Tour of 1825

In 1825, when John was six, the Ruskin family made its first visit to the Continent. According to Van Akin Burd, the family party included Johnʼs nurse, Anne Strachan, who accompanied the family also on the 1833 Continental journey. Burd adds that they journeyed between 11 May and 13 July, and the itinerary covered Calais, Bruges, Ghent, Brussels, and Paris, including Versailles (Ruskin, Works, 1:xxv; Burd, ed., Ruskin Family Letters, 132 n. 3). As such, the tour was characteristically post‐Napoleonic, organized around paying tribute to the Alliesʼ victory on Waterloo Field and witnessing the festivities in Paris to celebrate the crowning of Charles X—the successor to Louis XVIII who died in 1824.
The route through Bruges, Ghent, and Brussels was that taken by Lord Byron, when embarking on his exile in 1816 (see Hawkins, ed., “The Byron Chronology”, years 1816–19).
The coronation of Charles X was the first since the restoration of the Bourbon monarchy—Charlesʼs brother, Louis XVIII, having died less than a decade after being restored to the throne following the Alliesʼ victory. The ceremony itself took place on 29 May 1825 at the cathedral in Reims, where French monarchs had for centuries traditionally been anointed, and not in Paris, where Napoleon had crowned himself emperor in Notre Dame. While some aspects of the ceremony were updated to take account of political conditions in the Restoration, “the overriding symbolism was that of the pre‐1789 monarchy, with pride of place being given to the clergy and nobility” (Price, Perilous Crown, 119). In Britain, where Charles had lived in exile in London and Edinburgh, theaters staged replicas of the Reims Cathedral ceremony; and in Paris, opera houses mounted productions that reflected the spectacle at Reims, which was in itself deemed by many to be inappropriately operatic in character (Walton, “‘Quelque peu théâtral’”, 6–10).
In his travel diary for 1833, John James Ruskin reflected back on this 1825 journey, comparing the familyʼs experiences during the much more ambitious Continental Tour of 1833. On this present visit, he notes that Paris was “not so gay as in May 1825” (Diary of John James Ruskin,1833–46, 72, 73). Following the July Revolution of 1830 and the abdication of Charles X, as a historian remarks, “a coronation for Louis Philippe was never raised”, even in the tempered form of medievalism surrounding Charles Xʼs ceremony, “and the bourgeoisieʼs king contented himself with his proclamation by the Chamber of Deputies and the swearing of an oath of fidelity to the Constitutional Charter as his sole inaurgural rite” (Jackson, Vive le Roi!, 199). In his autobiography, Praeterita, Ruskin acknowledged that the trip was prompted by the coronation festivities, but he remembered nothing of the pomp, claiming to have been “only interested by things near me, or at least clearly visible and present”, such as the good‐natured servants at the Paris hotel (Ruskin, Works, 35:104).
A journey to the Continent may seem ambitious for a middle‐class London family, only recently established (since 1823) in their new suburban home, Herne Hill, and with a young boy to raise and educate. By the mid‐1820s, however, Channel crossings were common, if limited to the nearby and comparatively inexpensive destination of the Kingdom of the Netherlands (Belgium did not secede and form a nation until 1830). Trips expressly to view the Waterloo battlefield had been popular since as early as the weeks immediately following the battle. The popularity had been enhanced by personal visits paid by such well‐known literary figures as Walter Scott, Robert Southey, and Lord Byron (François, “If Itʼs 1815, This Must Be Belgium, 74–75, 89). For the increased affordability and efficiency of steam packet lines crossing the Channel by the mid‐1820s, see Touring and Travel on the Continent; and for the Ruskinsʼ crossing by steam seven years later, see Tour of 1833, along with the essay, Calais (with its glosses), in the Account of a Tour on the Continent.
Diary of John James Ruskin, 1833–46, © The Ruskin, Lancaster University.
Back to top