The Pipes are Calling

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“The important thing is not what they think of me, but what I think of them.”

Queen Victoria

Highland Games

Today, Canadians celebrated Queen Victoria’s birthday.   Her reign brought the British Empire into a new world order, during a time of great change and uncertainty.   Born on May 24, 1819, she came to the throne after the death of her uncle, King William IV, in 1837. As a young woman ascending to the throne, her future husband described her “as one whose extreme obstinacy was constantly at war with her good nature.”

The death of Queen Victoria on January 22, 1901, ended an era in which most of her British subjects knew no other monarch. Her 63-year reign, the longest in British history, saw the growth of an empire on which the sun never set. Victoria restored dignity to the English monarchy and ensured its survival as a ceremonial political institution. Nine children and 26 of her 34 grandchildren who survived childhood, married into royal and noble families across the Europe.  She was truly the “grandmother of Europe.”

We celebrated this auspicious occasion by attending the 150th Annual Victoria Highland Games and Celtic Festival.  Queen Victoria’s descendent, His Royal Highness Prince Andrew, the Duke of York presided over the opening, closing and awards ceremonies.  Central to the celebration was the pipes and drums.  When the mass band played, “Amazing Grace,” I knew that I wanted to explore the history of the bagpipes.  And what a history it is!  Even now, the position of the Queen’s Piper is one of the most prestigious assignments.

Every weekday for fifteen minutes starting precisely 9:00am, The Queen’s Piper plays the pipes directly under The Queen’s window when she is in residence at Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle, The Palace of Holyroodhouse or Balmoral Castle. And it all started with Queen Victoria.

The pipes are calling…