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Queen Victoria in Perth

When the news was brought to Perth in 1842 that Queen
Victoria and Prince Albert would shortly visit the Fair City
there was great excitement. In the language of the times: “The idea excited an enthusiasm of the most animated and devoted kind, a tumultuous paroxysm of joy.” The first concern of the city fathers was the arrangement of a suitable presentation to His Royal Highness Prince Albert, to be made at the same time as the city keys were handed over to the Queen.

It was decided that this should take the form of a black oak box (made from a piece of wood which had lain in the Tay for centuries). Ornamented with gold, it would contain a parchment conferring the right of citizenship upon Prince Albert. At the end of Princes Street, facing the South Inch, where the royal party would enter the city, a handsome triumphal arch was ordered to be erected. Designed by Mr. Mackenzie, the city architect, it was made of imitation polished sandstone. The principal arch was 30 feet high, with two smaller gateways for foot passengers on either side. Across the architrave in bold relief was the word “Victoria,” and from the summit the royal standard flew. Flags were also ordered to be flown from the city church steeples. One thousand men were detailed to line the royal route through the city, their badges of office being white staves. Arrangements
were made for a display of fireworks from the Burghmuir and the North Inch, and other places within sight of Scone Palace where the royal couple were to spend the night after their visit. “Five hundred of the neighbouring country gentlemen, as well as most of the respectable citizens, were invited to a banquet in the city hail after the passing of the royal procession.”

A special uniform was prescribed for the Society of High Constables. Their coats were to be of forest green and the skirts lined with straw-coloured serge, gilt buttons, with the royal crown, were to be affixed to cuffs and pocket flaps, vests were to correspond in colour to skirt linings, and trousers were to be made of black cloth; a silver badge was to be affixed to the left breast, and white gloves worn, and truncheons carried. Court dresses of black cloth (that of the Lord Provost being of velvet) were provided for the city officials, along with cocked hats, gilt chains, and swords of office.

All streets crossing the route along Princes Street and George Street were ordered to be barricaded off. On the left of the triumphal arch the grandstand used at the races was erected and reserved for the ladies of the county. In front of this was placed a low table covered with a crimson cloth, for city officials. Opposite, on the right of the arch, was erected another grandstand, to be occupied by the clergy of the Presbytery of Perth,
headed by Dr. W. A. Thomson. A triumphal arch was erected by Mr. Turnbull of Bellwood at the western end of Perth Bridge and a similar arch was built by the
citizens of Bridgend at the eastern end. Both arches were decorated with flowers and plants. Another arch with three gateways was erected across Atholl Street by Mr. Wallace. It bore the legends “Welcome Victoria” and
“Welcome Albert,” and it made splendid use of flowers and plants and coloured lights. It had a flagstaff 40 feet high. The first intimation was that the Queen would visit Perth on Monday, September 5, but this was later changed to September 6, fortunately, as it turned out, for Monday was a wet disagreeable day. But on Tuesday the clouds dispersed and the sun shone through.

The royal procession appeared at the Cloven Crags (Craig Clowan) at 6 p.m. to be greeted by the city church bells ringing and the firing of a gun salute from Moredum and Beliwood Terrace. The royal cavalcade passed along the South Inch to the triumphal arch at Princes Street where, we are told, “the shouts increased to an
absolute whirlwind of acclamation !“ Then the Lord Provost presented the city keys to the Queen, who
graciously handed them back. At the same time Prince Albert was given the box containing the freedom of the city. The royal procession then passed under the arch into Princes Street, where it was followed by the carriages containing the magistrates and flanked on either side by double files of the High Constables. The street was lined almost to Canal Street by members of the Trade Incorporations, who took their places by ballot and there were also the peace officers with their white
staves. Where the procession crossed the High Street the Queen ordered her coach to stop so that she might enjoy a view of Professor Henderson’s hydraulic exhibition which had been stationed there. “Filled with devices appropriate to the royal visit, it had all day been spouting in all possible variety of inclination, from the heads of
marine monsters, a series of beautiful jets of water.”

At Perth Bridge the royal carriage passed under the arches there — “odoriferous and bosky with evergreens, heaths and flowering shrubs.” And so on to Scone where the royal pair were to spend the night at the Palace of Scone—”the whole line of road being crowded with spectators.”

A note in the local Press of the day runs as follows: “A fine salmon of 30lbs. weight, caught in the Tay subsequent to Her Majesty’s passing through the city, was forwarded by Mr. Buist to Scone Palace, and was in time to appear at the dinner table!” Night fell on the city’s celebrations. “Red and blue lights were placed on the bridge, and the whole city and its environs were lit as it were day. The George Hotel displayed the royal crown with the letters V and A in gas.” Mrs. Brown of Marshall Place, embroidress to the Queen, showed the same device, with the rose and thistle entwined round the crown. The display of fireworks entertained from 10.30 till midnight “consisting of rockets, maroons, Roman candles, and various beautiful devices.” At the great banquet in the city hall loyal speeches were made and patriotic songs sung.

Next day a deputation consisting of Bailies Robert Keay and John McEwen Grey attended at Scone Palace to solicit the Queen’s signature in the Guildry Book of Perth, alongside those of James VI and Charles II. Sir Robert Peel, we are told, conveyed the book to the Queen and
the Prince who duly signed; Sir Robert returned to declare to the deputation (with reference to the royal visit to Perth): “The arrangements were most admirable, the scene was beautiful. I never saw anything so striking in all my life and these sentiments, I assure you, are participated in by her Majesty and Prince Albert.”

And so the good people of Perth and the civic authorities had their reward. Perhaps the sentiments of the citizens of Perth are best expressed by the following verse, penned, we are told, by the singer Mr. Wilson, at the City Hall banquet.

“Guard we beseech Thee, Lord,
Albert, our Queen’s adored;
May he live long!
Crown both with every joy,
Shield England’s Hope, their boy;
Let their be no alloy
Their bliss among!”

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