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Queen Victoria and Prince Albert's Trip to Scotland

The Scottish national character has an inherent tendency to a certain peculiar description of loyalty, having perhaps more of a romance than of reason in it, of which the later periods of the history of the people are replete with glowing examples. It was especially manifested by all ranks, from the peer to the peasant, during those chivalric but vain struggles, made for the restoration of the Stuart family to that throne from which they had been driven bv the majority of the British nation. The poor nameless Highlander, who so nobly refused to betray him whom he conscientiously believed to be his legitimate Prince, though tempted to do so by a reward, in his eyes great as the riches of Croesus, and who afterwards suffered an ignominious death for stealing a cow, was but one prominent example of that devotion which was generally diffused. It was this very flame of Scottish loyalty, indeed, burning like an ignus fattus before the eyes of the brave but unfortunate Princes of the House of Stuart, which tempted them to proceed, with the most inadequate support, but with gallant and desperate resolution, in the dark and perilous path which they so long and perseveringly pursued, with the vain expectation of at last reaching their ancient hereditary seat. It was not even gradually subdued in the minds of the people, until some time after the extinction of all rational hope that the race could ever be restored as monarchs of Great Britain. After smouldering for a time amid its ashes, it again roused itself up in behalf of those sovereigns who reigned in their stead; and being by slow degrees transferred to this new altar, it has since continued to burn for about three quarters of a century, growing in greatness and strengthening in fervour, until it now blazes with all its pristine ardour and intensity.

The rarity of those opportunities that have occurred since the Union with England, where Scotsmen could give full vent to this national feeling, whilst beholding their Sovereign among them, has probably increased its force when such occasions have arisen. As no undisputed reigning King had honoured Scotland with his presence since the days of Charles II., it is no wonder that the visit of George IV. to his northern metropolis, in 1822, should have produced a very great sensation among all ranks and conditions of people, even although he could not be considered as enjoying a more than ordinary share of general popularity. On that occasion, the preparations for the reception of the King of Great Britain were gone into with the utmost readiness by persons of every description. The national pride of Scotland was roused. All were eager that things should be rightly done; and, consequently, every thing being planned and executed with scrupulous circumspection and unremitting care, the result was, that the whole particulars of the parade and pageantry, and the whole scenic effect of the various acts of the drama, were perfected in arrangement. When the curtain rose, therefore, every movement went on without a fault, like those in a well-rehearsed play, in which Majesty itself willingly condescended to take the great and prominent part; and Scotland, with Sir Walter Scott as master of ceremonies and prompter, received the Royal Visitor, as befitted her to welcome her Sovereign.

But while Georue IV. thus came to honour Edinburgh with his illustrious presence, en grand Monarque, and surrounded by all the dignity of state that belonged to him as Sovereign of Great Britain, anticipating and fully prepared to partake of the pageantry and the banqueting that was provided for him, it was the acknowledged wish of Her Most Gracious Majesty Queen Victoria, on the recent occasion, to visit the Scottish portion of her dominions without pomp or parade, and to mingle with her subjects there, without being subjected to the tedium of ostentatious and harassing ceremonial. This was most desirable for the right accomplishment of her objects, which were those of gathering useful and amusing information—gaining a knowledge from personal observation of that portion of her dominions, as well as of its inhabitants; and having the full and unfettered enjoyment of necessary relaxation from state affairs, whilst freely inhaling the healthful breezes that play amid the romantic scenery of Caledonia. Her Majesty’s earnest and most natural desire indeed was, to be permitted to pass every where with the least possible degree of recognition. But potent as is the Royal will, it cannot control that feudal spirit of loyalty which has been described as a characteristic of Scotsmen, and consequently no British crowned head whatsoever could appear among them without in some degree experiencing its effects. But if to this spirit, excited by the mere name of Sovereign, there be added all those finer, and deeper, and holier feelings, which call on the natives of Scotland, in common with their brethren of England and of Ireland, to admire and to love, in the person of a Queen, her in whom the highest qualities and virtues are most transcendant, then might flames of affection, as intense as any that ever burned within the bosoms of a people, be well expected to burst forth at the very idea of the first coining of our Sovereign Lady Queen Victoria— the Queen of the people’s warmest affections!

Accordingly, no sooner was the rumour heard, that Her Majesty had conceived the gracious intention of visiting Scotland, than every plain, glen, and hill, from one end of the country to the other, was excited, as if the fiery cross had flashed throughout all its intricacies. Beloved as our Queen is, her coming produced the most vehement pulsation in the hearts of people of all ranks and parties, most of whom had never before looked upon her august person. The action of the heart becoming thus so powerfully predominant, the head was not thereby rendered the more fit for the sober performance of its duties. The royal advent was hailed with so great an intoxication of joy, that the people were left without a sufficient share of calm reason. They ceased to he possessed of that sobriety of thought, that might have permitted them in some degree, to have availed themselves of the uncertain intelligence that reached them as to Her Majesty's motions, and the extremely limited time that intervened, to have made at least some of those preparations, which better previous information, greater leisure, and cooler and riper reflection might have enabled them to have rendered perfect. But who could think of any such dry and irksome details, as were necessary for doing mere formal honour to Her Majesty Victoria as the Queen, when every bosom was bursting with enthusiastic affection for the woman? The merely national loyalty of the people was absorbed by the superior strength and influence of that less artificial, but more intensely affectionate attachment to the person of their youthful and beautiful Queen, which they hold in participation with all her subjects, and this—arising as it does from the purest moral grounds, and from the frequent contemplation of that exemplary piety, and of those high qualities, and amiable domestic virtues, which have uniformly distinguished Her Majesty from her earliest years—swallowed up each colder and less genuine sentiment, with every formal show to which they might have given birth, as the rod of Moses devoured those of the Egyptian soothsayers.

Were it expected then, that we should estimate the reception given to our most gracious Queen in Scotland, by reckoning up the number of those who appeared before her, or who rode in her train, in nodding plumes—richly attired in silks, satins, velvets or furs—in scarlet or in cloth of gold—their arms as well as their persons glittering with jewels —and mounted on magnificent horses sumptuously caparisoned, we should indeed he compelled to confess that, in such respects, it might be considered as naught. Her Majesty, leaving behind her all such gorgeous trappings of a Court, and perhaps rejoicing in having escaped from them for a time, looked not to find them anywhere. She came among her people of Scotland, in all manner of outward simplicity, but internally moved by the most anxious desire that ever filled the breast of beneficent monarch, to spread happiness abroad wherever she went; and all this being fully understood, felt, and appreciated by them, their enthusiastic emotions of affection became too powerful for control, and each individual rushed to meet and to behold her, as if she had been some dearest personal friend, relative, or benefactor. From the moment of Her Majesty’s landing at the pier of Granton, till her re-embarkation for London from the same spot, she was continually surrounded by thousands and tens of thousands of both sexes, and of all ages, and these beholding a fair countenance, over which the varied angelic expression, produced by perfect purity of mind, was continually playing with a radiancy of sunshine that warmed all hearts, they threw aside for the moment all consideration of her royal dignity, and thought of her only as the exemplary Christian—as the attached and virtuous wife—as the fond and happy mother—as the kind and considerate mistress—and as the feeling and liberal, and ready dispenser of God’s best charities; and thus it was that the glory of the reception of Queen Victoria in Scotland consisted, not in stiff, formal, and heartless pageantry and parade, but in those smiles of heartfelt welcome that lighted up every honest, though humble countenance the Royal eyes were turned upon—in the “ God bless your Majesty!— God bless your bonny face !” that involuntarily escaped from hundreds of unsophisticated Scottish tongues—and in the deafening shouts of unalloyed delight that followed her in every quarter.

The whole period of the Queen’s stay in Scotland, though unattended by pomp and parade, in the strictest sense of these words, was one continued triumph of the best affections of the human heart, and these having been continually kept in active agitation for so great a length of time, it may not perhaps be considered as altogether a vain hope, that, with the blessing of God, the beneficial effect may be more than transitory, and that, in addition to the satisfaction which Her Majesty probably feels, in the conviction she may well entertain, of the universal joy and happiness which her visit shed so widely among her Scottish subjects, she may also have the agreeable reflection, that her appearance among them, like that of an angel of light, may have somewhat tended to their permanent improvement, associated as it is with the living example she exhibits of those grand Christian and moral perfections for which she has proved herself to be so pre-eminent, and which even her temporary presence must have deeply impressed upon their minds. Writing under the full influence of such feelings, these few preliminary reflections may be appropriately concluded with that aspiration, which was not only continually rising heavenward from every lip during Her Majesty’s stay in Scotland, but which still finds its way thitherward from countless thousands.


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