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Scotland and the Scots, 1707-2007

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Christian Auer

VII. Politics, radicalism and national identity

39. George IV’s Visit to Scotland, 1822

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  • 7 Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832) was a major literary figure whose historical impact was of considerab (...)

1The memoirs of Elizabeth Grant (1797-1885), edited by her niece and first published in 1898, had a wide circulation owing to the vivid and intimate picture that they gave of domestic and public life in London, Edinburgh and the Highlands. The following passage is about George IV’s remarkable visit to Edinburgh in 1822. During the King’s two-week visit a series of extraordinary pageants, all with a Highland flavour, were organised by Walter Scott7.

2Elizabeth Grant of Rothiemurchus, Memoirs of a Highland Lady (1898), London: John Murray, 1960, p. 260-261.

  • 8 In 1790 William Curtis was elected MP for the city of London, a seat which he held for twenty-eigh (...)

This autumn King George the Fourth visited Scotland. The whole country went mad. Everybody strained every point to get to Edinburgh to receive him. Sir Walter Scott and the Town Council were overwhelming themselves with the preparations. My mother did not feel well enough for the bustle, neither was I at all fit for it, so we stayed at home with aunt Mary. My father, my sisters and William, with lace, feathers, pearls, the old landau, the old horses, and the old liveries, all went to add to the show, which they said was delightful. The Countess of Lauderdale presented my two sisters and the two Miss Grants of Congalton, a group allowed to be the prettiest there. The Clan Grant had quite a triumph, no equipage was as handsome as that of Colonel Francis Grant, our acting chief, in their red and green and gold. There were processions, a review, a levee, a drawing-room, and a ball, at which last Jane was one of the ladies selected to dance in the reel before the King, with, I think, poor Captain Murray of Abercairney, a young naval officer, for her partner. A great mistake was made by the stage managers—one that offended all the southron Scots; the King wore at the levee the Highland dress. I daresay he thought the country all Highland, expected no fertile plains, did not know the difference between the Saxon and the Celt. However, all else went off well, this little slur on the Saxon was overlooked, and it gave occasion for a laugh at one of Lady Saltoun’s witty speeches. Some one objecting to this dress, particularly on so large a man, “Nay,” said she, “we should take it very kind of him; since his stay will be so short, the more we see of him the better.” Sir William Curtis8 was kilted too, and standing near the King, many persons mistook them, amongst others John Hamilton Dundas, who kneeled to kiss the fat Alderman’s hand, when, finding out his mistake, he called, “Wrong, by Jove!” and rising, moved on undaunted to the larger presence. One incident connected with this time made me very cross. Lord Conyngham, the Chamberlain, was looking everywhere for pure Glenlivet whisky; the King drank nothing else. It was not to be had out of the Highlands. My father sent word to me—I was the cellarer—to empty my pet bin, where was whisky long in wood, long in uncorked bottles, mild as milk, and the true contraband goût in it. Much as I grudged this treasure it made our fortunes afterwards, showing on what trifles great events depend. The whisky, and fifty brace of ptarmigan all shot by one man, went up to Holyrood House, and were graciously received and made much of, and a reminder of this attention at a proper moment by the gentlemanly Chamberlain ensured to my father the Indian judgeship.

Notes

7 Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832) was a major literary figure whose historical impact was of considerable significance. He contributed to a revival of interest in Scottish literature and culture.

8 In 1790 William Curtis was elected MP for the city of London, a seat which he held for twenty-eight years continuously.

© Presses universitaires de Strasbourg, 2013

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