An eventful day out to Glen Clova

This week’s article is taken from Queen Victoria’s own journal.

A few weeks ago I urged readers to visit Glen Clova, but how many know that over 150 years ago Queen Victoria decided to go there for an unforgettable trip?

She drove with her daughters Princess Alice and Lenchen (Princess Helena was fondly known by the German name) when they rode up and over the Capel Mounth in frequent snow-showers.

Glen Clova had earlier been honoured by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert with a visit in 1861, only a short time before the death of His Royal Highness.

All the high hills were white with early snow; the view of the beautiful green hills of Glen Clova, covered with snow at the tops, with gleams of sunshine between the showers was very fine, but Queen Victoria felt very sad and lonely without her beloved Albert. Loch Muick looked beautiful in the setting sun as they came down, and reminded her of many happy days she and Albert spent there at Glassalt Shiel.

After a memorable day the party stopped on the way home to take tea at Altnagiuthasach. They left there about 20 minutes to seven with her faithful John Brown on the carriage seated next to the driver Smith, with little Willem (Alice’s black serving boy) sitting behind.

From the start, the driver Smith seemed to be quite confused, and went off the road several times and John Brown got off the carriage to show him the way.

However, going very slowly, they seemed to be all right, but Princess Alice thought John Brown holding up the lantern all the time indicated that Smith could not see where he was going, though the road was as broad and plain as possible.

Suddenly about 20 minutes after they had started, the carriage began to turn up on one side.

There was an awful pause, the Queen wondering whether they should be killed, as the carriage turned over on its side, and they were all thrown to the ground.  Victoria came down with her face on the ground, near the carriage, the horses both on the ground, with John Brown calling out in despair: “Lord Almighty have mercy on us! I thought you were all killed.”

Alice was soon helped up by means of tearing all her clothes to disentangle her; but Lenchen, who had also got caught in her dress, called out piteously, which frightened the Queen a good deal; but she was also got out with Brown’s assistance, and neither she nor Alice was hurt at all. The Queen reassured them that she was not hurt, and urged that they should make the best of it as it was an inevitable misfortune.

Alice held one of the lamps while John Brown cut the traces and the horses were released and got up unhurt. But there was no means of getting home except by sending back Smith with the two horses to get another carriage. All this took about half an hour before he set off. By this time Queen Victoria felt her face was bruised and swollen, and her right thumb was painful and much swollen; indeed she thought at first it was broken, until she began to move it. John Brown had hurt his knee when jumping off the carriage but stood holding a lantern and being indefatigable in his attention and care.  

Directly after the accident happened, the Queen said to Alice it was terrible not to be able to tell her dearest Albert to which she answered: “But he knows it all, and I am sure he watches over us.”

They sat there about half an hour when they heard the sound of voices and of horses’ hoofs. As they were so long coming one of the Queen’s servants had become fearful of an accident but hearing Smith coming back with the ponies, and seeing lights moving about, rode back to look for them. John Brown led the two ponies with the ladies on them and would not let go for fear of another accident. Near the distillery, they met the other carriage, driven by Smith, and a number of stable-hands who had come to lift the toppled carriage, with a pair of horses to bring it home.

The Queen preferred to ride home, which they reached at about 20 minutes to ten o’clock. The Queen took a little soup and fish in her room, after she had her head bandaged and got to bed rather late, after an eventful day out to Glen Clova.

Yours aye,

THE ORRAMAN