once lay half the town. From all these places, boats and sailing vessels, and steamers, came out to pay homage to the Queen. The Oldborough yawls, rowed for a long distance off the land, and cheered manfully as the Yacht passed them close alongside.

The setting sun now threw his declining rays over the poor remains of that which was once the proud capital of East Anglia. Never was effect of sky more appropriately combined with a scene, for the whole of its history is one continued sequence of disasters. Some antiquarians assert, that it once possessed no less than fifty-two churches and monasteries. The respective sites of many are well known, but that of All Saints is the only one of which any portion is now standing. Blessing God that we live under the gentle dominion of our Queen, it is impossible to think of her passing this ancient seat of kings and of bishops, without recalling the extraordinary fact connected with it, that in the first year of the reign of King John, it received a charter by which its inhabitants were graciously empowered “to marry their sons and daughters as they pleased, and also to give, sell, or otherwise dispose of their possessions, as they should think fit.” This charter, dated at Gold Cliff, 29th of June, cost them 300 merks, besides ten falcons, and five gerfalcons. This was freedom indeed! Thankful may we be that we live in times when no such charter as this is required. Near this is Dunwich, to which a curious piece of natural history attaches. It is the place where the swallows chiefly land from abroad, and where they are also seen to congregate in thousands before taking their annual departure to hibernate in some other and milder climate.

The night having come on, Her Majesty and Prince Albert retired below. Some notion of the royal accommodation may be obtained from the plan and description of the Yacht in the Appendix. The gallant vessel still pursued her foaming way, and guided by the brilliant light of Lowestoffe, she passed at midnight around the extreme eastern point of England, and so by the back of Yarmouth sands, and through Hasborough Gut, blue lights and rockets being occasionally thrown up, to inform loyal subjects, who might be awake and on the watch on shore, that their Queen was passing.


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