Apparently today’s newly married royal couple are not taking a honeymoon, well not yet anyway, with William heading back to work with his helicopters next week. How different from when his Great Aunt, the Queen’s sister, Princess Margaret tied the knot with Anthony Armstrong Jones in 1960 and promptly headed off on a honeymoon tour of the Caribbean aboard the magnificent Royal Yacht Britannia.
Whatever the joys of crossing the Atlantic and experiencing the delights of Mustique this trip had a silver liner for Cosens & Co as the return of the Britannia to Portsmouth provided an excellent opportunity for their beautiful paddle steamer Monarch to run a day trip from Bournemouth to witness the happy couple’s arrival with fares at a suitably high 25/- a head. Note the important reminder: “You Must Book Early TO AVOID DISAPPOINTMENT”!
The trip actually features on one of the Bernard Cox paddle steamer videos and shows the day to have been lovely, lazy and sunny.
Built in 1924 as the Shanklin for the Southern Railway Portsmouth to Ryde service, the Monarch joined the Cosens fleet in 1951 and spent her entire career with them on the Bournemouth station mostly running backwards and forwards between Bournemouth and Swanage.
At the tail ends of each season and occasionally during the peak weeks she ventured further afield but a trip back to her old home of Portsmouth was a great rarity for her.
Sadly Monarch only lasted until the end of the 1960 season and the following January was towed through Weymouth Harbour Bridge on her way to the breakers just seven months after her little bit of royal honeymoon couple excitement.
And looking at that picture shows up a tiny point of detail. Rather unusually for a paddle steamer, the Monarch had a dedicated steering telegraph to communicate from the bridge to the emergency steering position in the stern. The steering commands were on one side of each docking telegraph on the bridge wings and they rang the orders to two telegraphs aft with the one on the left in the picture for steering, “hard a port, starboard 20, midships” that sort of thing, and the one on the right for docking instructions.
The mushroom ventilators are also interesting as they were part of an early sort of air conditioning system which must have been a great novelty on a paddle steamer built in 1924.
Kingswear Castle returned to service in 2023 after the first part of a major rebuild which is designed to set her up for the next 25 years running on the River Dart. The Paddle Steamer Kingswear Castle Trust is now fund raising for the second phase of the rebuild. You can read more about the rebuilds and how you can help if you can here.