Visit of King George IV To Scotland - The Visit

The Visit

The first of Scott's pageants took place on the King's birthday, on Monday 12 August 1822. In procession the Midlothian Yeomanry and companies of Highlanders escorted coaches carrying the Regalia of Scotland and dignitaries from the Castle to Holyrood Palace. The procession assembled on The Mound before going up to the Castle, and within minutes of setting off was halted by the arrival on horseback of a flamboyantly dressed Glengarry who announced that it was his rightful place to ride at the head of the procession. After a pause, a Captain Ewan MacDougall persuaded the hot-tempered Glengarry to go away. Watched by packed crowds, the procession formally received the regalia then returned down to The Mound and went down it to Princes Street and on by Calton Hill to Holyroodhouse.

The King's ship the Royal George arrived in the Firth of Forth about noon on Wednesday 14 August, but his landing was postponed due to torrential rain. On Thursday 15 August, the King in naval uniform arrived in sunshine at the quayside of The Shore, Leith and stepped ashore onto a red carpet strewn with flowers to greet the waiting crowds. After fifteen minutes of the ritual salutations traditional in a royal entry he got in his carriage. A quiet pause was rudely interrupted by Glengarry on horseback galloping up beside the King, sweeping off his bonnet and loudly announcing "Your Majesty is welcome to Scotland!". The King, in good humour, bowed graciously at this unplanned intrusion as his carriage moved off. A procession including lowland regiments and Highland clan regiments with pipe bands escorted the King's open carriage the 3 miles (5 km) up to Edinburgh past cheering Scots crowding every possible viewpoint eager to show a welcome to their monarch. At a theatrical "medieval" gateway the King was presented with the keys to the city and "the hearts and persons" of its people.

Much of the pageantry for the visit would be medieval rather than Highland, but the exotic outfits of the "gathering of the Gael" were to attract most attention. The next day was one that the King spent away from the public at Dalkeith. Edinburgh was full of visitors for the occasion, and that evening they walked round enjoying "illuminations" with illustrated tributes hung on public buildings, businesses and houses, "Everywhere crowded to excess, but in civility and quiet", before being escorted to their rest around midnight by bands of boys carrying flaming torches to light their way.

On Saturday afternoon, 17 August, the King attended a short levee at Holyrood Palace, where the great and good queued to be greeted by George in his Highland outfit complete with pink pantaloons to conceal his bloated legs, described as "buff coloured trowsers like flesh to imitate his Royal knees". When someone complained that the kilt had been too short for modesty, Lady Hamilton-Dalrymple wittily responded "Since he is to be among us for so short a time, the more we see of him the better."

The King would not be seen again by the public until Monday afternoon when a medium-sized crowd caught a brief glimpse of him as he went in to Holyroodhouse to hear long repetitive addresses from the Church of Scotland, the Scottish Episcopal Church, universities, burghs, counties and the Highland Society, and give his short formal responses.

The King's Drawing Room on Tuesday 20 August was attended by 457 ladies, and custom required that he kiss each one on the cheek. This brief occasion took him away from Dalkeith House for two hours, and the presentation of the ladies lasted from 2.15 to 3.30. In the rush some ladies received no "buss" on the cheek, or in their nervousness scarcely felt the kiss at all. All were dressed in rich gowns with sweeping trains, and most had coloured ostrich plumes above their elaborately curled hair. The King was courteous and smiling, and paid particular attention to "the lady on whose account so many Highlanders went down to Elgin two years ago" when election passions led to Lady Anne Margaret Grant, daughter of the late Sir James Grant, 8th Baronet, and her sisters who had also supported the Tories, being besieged by a "democratic mob" of Whig supporting townsfolk until a rescue party of her clansmen was "summoned by the fiery cross" and released them without coming to blows. The story of "The Raid to Elgin" had amused the king, and he remarked "Truly she is an object fit to raise the chivalry of a clan", echoing Scott's romanticism. He spent the next day at Dalkeith, and that evening Scott dined with him.

Heavy rain returned on Thursday 22 August as a Grand Procession went from Holyrood to Edinburgh Castle. The procession and the King's closed carriage went up a Royal Mile flanked by colourful bunting and densely packed cheering crowds obscured by their umbrellas. At the castle, the king climbed out onto the battlements of the Half Moon Battery to wave his cocked hat to continuing "huzzas" from the crowd for fifteen minutes, reportedly saying "Good God! What a fine sight. I had no conception there was such a fine scene in the world; and to find it in my own dominions; and the people are as beautiful and as extraordinary as the scene." and "Rain? I feel no rain. Never mind, I must cheer the people." He had not been used to this kind of reception.

On Friday, 23 August, a review of 3,000 volunteer cavalrymen was held on Portobello sands. The king was also to honour the Clans including a contingent from the Celtic Society of Edinburgh. Though disappointingly his review ended before reaching them, the Highlanders took part in the Grand March Past then were cheered by the crowds as they marched back to Edinburgh. That evening, George appeared at the Peers' Grand Ball wearing a field marshal's uniform as earlier in the day rather than the anticipated kilt, and sat to enjoy watching the Scottish country dancing and the splendour of the belted plaids worn by the men. He left before midnight, but the Ball continued with increasing spirit until past one in the morning. The Assembly Rooms had been theatrically transformed by William Henry Murray, and the occasion was hailed as a triumph for him.

Saturday morning was marked by a small ceremony and procession including a Clan MacGregor Regalia Guard, as the Honours of Scotland were returned from Holyroodhouse up the Royal Mile to the Castle. That evening the King attended a tumultuous civic banquet in the great Hall of Parliament House which Murray had splendidly decorated.

Next day the King went in state to the Presbyterian Church of Scotland Sunday service at St. Giles' Cathedral. On the Monday he made a private visit to the Holyrood Palace apartments of his ancestor Mary, Queen of Scots, then in the evening attended the Caledonian Hunt Ball in a Guards uniform. Again many of the dancers were kilted, and the King was excited by the reels and strathspeys. Once more his wish was met, that while he was in Scotland all music would be "purely national and characteristic". On the Tuesday, 27 August, George made his last and least formal public appearance, showing his evident pleasure at a theatre performance of Scott's Rob Roy adapted and produced by William Henry Murray.

George's visit closed on Thursday 29 August with a brief visit to Hopetoun House 12 miles (19 km) west of Edinburgh. Elaborate arrangements had been made and crowds waited for him in the rain. He then joined his ship at nearby South Queensferry and departed.

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