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Victory of Tel-el-Kebir and Home-coming of their Royal Highnesses the Duke and Duchess of Albany 11 Sept 1882


Monday, September 11, 1882

Received a telegram in cipher from Sir John McNeill, marked very secret, saying that it was “determined to attack the enemy with a very large force on Wednesday.” How anxious this made us, God only knows; and yet this long delay had also made us very anxious. No one to know, though all expected something at the time.

Tuesday, September 12

Drove at ten minutes to five, with Beatrice, Louischen, and Harriet, to the Glen Gelder Shiel, where we had tea, and I sketched. The sky was so beautiful. We walked on the road hack, and came home at twenty minutes past seven. How anxious we felt, I need not say; but we tried not to give way. Only the ladies dined with us.

I prayed earnestly for my darling child, and longed for the morrow to arrive. Read Korner’s beautiful “Gebet vor der Schlacht,” “Vater, ich rufe Dich” (Prayer before the Battle, “Father, I call on Thee’'). My beloved husband used to sing it often. My thoughts were entirely fixed on Egypt and the coming battle. My nerves were strained to such a pitch by the intensity of my anxiety and suspense that they seemed to feel as though they were all alive.

Wednesday, September 13

Woke very often. Raw and dull. Took my short walk, and breakfasted in the cottage. Had a telegram that the army marched out last night. What an anxious moment! We walked afterwards as far as the arch for Leopold’s reception, -which was a very pretty one, and placed as nearly where it had been on previous occasions, only rather nearer Middleton’s lodge, and thence back to the cottage, where I sat and wrote and signed, etc.

Another telegram, also from Reuter, saying that fighting was going on, and that the enemy had been routed with heavy loss at Tel-el-Kebir. Much agitated.

On coming in got a telegram from Sir John McNeill, saying, “A great victory; Duke safe and well.” Sent all to Louischen. The excitement very great. Felt unbounded joy and gratitude for God’s great goodness and mercy.

The same news came from Lord Granville and Mr. Childers, though not yet from Sir Garnet Wolseley. A little later, just before two, came the following most welcome and gratifying telegram from Sir Garnet Wolseley:—

Tsmalta, September 13, 1882

Til-el-Kebir.—From Wolseley to the Queen, Balmoral.

Attacked Arabi’s position at five this morning. His strongly entrenched position was most bravely and gallantly stormed by the Guards and line, while cavalry and horse artillery worked round their left flank. At seven o’clock I was in complete possession of his whole camp. Many railway trucks, with quantities of supplies, fallen into our hands. Enemy completely routed, and his loss has been very heavy; also regret to say we have suffered severely. Duke of Connaught is well, and behaved admirably, leading his brigade to the attack.

Brown brought the telegram, and followed me to Beatrice’s room, where Louischen was, and I showed it to her. I was myself quite upset, and embraced her warmly, saying what joy and pride and cause of thankfulness it was to know our darling safe, and so much praised! I feel quite beside myself for joy and gratitude, though grieved to think of our losses, which, however, have not proved to be so serious as first reported. We were both much overcome.

We went to luncheon soon after this, having sent many telegrams, and receiving many. At ten minutes past three drove with Beatrice and Lady Southampton to Ballater. We got out of the carriage, and the train arrived almost immediately, and Leopold and Helen stepped out; she was dressed in grey with bonnet to match.

The guard of honour, Seaforth Highlanders (Duke of Albany’s), out, and many people. Leopold and Helen got at once into the landau with us two, and we drove straight to Balmoral. At the bridge Louischen and Horaiia were waiting in a carriage, and followed us. Beyond the bridge, and when we had just passed under the arch, the carriage stopped, and Dr. Profeit said a few’ words of welcome, for which Leopold thanked. Here everybody was assembled—all our gentlemen and ladies, and those from Birkhall and the Mains, and all the tenants from the three estates, all our servants, etc.

The pipes preceded, playing the “Highland Laddie,” 

Brown and all our other kilted men walking alongside, and before and behind the carriage everybody else close following—and a goodly number they were. We got out at the door, and went just beyond the arch, all our people standing in a line headed by our Highlanders. A table with whisky and glasses was placed up against the house, next to which stood all the ladies and gentlemen. Dr. Profeit gave Leopold’s and Helen’s healths, and after these had been drunk, Brown stepped forward and said, nearly as follows: “Ladies and gentlemen, let us join in a good Highland cheer for the Duke and Duchess of Albany; may they live long and die happy!” which pleased every one, and there were hearty cheers.

Then I asked Leopold to propose “The Victorious Army in Egypt" with darling Arthur’s health, which was heartily responded to, and poor Louischen was quite upset. After this Dr. Profeit proposed “The Duchess of Connaught,” and at Brown’s suggestion he also proposed “The little Princess.” The sweet little one had witnessed the procession in Chapman’s (her nurse’s) arms with her other attendants, and was only a little way off w-hen her health was drunk.

This over, we went in and had tea upstairs in my room—Louischen, Beatrice, and I. Louischen had received a very long and most interesting letter from Arthur about that dreadful march on the 25th (dated 26th, but finished later). A telegram from Sir Garnet Wolseley to Mr. Childers, with fuller accounts, arrived. The loss, thank God! is not so heavy as we feared at first. A bonfire was to be lit by my desire on the top of Craig Gtman at nine, just where there had been one in 1856 after the fall of Sevastopol, when dearest Albert went up to it at night with Bertie and Affie. That was on September 10, very nearly the same time twenty-six years ago!

Went to Louischen, who read me portions of Arthur’s long letter. The description of his and the officers’ sufferings and privations, as well as those of the poor men, made me miserable.

Only ourselves to dinner; and at nine Beatrice, Louischen, Lady Southampton, and the gentlemen, and many of our people, walked up (with the pipes playing) to the top of Craig Gowdn—rather venturesome in the dark; and we three (Leopold, Helen, and I) went up to Beatrice’s room, and from there we saw the bonfire lit and blazing, and could distinguish figures, and hear the cheering and pipes. They were soon back, and I went and sat with Beatrice, Louischen, and Lady Southampton, who were having a little supper in Louischen’s room.

Endless telegrams! What a day of gratitude and joy, but mingled with sorrow and anxiety for the many mourners and the wounded and dying!


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