Queen’s and Queen Victoria

The Queen’s Colleges in Ireland

In this bicentenary year of the birth of Queen Victoria, on 24 May 1819, it is worth highlighting that the three Queen’s Colleges in Ireland which were opened in the mid-19th century were named in her honour.  The establishment of the Queen’s Colleges in Belfast, Cork and Galway in 1845 by royal assent through the Colleges (Ireland) Act 1845 and the setting up of the Queen’s University in Ireland in 1850 as their degree-granting authority, ‘opened a new era in Irish educational history’[1].

The crest of Queen’s College Belfast in the form of a floor tile mosaic at the entrance to the Lanyon building (image source: QUB Imagebank)
The crest of the Queen’s University in Ireland (image source: QUB Imagebank)

The Queen’s Colleges were the government’s response to the need for expansion of higher education provision in Ireland as until then the only university in Ireland was the University of Dublin, (Trinity College).  The government intended that the Queen’s Colleges were to be non-denominational and this is how Queen’s, Belfast has remained.  The building of Queen’s College Belfast was designed by the architect Charles Lanyon and it was completed in August 1849 and the first academic session began in October 1849.  The Queen’s University Archive holds the Lanyon architectural drawings of the College building which date from 1847.

QUB/1/12/1/2/29: an architectural print of Queen’s College Belfast showing the side elevation of the southside of the building [1847], signed by Charles Lanyon (image source: QUB Archive)

A permanent mark of remembrance to Queen Victoria, ‘VR 1848’, is included in the Lanyon building in diapered brickwork on the chimney breast of what was originally the President’s residence[2] and what is now the Vice-Chancellor’s Office.

Lanyon South, VR (Victoria Regina) 1848 (image source: QUB Imagebank)

Queen Victoria and Prince Albert visit Queen’s College Belfast, 11 August 1849

Also in August 1849 Queen Victoria and Prince Albert were on a state visit to Ireland and this included a visit to Belfast on 11 August.  Part of their itinerary was to attend a reception in the Botanic Gardens, which borders Queen’s College, and whilst they were there they took the opportunity to visit the newly built College[3].  To mark the visit the Queen signed the Roll book.

Queen Victoria continued to maintain an interest in the Queen’s Colleges throughout the remainder of her reign.  For example the names of all newly appointed professors had to be approved by the monarch and their final appointments were made using a royal warrant.  In 1857 Victoria requested that from then on she wanted to know not just the names of those persons selected but also their qualifications as was the case with other civil and military appointments that she approved[4].

Queen’s University of Belfast and King Edward VII

In 1908 Queen’s College Belfast became an independent University to be known as the Queen’s University of Belfast.  The Royal Charter of the newly established university was signed by Edward VII, Queen Victoria’s eldest son and heir, she having died in 1901. 

QUB/3/1/1/1 Royal Charter of the Queen’s University of Belfast, 2 December 1908 (image source: QUB Archive)

[1] Queen’s, Belfast 1845-1949, T.W Moody and J.C Beckett, London, 1959, page xxxv

[2] Queen’s, An Architectural Legacy, David Evans and Paul Larmour, Belfast, 1995, page 3

[3] Moody and Beckett, op., cit, page 123

[4] Ibid, page 214