1832 – Visit by Princess Victoria

Princess Victoria (aged 13) and her mother (the Duchess of Kent) were in north Wales between the 4th August and 15th October 1832. They stayed at the newly opened Bulkeley Arms hotel, Beaumaris. It is thought that they spent much of their stay at Plas Newydd, Llanedwen, Anglesey, the home of Henry William Paget, first Marquess of Anglesey. (Full itinerary below.)

In terms of Welsh costume, there were two significant events associated with this stay: she was presented with a doll in Cambrian costume at Llangollen suggesting that Welsh costume was not only distinctive but being marketed. When they passed through Bangor a week later, the duchess and princess wore Welsh hats ‘in compliment to the fair maids of Cambria’. This is the earliest known reference to the term ‘Welsh hat’, but unfortunately no description or drawing of them has survived. They also presented prizes at the Beaumaris Eisteddfod.


Monday 6th August, 1832
At about a ¼ past ten we changed horses at Llangollen a pretty little village. I received a catalogue of the sale of the things belonging to Ladies of Llangollen (famed for their seclusion and singularity) and a figure representing a welchwoman … All the young women are very pretty, and they all wear hats; it looks so funny to see them come out of their cottages, knitting, with little white caps, black hats, yellow hankerchieves, and blue petticoats …
Princess Victoria’s Diary, Royal Archives, Windsor Castle RA VIC/QVJ/1832

Whilst stopping to change horses at the Hand Inn, Llangollen, on that day, the young daughter of Mr. Phillips, the landlord, presented the Princess with a Welsh doll, attired in full Cambrian costume, with which she expressed herself highly pleased.
Anon, Victoria; An Anecdotal memoir of Her Majesty (1837)
Also published in The Parents Review [for Charlotte Mason’s schools], XI, 384-389. There was an account of the visit to Wales in The Cambrian Quarterly Magazine and Celtic repertory, vol. IV, 1832, pp 526-537

The Duchess of Kent and her daughter visited Caernarfon, Beaumaris, Conway and Bangor during the past week. They are expected to remain 6 weeks or two months. The youngest daughter of Mr Phillips of the Hand Inn, Llangollen presented the Princess with a Welsh doll in true Cambrian costume.
Cambrian (newspaper) 25.8.1832

The doll might be the one now in London Museum (Royal Collection, D104), see below

Wearing a Welsh hat in Bangor
Friday afternoon: The Duchess and Princess appeared in the head-dress of the country – the Welsh hat; and this most considerate mark of respect was not lost upon their Cambrian Admirers.
Carnarvon Herald and North Wales Advertiser, 11.8.1832

The Royal Visitors, … entered the town in two open carriages, … In complement to the fair maids of Cambria, the Duchess and Princess wore the head dress of the country, the Welsh hat, and we may venture to add without fear of contradiction, that they well became the national costume which they honoured by wearing. This delicate token of respect to the country was acknowledged by all, especially by the female part of the spectators, with admiration.
North Wales Chronicle (Bangor, Wales), Tuesday, August 21, 1832
Repeated in Liverpool Mercury etc (Liverpool, England), Friday, October 15, 1852

It is possible that they were wearing a type of hat known as ‘The Anglesea’ which appears to have become popular as a result of a comment made by the Marquess of Anglesey (Henry William Paget, 1768-1854) at the 1821 eisteddfod at Caernarfon.

However, the doll from the Royal collections now in London Museum, thought to be the one presented to Princess Victoria has a typical north Wales type of hat with a broad brim and straight sides, so it is possible that this was the sort of hat worn by the Princess and her mother. There is no mention of the name of maker of the hats they wore. It would seem very likely that if they were made locally, there would be at least a tradition that the maker was ‘by Royal appointment’ and this might have appeared on his hat labels. The hats worm by the Princess and her mother may have been made in advance, possibly by the Royal hatters in London. There is a small but superbly made hat in Oriel Ynys Môn (Anglesey) museum which was made by ‘Thomas Townend of Fenchurch Street, London’ [established in 1794]. The label includes ‘To the Royal Family’. It is of the north Wales type – straight sided and lower than the conical sort and could conceivably be one of those worn by the couple, but it cannot, as yet, be dated.

There are two problems associated with this evidence: (1) the hat on the doll might possibly be a later addition and (2) if the hat in Oriel Ynys Môn had been worn by Royalty, it is likely that this information would have been recorded.

An oil painting by  Joseph Butler entitled “Embarkation of the Princess Victoria” in the Fishing Heritage Centre,  Grimsby, shows Princess Victoria and her entourage ready to embark on a rowing boat in the Menai Straits in 1832. On the right of the picture is a young woman wearing what appears to be the north-Wales type of Welsh hat – straight-sided with a flat brim, the type of hat that Victoria and her mother wore in Bangor.

Visit to Llanberis

{Journey to Beaumaris, Duchesses’ trip to Llanberis.} The Duchess of Kent last Saturday passed through Carnarvon on her way to Llanberis. They changed horses at the Uxbridge Arms Hotel in Caernarfon and visited the New Inn at Llanberis (now the Royal Victoria). (Cambrian (newspaper) 1.9.1832)

Presentation of Eisteddfod prizes.

The Duchess and the Princess jointly invested the winners with their medals. There was a prize for the best stanza on the honour conferred by the Royal women in attending ‘our national festival’ – won by the bard of Nantglyn. (Cambrian (newspaper) 8.9.1832)

There is a print of this event which may well have been produced some years later (it was not published until 1850) but no one in the picture is shown wearing a Welsh costume or Welsh hat. (Parry, Edward, Royal Visits and Progresses to Wales, (1850), p. 450)

When the queen, as Princess resided in Wales, she admired the Welsh dress so much that she specially ordered a Welsh dress to be made for her from Robert Sion Pryse (Gweirydd ap Rhys, Llanrhyddiad, Anglesey), which she wore during her stay and afterwards, until it became fashionable among the nobility. (North Wales Chronicle, April 18, 1868) [This is the only reference to the Princess wearing a Welsh dress and since it was published 36 years after the event, it might not be accurate.]

Another report suggests that Robert John Pryse (Gweirydd ar Rhys), presented a sample of mantle material of linsey-woolsey to Princess Victoria at the Beaumaris Eisteddfod in 1832 for which he received £30. (Roberts, Huw, Pais a Becon, Gŵn stwff a Het silc, Traditional Welsh costume in nineteenth-century Anglesey. (2007) , p. 13)

1st August (Wednesday)
Left Kensington Palace
2nd August (Thursday)
Arrived at the Talbot Hotel, Shrewsbury
Stayed the night at Powys castle, Welshpool
3rd August (Friday)
Stayed at Powis castle
4th August (Saturday)
Oswestry (Wynnstay Arms Hotel)
Cavalry fed at the New Inn, Gledrid
Chirk. Cavalry fed at the Hand Hotel
A woman in the crowd died
5th August (Sunday)
attended church at Rhuabon
6th August (Monday)
Pontycyssylte aqueduct
Llangollen, presented with a doll in Welsh costume
Changed horses at the King’s Head (now the Royal Hotel),
Observers watched from the Hand Hotel
Inspected the suspension bridge
Beaumaris, Stayed at the Bulkeley Arms hotel for about 3 weeks
7th August (Tuesday)
Rowed to the Royal Yacht which sailed to Puffin Island and back
8th August (Wednesday)
No record of the Princesses activities
9th August (Thursday)
Address from the people of Beaumaris
To Caernarfon
Uxbridge Arms Hotel mentioned
Caernarfon Castle
By barge to the Royal yacht
To Beaumaris and the Bulkeley Arms hotel
10th August (Friday)
Lunch on board the steam vessel the ‘Menai’ with the owner, T.A. Smith
Visited Bangor and wore Welsh hats
11th August (Saturday) and 12th August (Sunday) [no mention]
13th August Monday
To Conwy and back on the ‘Menai’
[17th August, Friday, the Duchess’s birthday]
Bonfires lit on Penmaenmawr, Snowdon, Twhill, Elidir and other mountains to celebrate the Duchess’s birthday.  The firing of guns caused a fire on dry grass near Mr Pennant’s ‘picturesque and beautiful plantation’. Young trees were cut down and many helped quench the fire.
The Royal party (excluding Princess Victoria who was indisposed) passed through Caernarfon on their way to Llanberis.
Uxbridge Arms hotel, Caernarfon mentioned
Boat, owned by T.A. Smith took them on the lake to Dolbadarn. [Thomas Assheton Smith (the younger) (1776–1858), son of Thomas Assheton Smith (the elder) (1752 –1828) who acquired Dinorwic quarry in 1809.]
Many rock cannon were fired (explosives were placed in holes drilled in the rock to loosen it.)
[According to Sinclair, Catherine, (1800-1864) Hill and Valley, or Hours in England and Wales 1833, 1st edition, (New York, 1838), p. 129-131; 2nd  Edition, Whyte and Co,  (Edinburgh, 1839), p. 155-157, ‘Some months ago Princess Victoria visited these quarries, when three thousand holes were stuffed with gunpowder, and fired off in successive salutes, which must have sounded magnificent, awakening the echoes on many a distant hill. Great personages would require a fresh relay of nerves wherever they go, to stand the cannonading with which it is etiquette to receive them. We were treated to one explosion, which was more than enough, and to inflict three thousand was a cruel kindness.‘] [The same was done at Piercefield and in the Lake district at different times. The annotator of Wyndham’s Gentleman’s Tour (NMGW p.6), suggested that gunpowder was left with Mr Morris’ gardener in order to fire some small cannon on the rock … The reverberating echo of which you will find has a wonderful effect.]
New Inn, ‘just erected by T.A. Smith and now called the Royal Victoria’
Visited Dolbadarn Castle and Mr Smith’s cottage
Returned [to where?] by land
List of donations given by the Royal party to local causes
Left the Bulkeley Hotel,
The Duchess and Princess Victoria  went to stay at Baron Hill
Account of the Eisteddfod at Beaumaris (held 28-31st August)
The Princess presented prizes at  Baron Hill (but did not attend the Eisteddfod because of bad weather).
Unknown date
The Royal party laid the foundation stone at Llanedwyn and Llanfairpwllgwyngyll school
15th October (Monday)
The Royal party left Anglesey and travelled via Kinmel Park, St Asaph, Northop and Hawarden to Eaton Hall

There are persistent stories, without foundation, that Princess Victoria stayed in a house on the promenade at Aberystwyth in 1832. See Cymru Fu, first volume, quoted in the Western Mail, 23.6.1896

Bibliography (in addition to those listed above)
Hereford Journal (August and Sept, 1832), which include no mention of the doll or Welsh hat.
The Cambrian Quarterly Magazine and Celtic Repertory, vol IV, 1832, pp 526-537;
Victoria, An Anecdotal Memoir of Her Majesty (1837);
Anecdotes, personal traits, and characteristic sketches of Victoria, (1840), p. 192;
Viscount Esher, (Ed.), The Girlhood of Queen Victoria, A Selection of Her Majesty’s diaries between 1832 and 1840 (1912);
Bye-gones: Relating to Wales and the Border Counties, 22.6.1887, p. 329;