The Princess, The Folly, And The Train

The Traumatised Royal Princess

In September 1835, two years before she was to become queen, a fifteen year old princess came to King’s Lynn. Up until that point Victoria had led a life which had had very little, if any contact with the public. She was travelling by coach through Lynn (an overnight stay) on her way to Holkham Hall. She had been invited to spend time with her mother, the Duchess of Kent, and Thomas Coke (the Earl of Leicester) who was the Hall’s owner.

It was meant to be a private visit but the town’s dignitaries got wind of it and waited for the royal party’s arrival at the South Gate. Excited crowds gathered, and in an age with limited technology, people were anxious to actually see what royalty looked like. When the party arrived some local men unhitched the royal carriage and wanted to have the honour of pulling it and the royal occupant into the town. Faced with a benign, but enthusiastic, royal mobbing, Victoria retreated into one of the houses in Buckingham Terrace.

Princess Victoria, Public Domain
Princess Victoria, Public Domain

Victoria wrote in her journal: “The people, of whom there was a dense mass, insisted upon dragging us through the town and in spite of every effort which was tried to prevent them from so doing, they obstinately persisted in their wish.”

She was eventually persuaded back into the carriage and spent a night at the Duke’s Head before departing the following morning.

The whole experience left the young princess annoyed and slightly traumatised. She is reported to have said that she hated Lynn and would never return.

The Royal Neighbour

Modern inhabitants of King’s Lynn are used to having royalty nearby. It feels as if the royal family have always had a property just a few miles down the road at Sandringham and have always spent Christmas there. However, although the site was occupied since Elizabethan times, it wasn’t until 1862 that the present Sandringham house was purchased for Albert Edward (Bertie) Prince of Wales, later Edward VII, as a country home for him and his future wife, Princess Alexandra of Denmark.

The Folly, Sandringham

Between 1877 and 1880 one of the larger tenant houses on the estate (ironically known as “The Folly”) was regularly used by Bertie to “entertain” Lillie Langtry.

Although the Royal Daimlers are driven from London to Sandringham at Christmas, Queen Elizabeth II often made the journey using the regular rail service from London King’s Cross. Passengers alighting at King’s Lynn were often bemused to see the Queen stepping out of a First Class Carriage. They only realised that the elderly lady in a headscarf was important because of the accompanying security guards.

Queen Victoria visited Sandringham in 1871 when Bertie was dangerously ill. This time she was able to avoid a long stop in King’s Lynn. The train station existed from 1846. Victoria merely swapped train lines in Lynn and made the journey to Wolferton Station (opened 1862) on the Sandringham Estate. However, Elizabeth had to make car journeys to Sandringham from Lynn after her train ride because the line through Wolferton closed in 1969.

Some Royal Links

From medieval times onwards King’s Lynn was an important port on the East Coast and has had many links to royalty. Most medieval monarchs visited the shrine at Walsingham, and many stayed at Lynn’s Augustinian Friary en route.

South Quay, King's Lynn
Photo © James Rye 2023
South Quay, King’s Lynn
Photo © James Rye 2023
  • 1136 King Stephen grants the Bishop of Norwich the right to have a fair at Lynn.
  • 1204 King John gives Lynn a charter allowing it to pass certain laws and obtain certain tax privileges.
  • 1216 King John dines in Lynn a few days before loosing his treasure in the Wash and dying of dysentery.
  • St Margaret’s contains two of the largest medieval brasses in the country. The Robert Braunch brass has a panel that is thought to depict a peacock feast, like one that would have been given by the mayor (Braunch) to Edward III on his visit to Lynn in 1349.
  • 1406 Henry IV comes to Lynn with a large retinue to witness the departure of his daughter Philippa who was going to marry King Eric of Norway.
  • In 1415 the town’s leaders vote to “lend” Henry V £216 13s 4d for the campaign that led to the defeat of the French at Agincourt later that year.
  • In 1421 members of the town’s ruling elite went to the Augustinian Friary to present the cash-strapped Henry V with a “gift” of £150.
  • Henry VI came to Lynn in 1446 and visited John Capgrave and stayed at the Augustinian Friary.
  • In 1470 during the War of the Roses, Edward IV flees to Lynn, commandeers a boat and escapes to Holland.
  • 1498 King Henry VII, Queen Elizabeth and many great lords and nobles came to Lynn and stayed at Austin Friars, where the king was presented with ten great pikes, ten trenches, three couple of beams, twelve swans, two oxen, twenty sheep, a ton of wine, 30 dozen bread, two tons of ale, two tons of beer, and two loads of wood.
  • 1537 Henry VIII gave the town part of the name it enjoys today (see Why is King’s Lynn called “King’s Lynn”?). Bishops Staithe became King’s Staithe in 1537.
  • King’s Lynn was one of the few places in the country to proclaim Lady Jane Grey queen in July 1553.
  • The restoration of Charles II was greatly celebrated in the town. On 29 May 1660 church bells rang in the town, bonfires were lit on Tuesday Market Place, guns at St Ann’s fort were fired, and alcohol flowed. Three hundred maidens dressed in white paraded through the town, and members of the corporation dressed in scarlet robes processed to St. Margaret’s Church.
  • A major storm on 8 September, 1741 destroyed St Margaret’s spire on the South West Tower causing the roof of the knave to collapse. King George II donated £1,000 towards the rebuilding (as did the Prime Minister, Sir Robert Walpole).
  • 1835, 1871 Victoria passes through Lynn (see above).
  • 1869 Queen Alexandra opened the Alexandra Docks.

Some Modern Royal Connections and Visits

  • Edward VII was Patron of the Ouse Sailing Club at the end of Ferry Lane.
  • 1949 the Queen Mother (Queen Elizabeth), Queen Mary (King George V’s widow), Lady Ruth Fermoy Lady in Waiting to the Queen Elizabeth and the great French pianist Alfred Cortot visited the town hall. Alfred Cortot taught Lady Fermoy to play the piano at the Paris Conservatoire.
  • 1951 Queen Elizabeth (Queen Mother after 1953) opened the restored Hall at St George’s Guildhall.
  • 1951-2002 many visits by the Queen Elizabeth (Queen Mother after 1953) to St George’s Guildhall as Patron of King’s Lynn Festival. Water Dexter famous King’s Lynn artist painted a picture of her by the river called the Queen’s View.
  • 1953 Queen Elizabeth II and Queen Mother toured the Mart and met showmen and their families.
  • Queen Mother was made a Freeman on Lynn in 1954 and was invited to celebrate 40 years in 1994.
  • 1989 Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands visited Hansa House.
  • 1993 Queen Elizabeth II and the Prince of Wales visited St Margaret’s.
  • 1993 Prince of Wales opened True’s Yard.
  • 1996 Prince Philip paid a private visit to True’s Yard.
  • 1999 Prince of Wales opened the Tourist Information Centre at the Custom House.
  • 2011 Prince of Wales toured Hansa House.
  • 2000 Prince Philip visited Green Quay and it later became Marriotts Warehouse in2007.
  • 2008 Queen opened Palm Paper. The boast of Palm Paper is that the water it puts back into the River Great Ouse is cleaner than the water it takes out.
  • 2008 Queen Mother was Patron of the King’s Lynn Preservation Trust and came to Thoresby College in 2008 to celebrate 50 years of the founding of the Trust.
  • 2017 Duke of Gloucester open the Stories of Lynn.
  • 2010 Queen Elizabeth II (accompanied by Prince Philip) opened the extension to True’s Yard.
  • 2011 Hanse House was going to be converted into 41 bedsits but with the involvement of the Prince of Wales the Hanse House was purchased by James Lee at a cost of £250,000 and since then he has invested £1.5 million pounds.
  • 1954 Queen Mother was made a Freeman on Lynn and was invited to celebrate 40 years in 1994.

© James Rye 2023

Book a Walk with a Trained and Qualified King’s Lynn Guide Through Historic Lynn


One comment

Leave a Reply