Royal Life In The Highlands

A BOOK, entitled "Leaves from the Journal of Our Life in the Highlands," has been published by the Queen, giving details of many sojourns in Scotland after the purchase of Balmoral in 1848.

Marquis of Lorne

The Queen had visited the West Coast of Scotland in 1847. At Inverary she saw a child " just two years old—a dear, white, fat, fair little fellow, with reddish hair but very delicate features, like both his mother and father ; he is such a merry, independent little child. He had a black velvet dress and jacket, with a sporran' scarf and Highland bonnet." That child was the Marquis of Lorne—Her Majesty's son-in-law at a future date.

Death of Princess Sophia

The Queen greatly enjoyed this excursion, during which she spent four weeks in the Highlands. On March 18th, 1848, the future wife of that little Marquis, at Inverary, was born and named Louise Caroline Alberta. In less than a fortnight afterwards, Princess Sophia, daughter of George III and Queen Charlotte, died quietly in her arm chair, at Kensington, at the age of seventy-one.

Purchase of Balmoral

In September, 1848, the Queen purchased for a royal residence the estate of Balmoral, on the banks of the Dee, in Aberdeenshire. The Queen thus describes her new abode : " We arrived at Balmoral at a quarter to three. It is a pretty little castle in the old Scottish style. There is a picturesque tower, and garden in front with a high wooded hill ; at the back there is a wood down to the Dee, and the hills rise all around. . . . At half-past four we walked out and went up to the top of the wooded hill opposite our windows, where there is a cairn, and up which there is a pretty winding path. The view from here looking down upon the house is charming. To the left you look towards the beautiful hills surrounding Lochnagar, and to the right towards Ballater, to the glen along which the Dee winds with beautiful wooded hills. It was so calm and so solitary, it did one good as one gazed around ; and the pure mountain air was most refreshing. All seemed to breathe freedom and peace."

In this charming home, or rather in the new castle-mansion built in its place, year after year the royal family resided at intervals, and enjoyed excursions, drives, Highland sports, deer-stalking, fishing, and incognito journeys of exploration. Many are the curious incidents recorded in the Queen's book, which gives Highland experiences up to 1861. On one occasion she says, " We then came to a place which is always wet, but was particularly bad after the late rain and snow. There was no pony for me to get on, and as I wished not to get my feet wet by walking through the long grass, Albert proposed that I should be carried over in a plaid ; and Lenchen (The Princess Helena) was first carried over, but was held too low and her feet dangled ; so Albert suggested that the plaid should be put round the men's shoulders and that I should sit upon it. Brown and Duncan, the two strongest and handiest, were the two who undertook it, and I sat safely enough with an arm on each man's shoulder and was carried successfully over."

Freedom Amongst The Locals

The following extract from the same book shows the Queen's interest in her poorer neighbours. In the secluded Highland valleys she could visit the poor in their own dwellings, and freely talk to them and safely indulge her benevolent inclinations.

" Albert went out with Alfred for the day, and I walked out with the two girls and Lady Churchill, stopped at the shop and made some purchases for poor people and others ; drove a little way, got out and walked up the hill to Balnacroft (Mrs. P. Farquharson's), and she walked round with us to some of the cottages to show me where the poor people lived and to tell them who I was. Before we went into any, we met an old woman, who, Mrs. Farquharson said, was very poor, eighty-six years old, and mother to the former distiller. I gave her a warm petticoat, and the tears rolled down her old cheeks, and she shook my hands, and prayed God to bless me : it was very touching.

" I went into a small cabin of old Kitty Kear's, who is eighty-six years old, quite erect, and welcomed us with a great air of dignity. She sat down and spun. I gave her also a warm petticoat ; she said, May the Lord ever attend you and yours, here and hereafter ; and may the Lord be a guide to ye and keep ye from all harm.' She was quite surprised at Vicky's height ; great interest is taken in her. We went on to a cottage to visit old widow Simmons, who is past fourscore,' with a nice rosy face, but was bent quite double ; she was most friendly, shaking hands with us all, asking which was I, and repeating many kind blessings.

" We went into three other cottages : to Mrs. Symon's, who had an unwell boy ; ' then across a little burn to another old woman's ; and afterwards peeped into Blair the fiddler's. We drove back and got out to see old Mrs. Grant, who is so tidy and clean, and to whom I gave a dress and handkerchief, and she said, You're too kind to me, you're over kind to me, ye give me more every year ;—and I get older every year.'
" Really the affection of these poor people, who are so hearty and happy to see you taking an interest in everything, is very touching and gratifying."


And now we will take a few peeps at the Queen and royal family when engaged in one of the incognito journeys we have alluded to. After describing a morning walk from Balmoral, five miles, to Geldie, and then a long ride on ponies amongst wild hills and glens, she says : " We came upon Lock Inch, which is lovely, and of which I should have liked exceedingly to have taken a sketch, but we were pressed for time and
hurried. . . We parted from our ponies, only Grant and Brown coming on with us. Walker, the Police Inspector, met us, but did not keep with us. He had been sent to order everything in a quiet way, without letting people suspect who we were. In this he entirely succeeded. The ferry was a very rude affair, it was like a boat or cobble ; but we could only stand on it, and it was moved at one end by two long oars, plied by the ferryman and Brown, and at the other end by a long sort of beam, which Grant took in hand. A few seconds brought us over to the road, where there were two shabby vehicles, one, a kind of barouche, into which Albert and I got ; Lady Churchill and General Grey into the other—a break ; each with a pair of small and rather miserable horses, driven by a man from the box. Grant was on our carriage, and Brown on the other. We had gone, so far, forty miles ; at least twenty on horseback. We had decided to call ourselves Lord and Lady Churchill and party, Lady Churchill passing as Miss Spencer, and General Grey as Dr. Grey. Brown once forgot this, and called out Your Majesty,' I was getting into the carriage ; and Grant, on the box, once called Albert Your Royal Highness,' which set us off laughing, but no one noticed it."

The Queen goes on to describe the almost perfect solitude of the journey and the gathering darkness. " At length we saw lights, and drove through a long and straggling town,' and turned down a small court to the door of the inn. Here we got out quickly, Lady Churchill and General Grey not waiting for us. We went up a small staircase and were shown to our bedroom at the top of it—very small, but clean—with a large four-post bed, which nearly filled the room. Opposite was the drawing and dining room in one, very tidy and well-sized. Then came the room where Albert dressed, which was very small. The two maids (Jane Shackle was one), had driven over by another road in the waggonette, Stewart driving them. Made ourselves clean and tidy, and then sat down to our dinner. Grant and Brown were to have waited on us, but were bashful and did not. A ringletted woman did everything ; and when dinner was over removed the cloth and placed the bottle of wine (our own which we had brought) on the table, with the glasses, which was the old English fashion. The dinner was very fair, and all very clean—soup, hodge podge,' mutton broth with vegetables (which I did not much relish), fowl with white sauce, good roast lamb, very good potatoes, besides one or two other dishes which I did not taste ; ending with a good tart of cranberries. After dinner I tried to write part of this account (but the talking round me confused me), while Albert played at Patience."


Next morning, after a drive in the neighbourhood, the party had to pass through Grantown (which was the name of the place) again, and now it was evident that people had got to know the truth. " All the people," says the Queen, " were now in the street, and the landlady waved her pocket handkerchief, and the ringletted maid (who had curl papers in the morning) waved a flag from the window. Our coachman evidently did not observe or guess anything."


A similar excursion, at another time, is referred to by the Queen as follows : " At a quarter-past seven o'clock we reached the small, quiet town, or rather village, of Fettercairn, for it was very small, —not a creature stirring, and we got out at the quiet little inn, Ramsay Arms,' quite unobserved, and went at once upstairs. There was a very nice drawing-room, and next to it a dining-room, both very clean and tidy; then to the left our bedroom, which was excessively small, but also very clean and neat. Alice had a nice room the same size as ours ; then came a mere morsel of one in which Albert dressed ; and then came Lady Churchill's bedroom just beyond. Louis and General Grey had rooms in The Temperance Hotel, opposite. We dined at eight—a very nice clean dinner. Grant and Brown waited; they were rather nervous; but General Grey and Lady Churchill carved, and they had only to change the plates, which Brown soon got into the way of doing. A little girl of the house came in to help, but Grant turned her round to prevent her looking at us. The landlord and landlady knew who we were, but no one else' except the coachman, and they kept the secret admirably.

" The evening being bright and moonlight and very still, we all went out and walked through the whole village, where not a creature moved . . . . hearing nothing whatever but the distant barking of a dog. Suddenly we heard a drum and fifes. We were greatly alarmed, fearing we had been recognised ; but Louis and General Grey, who went back, saw nothing whatever. Still, as we walked slowly back, we heard the noise from time to time—and when we reached the inn door we stopped, and saw six men march up with fifes and a drum (not a creature taking any notice of them), go down the street and back again. Grant and Brown were out, but had no idea what it could be. Albert asked the little maid, and the answer was,
It's just a band,' and that it walked about in this way twice a week. How odd 1 It went on playing some time after we got home. We sat till half-past ten working, and Albert reading—and then retired to rest."

Queen Lays First Stone of  New Castle

Here is another scene, when a cairn was being raised on one of the heights near Balmoral, to celebrate the building of the new Castle. The Queen and Prince with the royal children, and the ladies and gentlemen staying at the Castle, went one fine morning to the top of Craig Cowan, where the children of the tenants and the Queen's servants were already assembled. The Queen laid the first stone, the Prince the second, and then each of the children, according to their ages. Then all the ladies and gentlemen of the Court placed a stone each. The pipers played merrily, and dancing and merry revels went on all round, until in the course of an hour the cairn was built. When the cairn was about eight feet high, and was thought to be nearly complete, Prince Albert climbed to the top and put the last stone in position, and with three hearty cheers from those assembled proceedings terminated. The Queen says, in concluding her narrative of the transaction : " It was a gay, pretty and touching sight, and I felt almost inclined to cry. The view was so beautiful over the dear hills,, the day so fine, the whole so gemuthlich. May God bless this place, and allow us yet to see it and enjoy it many a, long year."

At another page of her book, the Queen writes concerning Balmoral,: " Every year my heart becomes more fixed in this dear Paradise, and so much more now, that all has become my dearest Albert's own creation, own work, own building, own laying- out, as at Osborne ; and his great taste, and the impress of his dear hand, have been stamped everywhere. He was very busy to-day, settling and arranging many things for next year."

Fingal's Cave

Some people might, perhaps, be disappointed at finding in the Queen's simple diary so little reference to Court splendour, or to rank and ancestry, and all that sort of thing. But this is really the great charm of the volume. Crown and sceptre are left out of sight, and the true woman reveals herself on every page. Almost the only reference to her rank is found where she records : " It was the first time the British standard with the Queen of Great Britain and her husband and children had ever entered Fingal's Cave." The relics at Perth and at Holyrood, associated with the misfortunes of her royal ancestors, did not cause her much personal emotion, but on passing the Ferne Islands she makes the entry, " We were very sorry to hear that poor Grace Darling had died the night before."

One more brief extract from this fascinating volume, and then we must leave our young readers to read it all through themselves, when they get the opportunity. The Queen and Prince " highly appreciated the good breeding, simplicity and intelligence" of the Highlanders, and liked to converse with them. " Albert went on further with the children," says the Queen, referring to a mountain excursion to the source of the Dee, " but I returned with Grant to my seat, as I could not scramble about well. I and Alice rode part of the way, walking wherever it was very steep. Albert and Bertie walked the whole time, Albert talking so gaily with Grant. Upon which Brown observed to me in simple Highland phrase : 'It's very pleasant to walk with a person who is always content.' Yesterday, in speaking of dear Albert's sport, when I observed he never was cross after bad luck, Brown said : 'Everyone on the estate says there never was so kind a master ; I am sure our only wish is to give satisfaction.' I said they certainly did."