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, nursing the royal children through scarlet fever who fortunately recovered in time for their mother to keep to the agreed schedule. On 17th August, the new Royal paddle yacht Victoria & Albert (II) anchored below Osborne House 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 voyage to Boulogne completely captivated both the Queen and Prince Albert as far as their new yacht was concerned and the vessel henceforward became the Queen's favourite mode of transport for the rest of her long reign.
Another very similar version of this work from a slightly different perspective, signed and dated 1857 and measuring 20 x 30ins., has also been offered in the commercial marketplace.