After centuries of hostility, the Anglo-French rapprochement began in the 1840s with Queen Victoria's State Visit to France in 1845, the first ever by a reigning British monarch. This paved the way to greatly improved diplomatic relations and prompted, eventually, the historic alliance against Russia. The war in the Crimea began in the spring of 1854 and the novel experience of British and French troops fighting alongside each other needed every encouragement from their respective monarchs. Accordingly, the French Emperor Napoleon III and his wife Eugenie were invited to London in April 1855 and, following the great success of their visit, the Queen and Prince Albert began preparations for a return State Visit to Paris that summer. Planned to coincide with the Paris International Exhibition in August, Queen Victoria spent the two weeks prior to departure at Osborne, her summer residence on the Isle of Wight where, on 17th August, the new royal paddle yacht Victoria & Albert (II) anchored off the estate along with the various other vessels which were to accompany her on her Channel crossing. The next morning the flotilla departed for Boulogne where it received a huge welcome followed by the triumphant visit to the French capital. The short overnight crossing to Boulogne captivated both the Queen and Prince Albert as far as their new yacht was concerned and she remained the Queen's favourite mode of transport despite her growing obsolescence as the century wore on.
The considerable success of the first Victoria & Albert of 1843 ensured the building of her successor when it became evident that a larger yacht was needed for the Queen and her growing family. Also built at Pembroke, the second Victoria & Albert was commissioned on 3rd March 1855 and remained in constant use until just after the Queen's death in 1901 when it was withdrawn prior to scrapping.