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Unveiling of the Statue of the Prince Consort at Edinburgh 17 Aug 1876


Holyrood, August 17, 1876

Beloved Mama’s birthday.

How often she came to Edinburgh for a few days on her way to and from Abergeldie, and how much she always liked it!

We arrived yesterday morning at Edinburgh at eight o’clock. Had had a good night. Unfortunately the weather was misty, and even a little rain fell. No distance could well be seen. Dear Arthur came to breakfast (always in uniform). [Arthur was attended by Lieutenant-Colonel Pickard, R.H.A., who had been with him since 1867. He entered the Queen’s service 1st January, 1878, as Groom-in-Waiting, and became Assistant Privy Purse and Assistant Private Secretary in October 1878. He was a charming, amiable person, much devoted to Arthur and to me. He died at the age of forty of consumption at Cannes, March 1, 18S0, deeply regretted by us and by all who knew him.] At eleven o'clock went and sat out till half-past twelve, under an umbrella and with screens, on the side of the Abbey facing Arthurs Seat. Wrote and signed, Brown always helping to dry the signatures.

Read also in the papers a very nice account given in the “Courant” of what passed yesterday. Many interruptions. The day improving. Crowds flocking into the town, troops marching, bands playing—just as when any great event takes place in London.

The last time that my dearest Albert ever appeared in public was in Edinburgh on October 23 [1861], only six weeks before the end of all, when he laid the first stone of the new Post Office, and I looked out of the window to see him drive off in state, or rather in dress, London carriages, and the children went to see the ceremony. It was in Edinburgh, too, that dearest Mama appeared for the last time in public—being with me at the Volunteer Review in i860, which was the first time she had driven with me in public for twenty years!

Dear Arthur could not come to luncheon, as he was on duty. At half-past three we started in three carriages: Beatrice, Leopold, and I in the third; Brown (in full dress) and Collins behind; Leopold in the Highland dress; dear Arthur, commanding the full Sovereign’s escort of the 7th Hussars, riding next to me.

We drove out to the right—by Abbey Hill, the Regent Road, Princes Street, then turning into St. Andrew Square, along George Street to Charlotte Square. Enormous crowds everywhere clustering upon the Calton Hill and round and upon all the high monuments. The decorations were beautiful along the streets and on the houses, Venetian masts with festoons of flags on either side of Princes Street and St. Andrew Street. St. Andrew Square also was beautifully decorated, and the few inscriptions were very touching and appropriate. The day was quite fair, though dull (which, however, under the circumstances, was better than a very scorching sun like yesterday) and heavy, and not clear as to distance. The crowd, which was all along most hearty and enthusiastic, was densest at Charlotte Square. The Duke of Buccleuch received us, and the Royal Archers kept the ground.

We walked up to a dais handsomely arranged, where I stood between Beatrice and Leopold (who were a little behind me). Dear Arthur’s sense of duty was so great, that he would not dismount and stand near me, but remained with the escort which he commanded, and which waited near our carriage. The ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Cross (Home Secretary), etc., standing behind them; the Committee, with the Duke of Buccleuch at their head, below. A large enclosure railed off was full of spectators, including all the highest and principal people, the Duchesses of Athole and Roxburghe, the Dowager Lady Ruthven, Sir Thomas Riddulph, etc.; and our maids also were there, but I saw none of them.

The ceremony began by a short prayer (which was somewhat disturbed by a great noise made by the crowd) offered up by Dr. Milligan, one of the Deans of the Chapel Royal. Then my dearest Albert’s Chorale, with words like a National Anthem, was beautifully sung by a choir, accompanied by the band of the 79th, led by Professor H. Oakeley, Ms. Doc. and Professor of Music in the University of Edinburgh. The Duke of Buccleuch then presented the Executive Committee, of which he himself is Chairman, and which consisted of Sir J. McNeill, G.C.B., Sir William Gibson Craig, Sir Daniel McNee, Dr. Lyon Playfair, and Mr William Walker. After this, the Duke of Buccleuch read a very pretty address, in which, besides my beloved Husband, dear Mama was alluded to, and I read a reply.

Mr. Cross then declared that I wished the Statue (an equestrian one) to be unveiled, which was done most successfully, without a hitch. The effect of the monument as a whole, with the groups at the angles of the pedestal, is very good. The Coburg March was played, and its well-known strains [This March was always played for dear Albert, and was originally composed for our grand-uncie, Field-Marshal Prince Francis Josias of Saxe-Coburg-Saaifeld.] ever bring back dear and sweet memories.

Mr. Steell, the sculptor, was presented, and this was followed by the singing of another beautiful chorale, with touching words and music, the latter composed by Professor Oakeley, who is a wonderful musician, and plays beautifully on the organ. We then, followed by our own suite, the Committee, and Mr. Steell, walked round the statue and examined the groups of bas-reliefs. The three sculptors who had executed the groups were also presented. Brown followed us round, having stood behind us the whole time. He was delighted with the reception.

We drove back by South Charlotte Street and Princes Street. The horses of the Yeomanry and even some of the Hussars were very restive, and kept plunging and whirling round upon our horses. One of the Hussars, in particular, got in between our horses, and nearly caused an accident. We got back by ten minutes to five o’clock.

We looked out of the window to see Arthur ride off, and then I knighted Mr. Steell, who looked very happy. He has now long white hair—such a kind, good man! I also knighted Professor Oakeley, who is still very lame, having met with a dreadful accident in Switzerland some years ago. His mother was a Murray (daughter of Lord Charles Murray Aynsley) and sister to the mother of Mrs. Drummond of Megginch, and his sister married an uncle of Fanny Drummond. Dear Augusta Stanley took much interest in him.

I had a large dinner in the old dining-room below, where I had not dined since my darling Albert’s time in 1861. I sat in the middle, opposite to where I used to sit. The party consisted of Arthur, who led me in and sat near me, and Leopold and Beatrice, all our people, the Duke of Buccleuch (who sat near me) and Lady Mary Scott, Lord Lothian (the Duke’s son-in-law), Lord Dalkeith, young Lord Elgin, Lord Rosebery, the Dowager Lady Dunmore and Lady Adine Murray, Lord and Lady Elphinstone, Sir John and Lady Emma McNeill, Mr. Cross, the Honourable B. Primrose, Major-General J. N. Stuart, and Colonel Hale of the 7th Hussars (Colonel of dear Arthur’s regiment). The band of the 7th Hussars played during dinner, and Ross played during dessert. Brown [It was hard for him to have to appear on such a festive occasion, having lost his much-loved mother only a fortnight before; but his sense of duty ever went before every feeling of self.] waited on me.

Every one seemed pleased, and talked of the great success of the day. Mr. Cross was delighted. I remained talking some little time in the drawing-room, and then went upstairs and looked with Beatrice out of the window at the rockets. Such a noise in the streets and from the trains!


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