By Vincenzo Capodici, 25 August 2018
"The view is beautiful with the lake – Pilatus, the Rigi, etc. – I can hardly believe my eyes when I look at it! It looks like a painting or an ornament – a dream!" The exuberant praise for the landscape Lake Lucerne comes from Queen Victoria (1819-1901), who visited Switzerland 150 years ago, from 7 August to 9 September 1868. While she writes this diary, she stays in the private guest house Valais at the Gütsch in Lucerne.
The British monarch is the most powerful woman in the world, but she struggles with her life. Seven years after the death of her beloved husband Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha Queen Victoria is still marked by a severe depression. The more so, the political sector. The queen, dressed in mourning always black, withdraws. She is nicknamed "Widow of Windsor".
With the trip to Switzerland the monarch seeks peace and distraction. And she wants to take new life force. Switzerland is the country where Prince Albert, her deceased husband, traveled in 1837. He had spoken enthusiastically about Switzerland and brought souvenirs to the young queen, including a dried, pressed Alpine Rose from the Rigi, which she always loved with her in an album.
The sandwiches must be square
The stay of Queen Victoria in Switzerland is well documented because she has carefully recorded her experiences in her diary and wrote letters. She also painted watercolors of mountain landscapes and atmospheric images. Queen Victoria came to Switzerland as a private person, she did not need official receptions, she traveled incognito as "countess of Kent". Nevertheless, the British press was aware of this, but it reported with appropriate distance during the holiday of the "countess of Kent".
For her time-out in Switzerland, Queen Victoria had given the following motto: simplicity in combination with comfort. So she brought her two favorite ponies and three carriages to Lucerne, as well as her own bed and other household items. In addition, she was constantly on the Lake of Lucerne the steamship Winkelried available.
The local suppliers of food had to learn how to prepare according to the custom of the English dish, such as sandwich bread in square form, eaten with butter and ham for breakfast. Almost once during the stay the king missed her afternoon tea at 17.00.
Queen Victoria traveled with a larger group in Switzerland. It was three of her nine children, the loyal Scottish Highland servant John Brown, a personal doctor, three other highlanders and stable boys and assistants. She also hired two local girls and a Swiss travel guide. Queen Victoria visited places that are still popular tourist destinations today: the Rigi and Pilatus, the Lion Monument in Lucerne, the Lake Lucerne, the Hohle Gasse in Küssnacht, the Engelberg Monastery, the Gotthard Pass and the Devil's Bridge in the Schöllenen Gorge, and the Furka Passes and the glacier from the Rhône.
On the Furkapass, the queen and her retinue seized the only inn for three days. This irritated other travelers and caused controversy, which was discharged into the readers' columns of the Berner newspaper "The Bund". The queen almost made a positive impression on the local population. The Swiss were impressed with the & # 39; ordinary clothes & # 39; and the & modest behavior & # 39; of the monarch and its effect.
Traveling in Switzerland is developing into a real recovery process for Queen Victoria. The diary notes and the letters document how she opens her soul against the overwhelming nature and slowly finds herself again. The melancholy monarch shows her enterprising and cheerful side. "The Swiss Intermezzo certainly did the king well," writes Peter Arengo-Jones, a former employee of the British embassy in Bern, who wrote the book Queen Victoria in Switzerland. Here her intensive, long grieving phase came to an end. "In Switzerland she got the perfect change of scene and tranquility she had been looking for for so long, but at the same time she had received many suggestions for excursions."
During the reign of Queen Victoria, the British empire becomes large and powerful as never before. The Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland also bears the title Empress of India from 1876 onwards. The Victorian era is named after her. She dies at the age of 82 on January 22, 1901. Victoria reigned 63 years, seven months and two days: this is – after the current Queen Elizabeth II – the longest reign in the history of the British monarchy.
Note: the Historical Museum Lucerne shows the exhibition "Queen Victoria in Switzerland" until September 16, 2018.