June 6, 2011

Queen Victoria Taking the Waters

Written by Rosa Morgan

In this portrait, Franz Winterhalter captured me relaxing after an autumn yachting expedition. It was 1843, and I, at the tender age of 24, went with my dear Albert to visit the kings of both France and Belgium. We thoroughly enjoyed our sojourn and the subsequent entertainment, and found our maritime mode of transportation to be of so little inconvenience, that I have often since said, "I took to water like a duck."

I've always enjoyed seaside pastimes, including bathing. A debate rages between naysayers, who proclaim submerging oneself in water is hazardous to one's health, while others, including noted physicians, prescribe it as therapy for their invalid patients. I, myself, am of a strong constitution and give partial credit to regularly imbibing a pint of seawater.

Of course, proper attire is necessary to protect one's porcelain complexion from the pernicious effects of the sun, as well as ogling from the male population. The preferred bathing costume begins with a tight fitting cap to conceal one's locks. A wool smock, belted with weights sewn in the hem, prevents the water from immodestly exposing you. Complete your fashionable ensemble with flannel Turkish trousers, which Amelia Bloomer has made popular as of late.

Bathing Machines have been in vogue at fresh water spas since the early 1700's, but are now a common sight at the seaside. Horses pull these cabanas directly into the surf, providing a convenient and modest means of disrobing. Insecure swimmers can tether themselves to the wagon for added security.

In this age of rail transport and paid holidays, I encourage everyone to take the waters this summer. However, I add a stern caveat; do not allow the wanton intermixture of males and females, for wet bathing costumes immodestly cling to the human form.

Dear Gentle Reader, Leave a comment as to where your favorite swimming hole is.


  1. The narrative certainly convinces that by not bathing in ocean one is missing one of great gifts the life has to offer. Some very lucky bathers will be those who live right on the sea coasts.

  2. My favorite swimming hole is Barton Springs in Austin! The pay side and the free side.. though the free side sometimes smells more of dogs and urine, it's nice when you get further out. Barton Springs was apparently widely popular as a swimming hole in the Victorian times as well.
    I still need to try out Pyramid Lake here in Nevada.

  3. Hi Spencer, I've enjoyed the chilly waters of Barton Springs too, and indeed there were a tourist destination in the Victorian era. In 1837 Uncle Billy Barton, settled the area, naming the three separate springs after his daughters: Parthenia, Eliza, and Zenobia.
    The last private owner of the property, Andrew Jackson Zilker, deeded it to Austin in 1918.