Search just our sites by using our customised search engine
Unique Cottages | Electric Scotland's Classified Directory

Click here to get a Printer Friendly PageSmiley

Queen Victoria and Prince Albert's Trip to Scotland
Chapter IV. Preparations in Edinburgh

Having followed Her Majesty throughout the voyage, until the gallant flotilla that conveyed her was safely anchored on the night of the third day within the shelter of the pretty island of Inchkeith, it may be well to give some account of the bustle that prevailed in the Scottish metropolis, where all were so anxious to behold her sacred person.

Every one acquainted with Edinburgh, is well aware, that, crowded and busy as her streets are during the winter months of the year, when the Courts arc sitting—when the University, the Schools, the Societies, the gaieties of the city, the killing ennui of the country, and the severity of the weather, conspire to draw and to drive people into it, like woodcocks into cover, it is frequently quite deserted during the best months of summer and of autumn ; and that, especially, towards the end of August and beginning of September, the causeway of some of its most important squares and places—such as Charlotte-square, Moray-place, and others—become beautifully verdant, save only where the persevering hackney coach crawls like a snail over a path of its own wearing, or a rapid minibus cuts through it with terrific pace, but yet with half-deadened sound, increasing danger to unfortunate pedestrians. This urban crop of grass is reaped by rows of old men, who, moving on their knees across the causeway, with a progress hardly vying with the shadows produced thereon by the sun, eradicate the plants with old forks and crooked bits of iron. But, so great was the influx of people of importance into Edinburgh, from the moment that it was certainly known that the Queen was coming, that this annual crop of hay, already in a state of great forwardness, was not left for the hands usually employed to gather it, but it was altogether annihilated by the numerous heavy travelling carriages, that, whirled along by four horses, came spinning across these verdant lawns, and by cutting them up in every possible direction, soon restored them to the appearance of well frequented streets. But for the mildness of the weather, one might have supposed that winter had suddenly come to town. Never did any anticipated event—not even that of the arrival of George IV. in 1822—produce so great and so simultaneous a movement in the direction of Edinburgh, as to one great centre—facilitated, too, by steam conveyances both by land and water. There can be no exaggeration, therefore, in stating, that never, in the whole history of the country, were so great multitudes brought into the city. Post-chaises came pouring in, drawn by horses, some of which seemed more accustomed to the slower works of agriculture, than to go on the road with four wheels rattling behind them. Gigs, droskies, one-horse phaetons, appeared in endless numbers. The coaches, from all quarters, were loaded outside and in, and when they came to their place of halt, the smoke arising from their teams, the jaded attitudes which the poor animals assumed after being pulled up, their noses stretched out towards the stones, and the nervous twitching of their exhausted limbs, sufficiently indicated to passers by, how heavy were their loads, even if this had not been demonstrated by the countless piles of luggage deposited in the streets, and the numerous impatient passengers, who loudly bawled and scrambled, each for his own. The Edinburgh and Glasgow Railway amply performed its duty in conveying immense daily streams of the western population, to increase this great flood of human beings in Edinburgh. Between four and five thousand people were brought in on Tuesday the 30th August, by that conveyance, and on Wednesday above nine thousand. The swift Ca-nal-Boats, going at the rate of nine miles an hour, made large and repeated contributions. The Steamers from Stirling, Alloa, Fife, Dundee, Montrose, Aberdeen, and other ports of Scotland, as well as those from Berwick, Newcastle, Hull, and London, were crowded with passengers—each vessel having from 300 to 500 people on board. The effect of all this upon the streets may be easily conceived. Any one unacquainted with the cause of the bustle he encountered, might have supposed that the city was about to be sacked by an enemy, and that every man and woman within it was engaged in carrying off valuables to some place of retreat and safety; for to walk along the streets was one continued struggle through porters, and people of both sexes, running and carrying trunks, portmanteaus, bandboxes, cloaks, and carpet bags, from which many a rude shock was given and received, without time being taken to make apology, or to enquire as to the extent of the injury inflicted. Then the bustle at the hotels and lodging-houses of every degree, from Douglas and Barry downwards, cannot be described—no beds to be had under ruinous sums per night, and no time for the applicant to consider whether it were prudent, under the circumstances, to agree to demands that appeared to be so extravagant, for the alternative seemed to be,—“secure this, or sleep in the street.” But this last would have been extreme difficult, for so incessant was the noise produced by the hammers of the carpenters, and so great was the movement of the people, even at midnight, that any one looking for a sleeping place in the open air, must have pushed his search into some very retired lane indeed.

After so great an influx, both by land and sea, the town overflowed with strangers on the evening of Tuesday; but on Wednesday the 1st of September, the rush was great beyond conception; and by five o’clock in the morning all were in active motion. Those acquainted with the process of tugging a vessel, were convinced that if the Queen should arrive at all that evening, she could not do so until very late, yet in spite of this knowledge, they ran with the crowd as if Her Majesty must land at Gran ton Pier by an early hour in the day. The weather sympathized with their hilarious spirits and sanguine expectations. It was understood that a repetition of signals would convey information of the appearance of the flotilla off the mouth of the Firth, to Edinburgh Castle, whence a gun would be fired to give warning of the Queen’s approach, thus affording sufficient time for all to congregate whilst Her Majesty was yet at a distance of some hours’ sail. But every individual having resolved to secure a good place, the morning had scarcely dawned when the stir began, and pedestrians of all ranks were seen hurrying along the different roads and streets in continued streams towards Granton Pier, the great point of attraction. Others, judging it better to prefer some favourable point of view, in the route the Queen was expected to take, quickly selected places in the numerous wooden galleries that lined the way, all of which were rapidly filled.

These crowds were immensely multiplied after the usual hour of breakfast, when one general movement took place towards those thoroughfares forming Her Majesty’s line of progress from the landing place. All the avenues to the town were crowded, the accumulation growing denser as it approached the leading streets. Carriages of every description, with horsemen, and people in waggons and carts, began now to mingle in great numbers with the moving masses. All were dressed in their best attire, but as it was understood that the Queen wished to come with as little parade as possible, none wore uniforms but officers on duty, and the Royal Archers, who were occasionally seen hurrying to their rendezvous in the Riding House in the Lothian Road.

As this fine body, entirely composed of noblemen and gentlemen, will be frequently mentioned in this work, it is proper to give a short notice of their history. The Royal Archers were embodied, by act of the Privy Council, in the year 1677, in a corps to be called “The King’s Company of Archers,” with right to name their own officers, make their own laws, carry colours and drums, and march in military array; and they then chose the Marquis of Athol as their Captain. In 1703, Lord Tarbat, their Captain-General, obtained a charter from Queen Anne, “ revising and ratifying, and perpetually confirming” to “the Royal Company of Archers,” all acts made in their favour, their rights and privileges, “to he held in free blench, giving therefor yearly ane pair of barbed arrows, if the same be asked.” Under this charter and the constitution thereby confirmed, the Royal Company have continued to serve. Prizes were established for the encouragement of archery ; a silver arrow was given by the town of Edinburgh, which has ever since been shot for annually ; a similar arrow was given by Musselburgh, and one of very ancient date by the town of Peebles. Occasional parades or weapon-schawings were held, when the whole company marched through the town, receiving military honours from the guards, and salutes from the ships in the Forth. In 1787, an annual prize of £20 sterling was given by His Majesty, to be called the King’s Prize.

When George IV. signified his intention of visiting Scotland in 1822, the Council of the Royal Archers, following the tradition that they were the remains of the old Scottish Archer Guard, and therefore entitled to the privilege of acting as the King’s Body Guard during his Majesty’s residence in Scotland, applied to have the privilege recognized. Their claim was acceded to, and they accordingly appeared on all state occasions as his Majesty’s Guard, within the Palace on days of ceremony, and around the Royal Carriage on occasions of procession. The King soon afterwards gave them a dress uniform, to be worn at his Court, or at that of any foreign Monarch, and he farther conferred upon their Captain-General a gold stick, similar to those of England.

At the accession of William IV., His Majesty sent to the Royal Company a gold stick for the Captain-General, two silver sticks for the two officers next in command, and ebony sticks for the Councillors, and he changed their dress uniform to that now worn. The coat is green, richly embroidered in gold, with an oak-lcaf and laurel pattern, with large gold epaulettes and gilt buttons. The trowsers are of the same cloth, with gold lace and embroidery. A gold looped cocked hat, with a hanging green feather; a crimson silk sash with tassels; a small full dress sword with gold knob; a black military stock, and white gloves, complete the costume. The officers are distinguished by bridges on the strap of the epaulette, as in the army. The field or duty dress is the Archer’s green cloth tunic, trowsers of the same stuff, a cap with plume set in a gold enamelled Scottish Star, a girdle of black leather, with a gold lion and crown clasp, a short Roman sword, and a black stock, with white gloves.

William IV. ordered that the Duke of Buccleuch, who appeared for the late Earl of Dalhousie, Captain-General, then abroad on service in India, should take place at his coronation with the gold stick of England, and in 1832 he presented to the Company a pair of magnificently embroidered colours, which they now' bear. In 1838 the Duke of Buccleuch was chosen Captain-General, and in that capacity His Grace, carrying his gold stick of office, rode immediately next and after the Queen’s carriage in the procession at her coronation. When it was announced that Her Majesty intended to visit Scotland, the Council ordered the Royal Company to parade for duty, and by the time the Queen was expected they mustered 160 strong, under Lieut.-General Lord Elcho ; the other officers present being Major-Generals, Sir John Hope, Bart., and the Earl of Dalhousie—Ensign-General, Sir George Mackenzie, Bart.—and Brigadier-Generals, Sir John Forbes, Bart., the Duke of Roxburghe, and Mr. Claude Russel—and Adjutant-General, Major Norman Pringle.

Whilst all was bustle in the streets and thoroughfares, the Calton Hill was covered with people. This eminence rises out of the town, and commands magnificent panoramic views,—looking on one side towards Leith and the sea,—on another, over the venerable Palace of Holyrood towards Salisbury Crags and Arthur Seat, and commanding, as the eye is carried westward, the whole of the picturesque Old Town terminated by its dominant Castle, the New Town, and the Firth. The people pressed towards its north-eastern side, that they might thence catch the first glimpse of the Royal Squadron, or of the signal that should announce its approach from the summit of North Berwick Law. Looking down from the other side into the streets of the City, and especially throughout the whole length of Princes-street, they appeared like a newly opened anthill, so dense and agitated were the crowds that thronged every passage ; and the numerous flags that streamed from the tops and windows of houses, added to the general gaiety of the dresses, very much enlivened the whole scene.

The great new pier at Granton, running some hundred yards into the sea at right angles to the shore, is a magnificent work, erected at the expense of the Duke of Buccleuch, on his own property, and as steamers can come alongside at all times of tide, it has already become the point where most of these vessels arrive and depart. His Grace has also built and furnished a splendid hotel opposite to the eastern side of its entrance, and a large square is forming by the erection of some handsome houses opposite. Immediately above this square, there is a steep sloping bank of some sixty or eighty feet in height, which stretches along from east to west, facing the sea. The road from the pier sweeps gradually up the face of this bank for nearly a quarter of a mile, till gaining the summit level, it runs off in a straight line towards -Edinburgh. This minute description is necessary to enable those who have not seen the place, to understand that this sloping bank afforded one of the most extensive natural galleries that could be imagined, where, tier above tier, thousands upon thousands of people could be accommodated, and yet all have their eyes fixed on the interesting spectacle of Her Majesty’s landing, and departure for the city. It was covered with well-dressed persons, from one end to the other, both above and below the road, as were the edges of the road itself; and the wide fields behind the square of houses and above the bank were packed with carriages, as well as the area of the square, where space only was left for Her Majesty to pass freely from the great gates of the pier. The windows of the houses on the western side of the square, and a large wooden gallery, in a line with them, were also filled with people; and the whole apartments and windows of the hotel were let at enormous prices. The vessels on cither side of the pier were superbly decorated with flags, whilst others were moving about or arriving with hands of music on board, and with these were mingled yachts and boats without number, producing a most lively picture, especially when combined with the broad expanse of the Firth of Forth, the distant coast of Fife, the vessels at anchor in the roads, and the beautiful island of Inchkeith.

It was now sufficiently well known, that in consequence of fever having been recently within the Palace of Holyrood, the medical authorities had given their opinion that it would be imprudent for the Queen to take up her residence there, and that it had been determined that, after passing through the city, she should proceed to Dalkeith. Every favourable spot along the line of Her Majesty’s route from Granton Pier, and through the city, by Inverleithrow, Brandon-street, Dundas-street, the two Hanover-streets, Princes-street, Waterloo-place, the Calton Hill road, Norton-place, and Comely-green, was occupied with wooden galleries, filled with people. At the head of Brandon-street, an ancient looking gate was erected, like that of some rude palisaded fort, executed with too much haste to admit of any attention to good effect, and there Sir James Forrest, Baronet, Lord Provost, the Magistrates, and the Town Council, were prepared to meet the Queen, and to present Her with the keys of the city. The Royal Archers were also assembled, in readiness to proceed to the place of landing, to receive Her Majesty, the moment the signal should be given. The whole line on both sides presented a countless array of carriages; in short, nothing could equal the determined preparation of people of all ranks for participating in the spectacle, but the eagerness with which they waited for it. Yet there was no impatience betrayed, for hour after hour passed aw ay and still they waited, moving about a little now and then, but all in the best humour. The recognition of old friends, who met there from far distant parts, was amusing enough. Groups of stout, good-looking, fresh-complexioned Newhaven fisherwomen, dressed in short gowns, and lively coloured blue, red, or yellow petticoats, only half hiding their firm and efficient legs, their heads decked in mutches of more than ordinary elegance, bedizzened with ribbons rejoicing in all the hues of the rainbow, were seen among the crowds near the pier. As the day wore on, and many a long and ineffectual look had been thrown down the Firth, both with bare eyes and with telescopes, a rumour gained credit, that on the arrival of the Royal Yacht after dark, the Sovereign would immediately land, and proceed in a close carriage to the place of her destination. Considerable dismay was thus spread abroad among her loyal subjects, and the Magistrates very properly attempted to allay it, by circulating the following intimation :—

“The Lord Provost, Magistrates, and Council, are happy to announce to their fellow citizens, that a deputation of their number has at this moment arrived from Dalkeith Palace, after bavins had an interview with His Grace the Duke of Buccleuch, the Earl of Aberdeen, and Sir Robert Peel, who assured them that they had every reason to believe that Her Majesty would be prepared to adopt any arrangements as to her Progress through the City, that would be most gratifying to her loyal subjects. If Her Majesty should not have it in her power to land before five o’clock, her progress through the city will be delayed till the following day, when she will enter the City by the Barrier-Gate at Brandon Street, as already arranged.

“City Chambers, Edinburgh. Eleven o’Clock, A.M.”

As it became late in the afternoon, without a gun being heard, people began to reflect, that if the Royal Squadron were even then telegraphed as off St. Abb’s Head, it had still fifty miles of sea to traverse before reaching Granton, and that the Queen’s landing during the light of that day was impossible. But the appearance of a large steamer making her way rapidly towards the pier excited many groundless rumours among the multitude, which were at last allayed by the circulation of the following—

“Council Chambers, Wednesday, One o’Clock, P.M.

“Authentic information has just been received from the Master of the Trident, which passed the Royal Squadron on Monday evening, that in the state of the weather at sea, Her Majesty cannot possibly be expected to reach Granton in time to land this day. But the Lord Provost, Magistrates, and Sheriff, have received the gratifying assurance from Her Majesty’s Ministers, that Her Majesty will be prepared to accede to the wishes of Her loyal subjects, in regard to Her progress through the City by the line already announced. Due notice will be given of Her Majesty’s arrival, and the probable time of Her entrance into the City.

“JAMES FORREST, Lord Provost.

Although every thing was done by the authorities to spread this intelligence among all ranks, by placards, handbills, and boards travelling on the tops of poles, yet the assembled multitudes were most unwilling to believe that they should not see Her Majesty that evening. Those who had paid for places on the wooden galleries, were both to relinquish them ; not so much on account of the loss of their money, as the dread that they might not be quite so well placed when Her Majesty should actually arrive. Yet all were in good humour—not a murmur was heard—and after lingering till about five o’clock, the last remnant of this great flood of people was seen slowly returning to the city. Many came by the carriages of the new railway, now open as far as the bottom of Scotland-street; and it was curious to observe well dressed persons emerging as it were from the bowels of the earth, at the upper end of the tunnel. It is worthy of notice, that no disorder or accident of any kind took place during the whole of this day—which is wonderful, considering that above 100,000 people, added to the ordinary population of the city, were agog, moving among prancing horses, and rapidly driven carriages of all descriptions.

As the Queen was expected to enter the Firth of Forth during the night, the authorities ordered the bonfire on Arthur’s Seat to be lighted, which produced the ignition of all the others. The effect from every part of the city and neighbourhood was so grand, that groups of people were walking about to gaze at it for the greater part of the night. Thousands of shadowy figures were seen continually moving, like imps, across the broad glaring mass of fire on the crest of old Arthur, their comparatively diminutive size filling the mind with a due estimation of its magnitude. The Calton Hill was covered with gazers, and crowds of persons promenaded till an early hour in the morning, in the secluded valley called the Hunter's Bog, lying between Arthur’s Seat and Salisbury Crags.

The Duke of Buccleuch had given early instructions to have every thing arranged at Granton Pier, for Her Majesty’s disembarkation, and all had been for some time in readiness. Every accommodation was made for Her Majesty’s convenience in landing, and for that of the Royal carriages, horses, and baggage; gangways had been constructed, additional lamps set up, and moorings laid down, for the Royal Yacht, and the steamers of the Squadron. The Duke had couriers stationed at Granton, to announce to him the approach of Her Majesty, but prompted by his anxiety he went to Granton at twelve o’clock that night, and Captain Bain his Pier-master, who had gone down the Firth to .get information, having returned about two o’clock in the morning, brought him the intelligence that the Royal Squadron had anchored under Inchkeith.

Chronological List of the Royal Company of Scottish Archers (pdf)

Return to Book Index Page


This comment system requires you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator has approved your comment.

comments powered by Disqus