Sidmouth has several royal connections, most notably, that as an infant, the future Queen Victoria, then the daughter of the Duke and Duchess of Kent, lived in the town. Since then, a number of the town’s hotels have housed royalty and the Connaught Gardens were even named after one of her sons.
Here is a brief history of Sidmouth’s most famous resident.
Queen Victoria was actually born Alexandrina Victoria on 24th May 1819. She wasn’t actually considered to be a likely monarch, her father, Prince Edward, Duke of Kent was the fourth son of King George III, so no one really thought that she would one day ascend the throne and certainly not when she was living in Sidmouth. At the time of her birth, she was fifth in line for the throne.
The Duke and Duchess moved to Woolbrook Cottage, now the Royal Glen Hotel, in Sidmouth in 1918 arriving on Christmas Eve. It wasn’t an uneventful stay, someone attempted to assassinate the infant princess, guests at the Royal Glen can see the evidence that remains of this. Not long after Christmas, the Duke became ill and died in Sidmouth, making young Alexandrina now fourth in line. Her father was laid in state at the cottage, his removal to Windsor and funeral had to be delayed after King George also fell ill and died just six days later.
Tragedy continued to plague the royal family with the three other heirs to the throne also dying in relatively quick succession, leaving Alexandrina to become heir presumptive. She ascended the throne at the age of 18 following the death of her uncle, William and chose the regal name Victoria, becoming Queen Victoria I.
Despite spending much of her childhood travelling, she settled in London and became the first monarch to take up residence in Buckingham Palace.
She was introduced to her future husband by her uncle Leopold, King of Belgium. Her uncle King William IV didn’t like the match, wanting her to marry Alexander of the Netherlands instead. Queen Victoria was rather taken with Prince Albert (they were distantly related, but then, that’s not unusual among the monarchy.) and she proposed to him (something that is unusual, even for the monarchy). They were married on 10th February 1840.
In 1840, there was another attempt on her life, this time while she was riding through London. The would be assassin, Edward Oxford, was only 18 at the time and was sent to live in Australia. The Queen was pregnant during the assassination attempt. There were a number of other attempts throughout her reign.
Queen Victoria and Prince Albert had nine children: Victoria, Albert (who was also known as Bertie and later, Edward), Alice, Alfred, Helena, Louise, Arthur, Leopold and Beatrice.
Both Queen Elizabeth II and her husband, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh are descendants of Victoria’s and at one time, all the European royal families were related through Victoria, including Kaiser Wilhelm, who was leader of Germany during the First World War.
Haemophilia B emerged in Queen Victoria’s blood line, most famously through her son Leopold and also her great grandson, Alexei Nicolaevich, Tsarvich of Russia, the heir presumptive to the Romanov dynasty who were overthrown during the Russian revolution.
It is thought that the genetic mutation came from Queen Victoria’s father, who was over fifty at the time of her conception.
Her son, Albert (the future King Edward VII), visited Sidmouth in 1856, he stayed at the Royal York and Faulkner Hotel on the Esplanade, which at the time was known as the York Hotel, the royal being added following his visit. While he was in the town, he had a tour of the Royal Glen Hotel and was shown around his mother’s former rooms and also where his grandparents had stayed.
In 1897 as part of her Diamond Jubilee celebrations, the Queen held an event at the Royal Glen in Sidmouth. At the time of her jubilee, she was the UK’s longest reigning monarch, something that has been eclipsed by her great-great grandaughter, Queen Elizabeth II. She reigned for almost 64 years and was succeeded by her son Edward VII.
Later, in 1931, another of her sons, Arthur, also known as the first Duke of Connaught, came to Sidmouth. On his second visit, at the age of 81, he gave his name to the town’s Connaught Gardens. The dukedom no longer exists following the death of Alastair Windsor in 1943 – the last Duke of Connaught, Connaught is part of the Republic of Ireland so is no longer part of the UK, so can no longer be used.
So, there you have it! Sidmouth has a royal seal of approval! Why not book a post lockdown stay at one of the town’s royal hotels? You can find out more about the accommodation available here.
Currently, the UK is under a nationwide lockdown, please do not travel to Sidmouth until after restrictions have lifted. For more information about the coronavirus and the latest guidance, please visit gov.uk/coronavirus.