Why Queen Victoria was not amused by the Royal Pavilion – art historian helps BBC tell story of train travel

Presenter Michael Portillo with Alexandra Loske in the Royal Pavilion, Brighton

Card depicting Queen Victoria. Prince Albert and children on a sleigh ride, with the Royal Pavilion in the background. Image courtesy of the Royal Pavilion, Brighton

University of Sussex art historian Alexandra Loske will be making a guest appearance in the popular BBC 2 TV series Great British Railway Journeys this Friday (31 January).

Alexandra, who has just completed her PhD thesis on the colour schemes of George IV’s Royal Pavilion, will be discussing with presenter Michael Portillo how the Pavilion fell out of Royal favour with the arrival of the railway.

Alexandra, whose AHRC-funded collaborative doctorate involved a placement at the Royal Pavilion, Brighton, says: “The arrival of the railway changed Brighton and Victoria sold the Pavilion to the town of Brighton in 1850."

Alexandra describes the effect of the arrival of the railways on Queen Victoria’s experience of the Royal Pavilion: “In 1841 the line between Norwood Junction, London and Brighton opened. The journey time by train took little more than an hour, compared to several hours by horse-drawn coach. It was also a much cheaper, so many more people of all classes started coming to Brighton.  Victoria was not amused and when at the Pavilion chose to stay in rooms where the risk of being overlooked by the public was lowest.

“On one occasion, after enjoying a walk on the Chain Pier with Prince Albert, they were chased by the crowd back to the gates of the Pavilion. Victoria complained that the palace lacked proper sea views and simply wasn’t the right size for her growing family. However, in February 1845 she enjoyed a sledge ride through snowy Sussex with Albert from the Pavilion gardens to the Clayton railway tunnel and back (pictured).

Victoria returned to London by train shortly after, recording in her diary that the journey was ‘rather too fast’ for her liking.  She visited the Pavilion just four times as Queen.”

In Great British Railway Journeys, former Conservative MP and government minister Michael Portillo travels the country using the Victorian Railway Guidebook by George Bradshaw. The series, now in its fifth season, examines how the railways changed British life, and explores what remains  of Bradshaw’s Britain.

In the Brighton episode – a stop-off on a journey that begins in Norwich and ends in Chichester – Mr Portillo visits the Pavilion and other Brighton landmarks, such as the toy museum near Brighton station.

The episode will be broadcast on BBC 2 on Friday 31 January at 6.30pm.

Alexandra, whose research on the Regency palace’s lavish décor informed an exhibition in the Pavilion last year, says: “Michael Portillo was professionally charming and was amused that I had brought two outfits to the filming, in case one clashed with his colour scheme.”

Notes for Editors

University of Sussex Press office: Contact Maggie Clune or Jacqui Bealing.
E press@sussex.ac.uk T 01273 678 888.

Last updated: Tuesday, 28 January 2014