ManyÂ local people will remember when Diana, theÂ Princess of Wales, visited Tunbridge Wells to openÂ Royal Victoria Place in October 1992. But no oneÂ will recall a young Princess Victoria riding her ownÂ donkey, apparently called Flower, along Church Road.
In her childhood Victoria came down with her mother, theÂ Duchess of Kent, and would stay at Decimus Burton’s MountÂ Pleasant house on Crescent Road, which now houses the HotelÂ du Vin, and Boyne House on Mount Ephraim, enjoying herÂ summer days playing in Calverley Grounds.
In 1835 the 16-year-old princess – who would become QueenÂ two years later – attended the races on the Common and notedÂ ‘numbers of beggars, itinerary musicians, actors etc of allÂ sorts and kinds’ She added: “It was very amusing. The dayÂ was beautiful and we satÂ under a sort of covering ofÂ cloth decorated withÂ flowers.”
Walking throughÂ the town laterÂ that week withÂ her mother, sheÂ came across a manÂ selling parrots.
“Amongst themÂ was one dear littleÂ paroquet of a greenÂ colour with a paleÂ brown head and soÂ very tame that mammaÂ took it on her finger andÂ it would hardly leaveÂ her. It talks also, the manÂ says. Mamma bought theÂ dear little thing… it is now inÂ Mamma’s room.”
The Royal Opera House in the centre of town and theÂ Royal Victoria Hall in Southborough were opened to markÂ Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee. The latter was opened in 1900Â but is set to be demolished in the coming months; theÂ former, unveiled in 1902, has variously been reincarnatedÂ as a cinema, a bingo hall and a public house.
The royal patronage of the town began in 1630 with QueenÂ Henrietta Maria, the wife of Charles I, after the birth of herÂ son – the future Charles II. He also frequented the area, andÂ in 1678 the Chapel of King Charles the Martyr was built nearÂ what came to be known as The Pantiles.
The town’s most famous landmark was developedÂ following a visit by the future Queen Anne in 1698, whenÂ her son Prince William fell over on ‘The Walks’. She demandedÂ that they should beÂ repaved, but whenÂ she came back theÂ following year theÂ work had not beenÂ carried out and sheÂ vowed she wouldÂ never come back.
More recently,Â the Queen MotherÂ came to town for theÂ Silver Jubilee in 1977,Â and for the DiamondÂ event three yearsÂ ago the Earl andÂ Countess of WessexÂ were here, whileÂ Princess AnneÂ attended TunbridgeÂ Wells’ 400thÂ anniversary aÂ decade ago.