He was no Pre­tender

The Oban Times - - NEWS - Iain Thorn­ber iain.thorn­ber@bt­in­ter­net.com

I CAME across an in­ter­est­ing lit­tle story re­cently in con­nec­tion with Queen Vic­to­ria’s visit to Lochaber in 1873.

On the day Her Majesty went out from In­ver­lochy Cas­tle to Glen­finnan, her coach­man was a Cameron, em­ployed for the oc­ca­sion by Lord Abinger.

On the way, it seems, he and the Queen chat­ted freely un­til they reached Glen­finnan where the Queen, on see­ing the Ja­co­bite mon­u­ment, an­nounced that it was the Pre­tender that had raised his stan­dard. The coach­man straight away said: ‘Ma’am, he was no Pre­tender’, which re­sulted in them driv­ing back to In­ver­lochy in si­lence – not helped by meet­ing some ‘dread­ful re­porters’ on the way.

After­wards she com­plained about Mr Cameron and he was dis­missed. But the story of him up­hold­ing the Clan Cameron loy­alty to Prince Charles Ed­ward Ste­wart spread and, al­though he had no steady oc­cu­pa­tion, he was never out of work for the rest of his life.

A sim­i­lar ex­change hap­pened at the time of Queen Vic­to­ria’s un­cle who be­came King Wil­liam IV and whom she suc­ceeded. He met a party of Ma­cleans who had been out in the ’45. ‘You are all rebels here,’ he ex­claimed. ‘No, may it please Your Royal High­ness,’ said one of them. “I did fight for our right­ful Prince but as that fam­ily have gone and Ge­orge the Third, your royal fa­ther, is now the near­est heir, I can say that you have no more loyal sub­jects than the Ja­co­bites of Scot­land.’

Queen Vic­to­ria left Bal­moral for In­ver­lochy Cas­tle at about 8am on Septem­ber 9. She trav­elled by train to Kin­gussie and from there the royal party were trans­ported in four horse- drawn car­riages, ar­riv­ing at their des­ti­na­tion some 10 hours later. Ac­com­pa­ny­ing her were Princess Beatrice, her el­dest daugh­ter, aged 16 at the time, whose daugh­ter, Vic­to­ria Eu­gene, be­came Queen of Spain; Lady Jane Churchill (lady-in-wait­ing), Gen­eral (later Sir) Henry Pon­sonby, pri­vate sec­re­tary and keeper of the privy purse; Dr Fox, physi­cian; nine ser­vants; and her col­lie dog called Noble.

One of the ser­vants was John Brown, her at­ten­dant and per­sonal body­guard. There had been six at­tempts on the Queen’s life up un­til 1873, the most re­cent dur­ing the pre­vi­ous year, which is why John Brown was al­ways close to the Queen. It is most likely that both he and Gen­eral Pon­sonby were armed dur­ing the visit.

Queen Vic­to­ria recorded the main events of her week-long stay at In­ver­lochy Cas­tle in her jour­nal, which was pub­lished in 1884. The Oban Times, whose lo­cal cor­re­spon­dent more than likely had a ‘hot­line’ to the but­ler’s pantry, filled in the minu­tiae by re­port­ing as early as July 26 that the Queen’s bed and other ob­jects had been sent ahead.

What was the pur­pose of the Queen’s visit? There were prob­a­bly two rea­sons. First, to visit the spec­tac­u­lar Glen­coe, ev­i­denced by the en­try in her jour­nal for Sat­ur­day Septem­ber 13, 1873, in which she wrote: ‘We meant to go to Glen­coe, which was the prin­ci­pal ob­ject of our com­ing here.’ As an artist in her own right, and a great ad­mirer of oth­ers who could cap­ture the wild grandeur of the Scot­tish moun­tains on can­vas, she was likely to have been in­spired by the oil paint­ing of Glen­coe ex­e­cuted in 1864 by Ho­ra­tio McCul­loch (1805- 67), who was one of her favourite land­scape artists.

Se­condly, she wanted to re­live a visit to the area which she and Prince Al­bert had made 26 years ear­lier.

Dur­ing her time at In­ver­lochy Cas­tle, Queen Vic­to­ria not only vis­ited Glen­finnan and Glen­coe but also the head of Glen Ne­vis, Fort Wil­liam and Banavie. The most pop­u­lar, though, was a boat jour­ney up Loch Arkaig as a guest of Don­ald Cameron, 24th chief of Clan Cameron.

The Queen wrote in her jour­nal: ‘ He [ Lochiel] re­ceived us wear­ing his kilt and plaid just above the pier, and we all went on board the lit­tle steamer. The af­ter­noon was beau­ti­ful, and lit up the fine scenery to the great­est ad­van­tage. We went about half way up the loch (which is 14 miles long), as we had not time to go far­ther, to the dis­ap­point­ment of Lochiel, who said it grew wilder and wilder higher up. To the left is the deer for­est; to the right he has sheep.’

Gen­eral Pon­sonby, a mas­ter in the art of diplo­macy who clearly wanted to defuse the in­ci­dent with the coach­man, later re­marked to the Queen: ‘There was Lochiel, whose great-grand-un­cle had been the real mov­ing cause of the ris­ing of 1745. With­out him Prince Charles would not have made the at­tempt, show­ing your majesty (whose great-great-grand­fa­ther he had striven to de­throne) the scenes made his­tor­i­cal by Prince Char­lie’s wan­der­ings. It was a scene one could not look on un­moved.’

An­gus Kennedy, the cap­tain of the lit­tle steamer named The Ri­fle, of which I will have more to say in a fu­ture col­umn, used to re­late that it was John Brown who gave or­ders to turn just at the point on the loch when the finest scenery was open­ing out – much to Lochiel’s great an­noy­ance.

Pho­to­graph: The Write Im­age

In­ver­lochy Cas­tle, where Queen Vic­to­ria stayed on her visit to Lochaber in 1873.

Don­ald Cameron of Lochiel who ac­com­pa­nied Queen Vic­to­ria up Loch Arkaig.

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