1842 - Queen Victoria visits Scotland

Victoria's Visit

For a British monarch, Queen Victoria was extremely quick off the mark in making her first visit to Scotland in 1842, only five years after taking the throne. She was greatly excited by Sir Walter Scott's novels and very anxious to make the acquaintance of her northern kingdom, which soon became one of her favourite haunts after the purchase of Balmoral Castle a few years later. The citizens of Edinburgh duly turned out to greet her.

Thursday, September 1 1842
At a quarter to one o'clock, we heard the anchor let down - a welcome sound. At seven we went on deck, where we breakfasted. Close on one side were Leith and the high hills towering over Edinburgh, which was in fog; and on the other side was to be seen the Isle of May (where it is said Macduff held out against Macbeth), the Bass Rock being behind us. At ten minutes past eight we arrived at Granton Pier, where we were met by the Duke of Buccleuch, Sir Robert Peel and others. They came on board to see us, and Sir Robert told us that the people were all in the highest good humour, though naturally a little disappointed at having waited for us yesterday. We then stepped over a gangway on to the pier, the people cheering and the Duke saying that he begged to be allowed to welcome us. Our ladies and gentlemen had landed before us, safe and well, and we two got into a barouche, the ladies and gentlemen following. The Duke, the equerries, and Mr. Anson rode.

There were, however, not nearly so many people in Edinburgh, though the crowd and crush were such that one was really continually in fear of accidents. More regularity and order would have been preserved had there not been some mistake on the part of the Provost about giving due notice of our approach. The impression Edinburgh has made upon us is very great; it is quite beautiful, totally unlike anything else I have seen; and what is even more, Albert, who has seen so much, says it is unlike anything he ever saw; it is so regular, everything built of massive stone, there is not a brick to be seen anywhere. The High Street, which is pretty steep, is very fine. Then the Castle, situated on that grand rock in the middle of the town, is most striking. On the other side the Calton Hill, with the National Monument, a building in the Grecian style; Nelson's Monument; Burns' Monument; the Gaol, the National School, &c.; all magnificent buildings, and with Arthur's Seat in the background, overtopping the whole, form altogether a splendid spectacle. The enthusiasm was very great, and the people very friendly and kind. The Royal Archers Body Guard met us and walked with us the whole way through the town. It is composed entirely of noblemen and gentlemen, and they all walked close by the carriage; but were dreadfully pushed about.

Saturday 3rd September.
The view of Edinburgh from the road before you enter Leith is quite enchanting; it is, as Albert said, 'fairy-like', and what you would only imagine as a thing to dream of, or to see in a picture. There was that beautiful large town, all of stone (no mingled colours of brick to mar it), with the bold Castle on one side, and the Calton Hill on the other, with those high sharp hills of Arthur's Seat and Salisbury Crags towering above all, and making the finest, boldest background imaginable. Albert said he felt sure the Acropolis could not be finer; and I hear they sometimes call Edinburgh 'the modern Athens'. The Archers Guard met us again at Leith, which is not a pretty town.

The people were most enthusiastic, and the crowd very great. The Porters all mounted, with curious Scotch caps, and their horses decorated with flowers, had a very singular effect; but the fishwomen are the most striking-looking people, and are generally young and pretty women - very clean and very Dutch-looking, with their white caps and bright-coloured petticoats. They never marry out of their class.

At six we returned well tired.

Victoria, Leaves from the Journal of our Lives in the Highlands, 1848-61, Edinburgh, 1868.

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