On this day…4 April

On 4 April 1900 Queen Victoria started her visit to Dublin.

Queen Victoria had arrived in Kingstown (Dún Laoghaire) harbour on the afternoon of 3 April, but did not disembark until the following day, when she went by carriage to Dublin. The Lord Mayor, Thomas Pile, presented her with the civic sword and the keys of the city, and she was given an address of welcome. Victoria remained in Dublin until 26 April, attending various functions and events, and staying at the Vice-Regal Lodge in the Phoenix Park where George Cadogan was Lord Lieutenant.

There had been security concerns around the visit and there was a great deal of Nationalist opposition: twenty-two members of Dublin Corporation refused to meet with the Queen during her visit. Maud Gonne led a protest against the visit on 3 April, and WB Yeats published a letter in the Dublin Daily Express declaring that people who cheered the Queen would be dishonouring Ireland.

The Queen’s visit was widely seen as being politically motivated. On St Patrick’s Day 1900 the Queen had praised the Royal Dublin Fusiliers for their role in the Boer Wars, and she had announced that a regiment of Irish guards would be established. Her visit to Dublin was an effort to encourage recruitment for the new regiment.

In ‘L’Irlanda: Isoli dei Santi e dei Savi’ (‘Ireland: Island of Saints and Sages’), a lecture Joyce gave in Trieste in 1907, Joyce mentioned the Queen’s visit to Dublin in 1900. Remarking that the national anthem was never sung in public in Ireland without being drowned in a storm of whistles and shouts, Joyce wrote that the separateness between Ireland and England was evident on the streets of Dublin during her 1900 visit which, he also claims, was politically motivated.

There was also a mention of the Queen in the story ‘Ivy Day in the Committee Room,’ where the text originally made reference to King Edward’s “bloody owl’ mother” (Victoria) keeping him from the throne until he was an old man. Joyce later agreed to drop the word “bloody” to satisfy his English publisher, Grant Richards, but the Irish publisher, Maunsel & Co, wanted him to drop the entire passage referring to the Queen.

Joyce makes several references to Queen Victoria in Ulysses, none of them particularly complimentary. In the ‘Aeolus’ episode there’s a reference to the number of children she had: “Nine she had. A good layer. Old woman that lived in a shoe she had so many children.” In the ‘Cyclops’ episode, there is a story of the Queen, roaring drunk, being carried up stairs by her coachman whose whiskers she pulls at as she sings of “Ehren on the Rhine and come where the boose is cheaper.”



Sources & Further Reading:

Ellmann, Richard: James Joyce – New and Revised edition, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1982.

Joyce, James: Occasional, Critical, and Political Writing, edited with an Introduction and Notes by Kevin Barry, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000.

Norburn, Roger: A James Joyce Chronology, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004.