The Pipes are Calling

“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…

30 thoughts on “The Pipes are Calling

  1. A very important day! I may have told you before but we have a Victoria Square in our city and, of course ,a statue of Queen Victoria stands therein. It amuses me enormously that whilst much of the rest of the city tumbled in our huge earthquakes, Victoria stood upright and resolute throughout. One could almost hear the bagpipes saluting her strength!

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    • Why am I not surprised?!!! After all she said herself that, “Great events make me quiet and calm; it is only trifles that irritate my nerves.”

      I just finished reading Michael Farquhar’s “Behind the Palace Doors: Five Centuries of Sex, Adventure, Vice” which was a page-turner. I did not realize that Queen Victoria was only about 5 feet tall. She was remarkable – no one could withstand her determination. And of course, Prince Albert was the joy of her life.

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    • I have tried to blow into a “chanter” and had difficulties getting a sound out of it. It is a tricky instrument because atmospheric changes can play havoc with the turning. But you are quite right about the neighbours!!! Especially during the learning stage….

      It’s like hearing the first attempts of a student of the violin, except is is MUCH louder.🙂

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  2. I love the stories about Queen Victoria, and her love for her husband. V and A Museum is by far one of my favorite museums. I also love Victoria Island of British Columbia , which is named after Queen Victoria. Therefore I should also celebrate Victoria Day with you! Thank you, Rebecca, for another lovely post!

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    • I am so glad that you will celebrate Victoria Day with Canadians! We would be very pleased. And you are right about Victoria B.C. It is high tea country. As for the V&A Museum, I remember waiting for the doors to open (I was at the underground walkway entrance) anxious to take the first steps inside the doors. I was so excited that I had trouble breathing. 🙂

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  3. How lovely that you celebrate Queen Victoria’s birthday in this way. ‘Amazing Grace’ played on the bagpipes, never fails to move me to tears. Beautiful. I love that quote too. We should all think like this.🙂

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    • I must confess, that the tears did come when they played “Amazing Grace.” Bagpipes are the perfect instrument for that particular song. There is an undertone of melancholy that runs through the majestic sounds of the drones. British Columbia is one of the epi-centre for the highland pipes. The world renowned, Simon Fraser University Pipe, led the mass band.

      http://www.sfupb.com/

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    • I would love to take a Gaelic language course one day – it’s on my bucket list. I “Googled” Scottish Gaelic proverbs and found one that reminded me of your comments. Now all we have to do is figure out how to pronounce the Gaelic!!!🙂

      A ‘nighean mar a mathair.

      Translation: Such mother, such daughter.
      English equivalent: Like mother, like daughter.

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    • I was going to mention something to that effect in the post. What a wake-up call!!! Right under her window….🙂 I have a feeling she is up way before 9 am.

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    • You would have loved being here!!! I tried to “video” the mass band – but not certain if I will be able to upload on WordPress. I’m still trying to figure it all out! But I am learning…slowly but surely. I do love bagpipes, too! Thank you for stopping by…

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  4. I did not know about this celebration or about the queen’s piper, they say we learn a thing a day, I did😉, have a great day.

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    • My knowledge levels have increased exponentially since I joined the blogging community. We don’t have time to learn everything – sharing knowledge is one of the greatest gifts of blogging. I am so glad that we are connected over the blogger miles.🙂

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  5. I am standing to attention with a lump in my throat! There is nothing to beat the sound of the pipes, as we have so often agreed before, especially when in full mass band variety. We reecently witnessed the homecoming of the Royal Scots 1st Regiment parading through Edinburgh accompanied by a band if pipers and there was not a dry eye in the house!

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    • What an event that must have been – a homecoming. I have goosebumps just thinking about it. I agree – nothing compares to the sound of the bagpipes, especially with the drums at their side. The Scottish Diaspora created pockets of bagpipers all of the world.🙂

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  6. Bagpipes, so truly majestic. I will look forward to hearing more about their history. I have read that in old times their sound frightened their enemies and many of them ran in fright.

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    • I have read the same thing! The sound of the bagpipes coming over the hill is an awesome experience. Would it be wonderful if we fought with music – our world would be changed forever.

      “Without music, life would be a mistake.”
      ― Friedrich Nietzsche, Twilight of the Idols

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  7. I’ve just finished reading Magnificent Obsession, the story of Victoria’s grief after Albert had died, and her deep depression which lasted for years… I have a theory about that… followed by re-reading Elizabeth Longfordf’s biography of Victoria… my daughter is called Victoria –
    but not for the Queen !!!

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