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Young Queen Victoria shocked by landscape of Black Country

By Black Country Bugle  |  Posted: May 23, 2014

By John Butterworth

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QUEEN Victoria's first diary, revealing her astonishment at seeing the Black Country and the coal-blackened faces of her subjects is to be put on public display at Windsor Castle for the first time.

The journal, which was written in black ink when Victoria was 13, is among a collection of royal treasures to be featured in an exhibition celebrating 100 years of the Royal Archives.

Her mother, the Duchess of Kent, had given the young princess the diary in August 1832 on their journey to Powis Castle in Wales so she could record what she saw on a series of educational visits around the country.

Early entries reveal what Victoria, who kept a diary throughout her 63-year reign until her death in 1901, made of the newly-industrialised Black Country. She wrote in 1832: "The men, woemen (sic), children, country and houses are all black... but I cannot by any description give an idea of its strange and extraordinary appearance.

"The country is very desolate everywhere; there are coals about and the grass is quite blasted and black. I just now see an extraordinary building flaming with fire."

The Princess was one of the early people to the give the Black Country its name predating the first published use of the phrase by 14 years.

However, she was charmed by the Black Country people writing: "We have just changed horses at Wolverhampton, a large and dirty town, but we were received with great friendliness."

Although the educational tour was organised by her mother, the journey was against the wishes of her uncle, the king, William IV.

Royal Collection Trust curator Lauren Porter told the Sunday Times: "It was quite a new thing for a future monarch to go on these tours and we know that William IV wasn't very happy about it. He thought it was dangerous for her to go out into the nation. The journey was one of Victoria's first trips outside the protective walls of Kensington Palace.

One her return to the Midlands 20 years later she recorded her concern for the squalor in which people lived.

The Queen wrote: "One sees nothing but chimneys, flaming furnaces and wretched cottages. You have but a faint impression of the life of which a third of a million of my poor subjects are forced to lead. It makes me sad."

Lauren added: "Queen Victoria's Journals are one of the greatest treasures of the Royal Archives. This small volume begun in 1832 holds a particular fascination because it serves as the starting point for Queen Victoria's chronicling of her long and eventful life."

Treasures From The Royal Archives is published this month when the exhibition, which opens at Windsor Castle, runs until January 25 next year.

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