February 10th & 11th, 1840

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Windsor

Queen Victoria and Prince Albert were married on February 10th, 1840, in the Chapel Royal.

In the early morning, Prince Albert received a note folded in billet form from Queen Victoria.

Dearest, -…How are you to-day, and have you slept well?  I have rested very well, and feel very comfortable to-day.  What weather! I believe, however, the rain will cease.

Send one word when you, my most dearly loved bridegroom, will be ready.  Thy ever-faithful,

Victoria R.

After the wedding breakfast at Buckingham Palace the young couple drove to Windsor, returning to London on the February 14th, a fitting way to celebrate St. Valentine’s Day.  Even so, Queen Victoria wasted no time in writing a letter to the Leopold I, King of the Belgians, her maternal uncle and adviser. Her letter, dated February 11, 1840 at Windsor Castle, illustrates her happiness in the marriage he helped arrange.

“My dearest Uncle, – I write to you from here, the happiest, happiest Being that ever existed.  Really, I do not think it possible for any one in the world to be happier, or as happy as I am.  He is an Angel, and his kindness and affection for me is really touching.  To look in those dear eyes, and that dear sunny face, is enough to make me adore him.  What I can do to make him happy will be my greatest delight.  Independent of my great personal happiness, the reception we both met with yesterday was the most gratifying and enthusiastic I ever experienced; there was no end of the crowds in London, and all along the road.  I was a good deal tired last night, but am quite well again to-day, and happy…

My love to dear Louise. Ever your affectionate,

Victoria R.

Queen Victoria and Prince Albert had 21 happy years together.

I Want A Piper, Too!

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“We have heard nothing but bagpipes since we have been in the beautiful Highlands and I have become so fond of it that I mean to have a Piper, who can if you like it, pipe every night at Frogmore.”

Queen Victoria, in a letter to her mother.

Braemar Gathering. Scotland

Braemar Gathering. Scotland

The tradition of The Queen’s Piper dates back to Queen Victoria.  In 1842, Queen Victoria and her beloved Prince Albert traveled to the Scottish Highlands.  It was her first visit; and like all those who see the Highlands for the first time, she was overwhelmed with the grandeur of the northern countryside.  The Royal Couple were the guests of the Marquess of Breadablane at Taymouth Castle which is located north-east of the village of Kenmore, Perth and Kinross.   The Marquess happened to have her own personal bagpiper, who was pleased to play for Queen Victoria.  From that moment on, Queen Victoria was determined to have one for her household.

One year later, in 1843, Angus MacKay became the first personal Piper to Queen Victoria.  Piper MacKay was a famed composer of pipe music who had published a volume of reels and strathspeys and a collection of piobaireachd music.  Piobaireachd is an art music classical genre associated with the Great Highland Bagpipe.

Victoria wasted no time in directing Piper MacKay in his duties. The bagpipes were heard every day after breakfast, at balls and other special events.   Piper MacKay was there at the formation of a cairn to honour Queen Victoria’s acquisition of Balmoral Estate in 1852.   It was the event of the season.  Queen Victoria noted that, while the cairn was being constructed, “some merry reels were danced on a stone opposite”.

Queen Victoria died in 1901.  At her funeral two personal pipers were present in the first stage of the procession.  Queen Victoria’s desire for the music of the bagpipes has become a tradition for successive monarchs of the British throne.

In 2008, my family traveled to Scotland.  A highlight was to attend the Braemar Gathering, when The Queen made a personal appearance.  Now, five years later, her son, HRH Prince Andrew attended the 150th annual Victoria Highland Games.  Queen Victoria seemed to understand that the world needed the Highland Bagpipes.

But there is much more to the bagpipe story…

 

Caber Tossing, Braemar Gathering

Caber Tossing, Braemar Gathering

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…

A Queen & A President’s Wife

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Love in Action

“We are not interested in the possibilities of defeat.  They do not exist.”

Queen Victoria

Love is an action verb that has the energy and means to influence the course of our personal histories.  And from time to time it has changed the world.

Alexandrina Victoria, Queen Victoria fell deeply in love with her distant cousin, Prince Albert.  They met in 1839 and married in 1840.  She bore him nine children over the course of 18 years. He became her adviser, confidante and best friend.  His opinion was the one she respected above all others.   They were inseparable. When Prince Albert died in 1861 of typhoid fever, Queen Victoria withdrew from public view.  She carried out her constitutional duties, but she never recovered from the death of her much-loved prince.

Abigail and her husband John Adams, the second President of the United States, were well matched in intellect, audacity and perseverance.  Married in 1764, their love affair lasted more than 50 years during a time of great upheaval and war. Their mutual respect was strong and weathered long periods of separation. When Abigail joined her husband in state duties, he considered her a valued partner and trusted counsellor.  When John finished his presidency in 1801, they spent their remaining 17 years together at their farm in Quincy, Massachusetts.

“If we mean to have Heroes, Statesmen and Philosophers, we should have learned women. The world perhaps would laugh at me, and accuse me of vanity, but you I know have a mind too enlarged and liberal to disregard the Sentiment. If much depends as is allowed upon the early Education of youth and the first principals which are instill’d take the deepest root, great benefit must arise from literary accomplishments in women. ”

Abigail Adams, The Letters of John and Abigail Adams