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Life Jottings of an Old Edinburgh Citizen
Chapter Thirty-Nine


OUEEN Victoria never held any royal ceremonial in her Palace of Holy' rood House. It may be reasonably conjectured that she felt unable to hold any festivities there, as her last great visit had been clouded over by the immediately following death of her husband, who probably caught his fatal sickness in Holyrood Palace. Not long after his accession, the late King Edward and Queen Alexandra came in state to Edinburgh. A levee and a drawing-room were held, to the great satisfaction of Edinburgh society. The drawing-room took place in the daytime, and therefore in morning-dress, bonnets or toques being prescribed as the headgear of etiquette. Of course your common man does not know how a toque differs from a hat. But there were Court lady observers—I almost said "detectives"—to see that no infringement of rule took place. I was informed by a lady that there was one head-dress which fell under censure as being a hat, but the royal inspectors had it removed, and they pushed and prodded it about, converting it into what might pass as a toque, to the great relief of the owner, who feared she would not be permitted to make her curtsey.

The duties performed in London by the Gentlemen-at-Arms were fulfilled by the Royal Archers —King s Bodyguard—and on the day following, His Majesty held an inspection of the Bodyguard in the garden of the Palace. There was a high wind, and the eagles feathers which adorned the bonnets were flying in dozens, chased by members of the King's household and A.D.C.s, which rather detracted from the dignity of the proceedings, and afforded much amusement to the ladies.

Only once did King Edward visit Edinburgh again, when he held a great review of Territorials in Queen's Park, at which 38,383 troops were present, On that day I had the privilege, as honorary Colonel of the Army Motor Reserve, to be in command of the motor contingent, which was authorised to be present, thus being the first motorist that ever officially marched past the Sovereign. When the King rode along the front of the motor line, he, as he passed me, put up his hand and spoke from behind it, saying jocularly: "Take care you don't exceed the regulation pace." I solemnly responded, "Yes, sir." It was the last word I ever heard him speak, and it is a pleasant memory of his kindly nature.

After the accession of King George to the throne, he and his Queen Consort visited Edinburgh n 1912, and held a levee and drawing-room at Holyrood Palace. To the delight of the ladies, the presentation was held in the evening, and went off with great eclat. There is little that a man can be expected to describe satisfactorily as regards the dresses. heir variety was bewildering, but I am led to understand from my lady friends that in their judgment—possibly biased—the show could compare w ell with Buckingham Palace. However that may be I will ask to be forgiven for telling my own sensations.

Being in attendance on duty as an Officer of State, I had a fixed position not far from the door at which the ladies entered, and it was just opposite me that the long trains were lowered from the arm and spread out by the attendants as the ladies moved past. ro me the sensation produced was like watching the billows breaking on the shore. The wave came over the arm and fell in a billow on the floor, then it spread out towards me, and went away from me as the lady advanced. The regular sequence time after time produced a strange effect; which I cannot describe, but I began to understand the late Queen Victoria's need, when holding a drawing-room, to stop the flow of the billows for a short time every now and then, and to give the eyes a rest from that unbroken succession of slow, tide-like movements of the trains over the floor. It was a sensation which I shall never forget. I confess, though professing to be a man of strong nerves, this succession of waves had an effect upon me. If I ever have the same duty to do again, in the same position, prudence will lead me to have strong smelling salts handy.

I have already spoken of the ceremony in the new bijou chapel of the Order of the Thistle, to which, of course, I was not admitted. But I had a duty to do that day which I shall always remember with gratification. While the King was in the Chapel the Queen remained on the throne in the transept, and to the Lord-Advocate and myself, as the two Scottish Officers of State,, was given the duty of attending on her during the King's absence, and of leading her up to join him in the chancel on his return, where they stood during the benediction. It was the first time I ever did duty directly to the person of King or Queen, and I valued the honour. The memory of that whole ceremonial is most pleasing. It had not the magnificence of Westminster Abbey, but it had a sober dignity in the old rough Cathedral Church, which was more in accordance with the character of the King's dominion of Scotland.

The King on this occasion held a military review, when new colours were presented to the Royal Scots, and he also inspected the Veterans, who form the National Reserve, and who paraded to the number of 4247. Lord Minto, whose recent death all good citizens deplore, was in command, and I was told off to command one of the battalions, probably my last official appearance at any military parade.


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