Queen Victoria’s personal journals now available for public access

From a ProQuest press release:

London, 24 May 2012.   HM the Queen launches online resource of all Queen Victoria’s Journals

Her Majesty The Queen today launched a unique online resource that makes available all the personal journals of Queen Victoria.  The Bodleian Libraries working in partnership with The Royal Archives and information company ProQuest, have for the first time ever, made the private records of one of the world’s most influential public figures available for the public to access at www.queenvictoriasjournals.org.

The journals, which span Victoria’s lifetime and consist of 141 volumes numbering over 43,000 pages, have never been published in their entirety and previously were only accessible by appointment at the Royal Archives at Windsor Castle. In addition to autograph diaries begun by the youthful Princess Victoria, there are edited versions from her later years, redacted and transcribed by the Queen’s daughter, Princess Beatrice.

Queen Victoria was a prolific writer and recorded her thoughts and experiences almost daily, starting with her first entry as a young girl of 13 and continuing until just weeks before her death in 1901. Her journals provide a fascinating insight into her life as Queen, giving an intimate first-person account of key events in her life and sixty-three years on the throne, from her coronation and her marriage to Prince Albert to the Diamond Jubilee of 1897.  The journals also trace important events in political and social history such as meetings with her Prime Ministers, The Great Exhibition and the Crimean and Boer Wars, shedding previously unrecorded moments of significance for world history.

Throughout her journals pride and passion for country are revealed:  ‘I really cannot say how proud I feel to be the Queen of such a Nation’ (28 June 1838). She writes about her travels across Britain detailing her views on the North-west, Black Country, Wales and Scotland, where on a visit to the Invertrossachs she writes: ‘The romance and wild loveliness … beloved Scotland the proudest, finest country in the world’ (2 Sept 1869).

The journals expose the challenges of duty, when she writes: ‘So much to do, so many boxes, letters, business…’(26 February 1862).  They also reveal the impact of world events when she reflects on the Franco-Prussian War: ‘I ended this dreadful year of bloody conflict in no cheerful mood’ (31 Dec 1870).

Finally, the journals give insight into many personal experiences showing an unexpectedly intimate side to Queen Victoria.  She writes of her early romance with Prince Albert:  ‘He clasped me in his arms, and we kissed each other again and again!’ (10 Feb 1840), and describes giving birth: ‘A boy was born, to great happiness to me.  Dr Snow administered ‘that blessed Chloroform’’ (the birth of Prince Leopold, 22 April 1853). Later in life she describes the loneliness of widowhood: ‘Here I sit lonely and desolate, who so need love and tenderness’ (10 March 1863).

All the journals are now available via this easy-to-use website and can be browsed and read online.  Pages from the journals can be searched by date or place of writing, and transcriptions of each page–searchable by keyword–are currently provided for the period up to 1840, with further releases planned throughout the Diamond Jubilee year. The site includes an interactive timeline and drawings by Queen Victoria, along with selections from her sketchbooks.  Finally, the site includes a number of essays about aspects of Queen Victoria’s life, authored by Sir Roy Strong, Laurence Goldman and Peter Ward-Jones among others.

Members of the public can also access the site to find out about key figures, events or places in history. In the year of our Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, users can even discover what Queen Victoria wrote about her own equivalent celebrations in 1897: ‘It was like a triumphal entry … one mass of beaming faces, and the cheers never ceased’ (21 June 1897).

The resource is available free of charge to all users in the United Kingdom and to the national libraries of Her Majesty’s Realms; users outside the UK can access the website until 30 June 2012. Thereafter, a specialized version for libraries will become available from ProQuest.

‘ProQuest is delighted to enable this content to be accessed and used by the global research community,’ said Rod Gauvin, ProQuest Senior Vice President. ‘It will be an important resource of primary materials for scholars worldwide, particularly those with an interest in British political and social history and those working on gender and autobiographical writing.’

Delivering the journals online has taken eight months to achieve and has involved specialist staff across the three organizations. Digital images of all journal volumes, along with drafts and illustrations, were created on site at the Royal Archives in the Round Tower at Windsor.

Dr. Sarah Thomas, Bodley’s Librarian said: ‘This initiative is a highly engaging and significant partnership across three organizations for the benefit of public and scholarly access to fascinating historical documents, and has been made possible with the support and generosity of Oxford benefactors The Polonsky Foundation and The Zvi and Ofra Meitar Family Fund.’

David Ryan, Assistant Keeper of the Royal Archives said: ‘The virtue of digital access is its ability to reveal the thoughts of Queen Victoria to millions around the world, providing them with a record of the important political and cultural events surrounding a monarch whose name defined an age.’

The Queen Victoria’s Journals website is mobile-compliant and can be viewed from all iPhones, Blackberry and Android phones.  The website is supported by a Facebook page at www.facebook.com/queenvictoriasjournals and Twitter at @QueenVictoriaRI .