8. The Great Stink didn’t just affect the poor – Queen Victoria and Prince Albert’s river cruise was cancelled due to the stench
Since many had to get their bathing and drinking water from the filthy river, London’s poor suffered the most from the state of the Thames. But even the city’s richest citizens couldn’t escape the Great Stink. Indeed, even the Queen was affected. According to the official records, Victoria and her beloved husband Albert planned on taking a leisurely cruise down the Thames one summer’s day in June of 1858. But, even though she came equipped with a scented handkerchief and kept this pressed to her face the whole time, Victoria could only bear to be on the river for a few minutes. Almost as soon as the boat departed on the cruise, she ordered it to turn around and for her staff to take her back to Buckingham Palace.
Similarly, the country’s Members of Parliament struggled to escape the Big Stink. Since the Palace of Westminster was – and, indeed, still is – located right on the river, the putrid smell of the water came in through the walls and windows. What’s more, reports from the time note that, as the heatwave caused the water levels to drop, a huge pile of human waste was left piled up right next to Parliament. It got so bad that many MPs called for parliament to be moved to Oxford or the city of St Albans.