Visit of King George IV To Scotland - Background

Background

After a decade of ruling as Prince Regent, George IV acceded to the throne and his coronation on 19 July 1821, was celebrated by splendid traditional pageantry, much of it invented for the occasion. He was obese and was widely unpopular, with many offended by his treatment of his wife. He had also been struggling to manipulate the government, which was seen as a corrupt oligarchy by Radicals whose increasing unrest following the revolutions which shook America and France culminated in the "Radical War" of 1820 in Scotland and terrified the gentry. He was invited to attend a Congress in Verona, but government ministers wanting to keep Parliamentary control of foreign affairs pressed him to bring forward a proposed visit to Scotland which it was hoped would calm unrest. Suffering from painful illness and pushed by opposing factions of diplomats and ministers, the King remained indecisive, but preparations went ahead in the hope of his agreement.

Walter Scott was author of the novel Waverley which popularised a romantic image of the Scottish Highlands. In 1815 this led to his being invited to dine with George, who was then the Prince Regent. By 1822 Scott had become a baronet, and was well acquainted with both Highland and Lowland nobility.

Kilts and tartans were used for army uniforms but were no longer ordinary Highland wear, having been proscribed in the wake of the Jacobite Risings by the Dress Act. The "small" kilt as worn today was a relatively recent innovation in the Highlands, having been introduced around the 1720s and later adopted as dress uniform by the army, but the romance of the "ancient" belted plaid still appealed to those wanting to preserve the Highland identity. Soon after the Act's repeal in 1782, Highland aristocrats set up Highland Societies in Edinburgh and other centres including London and Aberdeen. These were landowners' clubs with aims including "Improvements" (the Highland Clearances) and promoting "the general use of the ancient Highland dress" by obliging members to wear this when attending meetings. Numerous less exclusive associations including the Celtic Society of Edinburgh, of which Scott was enthusiastic chairman, had membership including many lowlanders as well as chieftains of impeccable Highland ancestry, and also promoted Highland culture with all attending meetings and dances wearing "the garb of old Gaul".

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