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The Art of Monarchy

A collaboration with BBC Radio 4 to mark Her Majesty The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee

Queen Victoria, Queen of the United Kingdom (1819-1901)

Tickertape 1858

RCIN 84450

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On 16 August 1858 the first official transatlantic message was sent by Queen Victoria to James Buchanan, President of the United States of America. The message in Morse code – recorded on the present tickertape – was sent via a submarine cable which ran from Ireland to Newfoundland in Canada. This paper tickertape records the text of the message:

‘To the President of the United States, Washington. The Queen desires to congratulate the President upon the successful completion of this great international work…The Queen is convinced that…the electric cable which now connects Great Britain with the United States will prove an additional link between the nations, whose friendship is founded upon their common interest and reciprocal esteem. The Queen has much pleasure in thus communicating with the President and renewing to him her wishes for the prosperity of the United States.’

The tickertape was presented to the Queen and kept by her at Osborne House as a souvenir of the occasion. It is clear that the Queen understood how transformative this new innovation was in the field of communications, reducing the amount of time it took to send a message across the Atlantic from up to ten days by ship, to a matter of minutes. Although the cable ceased to function three months later, after transmitting 732 messages, the Prince Consort wrote soon after to Benjamin Disraeli, then Chancellor of the Exchequer, urging him to make a government grant towards the cost of laying a new cable between the United Kingdom and North America. Despite the Prince’s plea this was not achieved until 1866.