It was, according to Queen Victoria herself, the happiest day of her life: the first of May, 1851. On that day, she, Prince Albert, and her two oldest children strolled happily among 25,000 of her subjects in Hyde Park’s Crystal Palace, to open the Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations: the world’s first world’s fair. Victoria’s advisers, deeply concerned about the Queen’s safety among the crowds, had at first planned upon her opening the Exhibition in a small private ceremony, but the public outcry that greeted those plans led the Queen to overrule them and opt for a large public opening. The royal family’s procession through the Exhibition, surrounded by the cheering multitudes, can justly be considered the very first royal walkabout.
In its next issue, Punch magazine ridiculed the very idea that the Queen would find anything but safety and goodwill among her people.