Ryde Celebrates Marriage of Prince Louis of Hesse and Princess Alice 1862
Princess Alice was the second daughter of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. On 1 July 1862, in the dining room of Osborne House, she married Prince Louis of Hesse. Seven months had passed since the death of the Prince Consort and the Royal Family was still in deep mourning. The venue was chosen so that the Queen was able to avoid inviting the usual guests of state.
Ryde wanted to celebrate the wedding but, due to Queen Victoria’s grief at the recent loss of her husband, it was a difficult decision. Eventually, after much argument, it was decided to forgo all banquets and other festivities and instead to give a treat to the Sunday School children. Even this decision met with some opposition but enquiries were made at Osborne and the event was given permission to go ahead.
From the bunting which gaily waved in the breeze and from the great activity displayed by the members of the Committee, composed of many of the principal tradesmen of the town, and of many of the ministers and teachers, strangers may have seen “something in the wind,” for the people of Ryde seldom do things by halves.
Wagons, laden with goods for the picnic ran to and from the field at Ryde House. At one o’clock the masters of ceremonies decked with white rosettes began to form a procession in front of the Town Hall. Hundreds of children with pretty bouquets were marshalled in line by their teachers until the whole of Lind Street was full. There were banners of every shape and hue; a splendid crimson banner inscribed “God bless the marriage of Prince Louis and Princess Alice.” Interspersed with these bright, fluttering designs, were the flags of all nations, many floral crowns, wreaths, and other tasteful devices on staffs, besides mottoes of every kind. The teachers wore laurel leaves – the women on their breasts and the men on their hats.
The sun, which had been obscured by clouds in the morning, came out in the afternoon and the flags and banners fluttered in the breeze as the bells of St. Mary’s Church rang out a merry peal.
At 2 o’clock the procession moved off led by the town crier. The schools of Ryde followed and behind were several vehicles dressed in evergreens and flowers, carrying the children who were too young to walk, but not too young to cheer. Rev. Father Telford (Catholic), Rev. Mr. Little (Baptist), and Rev. Mr. Shipham (Methodist), all joined the procession which was almost a mile long. After processing around the town the party ended up in the field next to Ryde House, which had been lent by Capt. and Mrs. Brigstocke. It was an appropriate spot for the party as the field faced Osborne, where the marriage ceremony was performed. The Queen’s yachts and Admiralty steamers were constantly going to and from Osborne and Portsmouth.
The children played on the grass: rolling, “cocksetting” (as somersaults are locally called), swinging and jumping, until the band of the Rifles summoned them to tea with the well-known air “God save the Queen.”
The children were seated on raised planks and arranged in groups, their teachers and friends attended to their wants. Prodigious quantities of cake, biscuits and bread and butter, with milk and water, all disappeared!
After tea there were more games, the older boys had a game of cricket watched by a large number of the gentry and other inhabitants. Nearly £50 was taken in sixpenny entrances at the gates. In the tents of the Royal Horticultural Society refreshments were provided for visitors, the profits of which contributed to the expenses of the day. Everyone had a wonderful time.
At 8 o’clock, the procession re-formed and marched back to the Town Hall. About 5000 people gathered in Lind Street, the band played the tune “God save the Queen,” and thousands of children sang in unison a variation especially composed for the occasion. Prolonged cheering, waving of banners and flags on the ground and on the housetops, and other rejoicings brought the fete to a close at 9 o’clock. It was a successful and appropriate way for Ryde to demonstrate its loyalty to the Crown.
Source: Isle of Wight Observer 5 July 1862; Portrait of Princess Alice from wikipedia