Tuesday, 24 November 2009

William IV and the Royal York Hotel

Unlike his successor, William IV was a Brighton enthusiast, visiting at least once a year during his reign. He visited the Devil's Dyke, took trips along the cliffs to Rottingdean and liked to walk on the Chain Pier and in the Kemptown enclosures. He worshipped here, had his solicitors in Ship Street and re-developed the Royal Pavilion estate. The original South Gate, now replaced with the Indian Gate, and the North Gate were erected for him.

William succeeded to the crown in June 1830 so it was actually as Duke of Clarence that, in October 1829, he disembarked from Dieppe at the Chain Pier and, greeted by cheering crowds, made his way to the Royal York Hotel. However it seems unnecessary  to quibble at the wording on this plaque which, unveiled in Sept. 2008 on the refurbished hotel, replaced an earlier one with similar wording which had been partly concealed in the portico. What's in a name anyway? For sure, the crowds in 1829 were aware they were greeting their future monarch; and there is precedent in literature for using a title retroactively. There is also the pragmatic consideration that for many people commemorative plaques have only the "one glance chance" to register. "William IV" is succinct and recognisably historic; any extra wording by way of explanation and the whole message might be missed.

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