SATURDAY 24th AUGUST 1889
AFTERNOON AND EVENING
Thomas had plenty of opportunity to demonstrate his skill as Head Gardener on Saturday 24th August. Having provided fruit for the royal breakfast, he once again picked peaches and grapes from the hothouses for the meal in the evening. As well as this he decorated the table with flowers from the garden, chiefly, it seems carnations and pinks.
Having organised the tennis court for the party in the morning, once again Thomas put out the tennis equipment and was rewarded in the late afternoon by the sight of Princess Beatrice and her husband and Princess Alix with members of their household playing tennis. Visitors to Palé might bring to mind the sight of the future ill-fated Tsarina of Russia, Alexandra Feodorovna playing tennis on a Welsh lawn.
Queen Victoria sent him her bouquet from the previous day and asked him to strike cuttings from the myrtle it contained. Myrtle was very significant to Victoria as she had been given a plant by her late husband’s grandmother some of which was used in her wedding bouquet, and plants from it were established at Osborne in the Isle of Wight, from where royal brides continue to carry sprigs in bridal bouquets.
The highlight of the day came when having arranged a group of flower vases on the Queen’s supper table, he and his wife Frances were invited to view the table arrangement and Frances was allowed to sit in the Queen’s chair. Thomas records the details of the table setting in a plan (see below).
At 3 o’clock Frances, the children, and myself went to the stand at the station to see the Queen, the Princesses, and Prince Henry, attended by her suite, leave by the Royal train at 3.30 for Ruabon. Her carriage was drawn by a pair of greys. Semi-state carriages from Windsor were to be ready at Ruabon, and the Royal carriages from here went to Ruabon to take the members of the household and servants, and the Indian attendants.
The procession went all the way from Ruabon to Wrexham, through part of the town, and then To Acton park where the children belonging to the various schools were arranged in order. Several addresses were presented to the Queen, in the park, the children sang, and all passed off well. Wrexham was much decorated, and great enthusiasm and good will prevailed all through. Indeed, there was not a disloyal shout heard along the route during the procession. Good nature and fun was the order of the day.
The Indians caused much talk and curiosity. I was told by an onlooker that he heard somebody call out “Here comes the Shah”, and another called out at once “There are four Shahs”. After the procession passed on, an old lady in the crowd was saying she could not see the Queen; somebody told her the Queen was in the first carriage, an elderly lady, the old lady said “Well, I saw that lady well enough, but she did not wear a crown.”It was calculated that about 12000 to 14000 school children were got together in the park.
The Royal party got into the park about 25 minutes past 5 o’clock, and left Wrexham station at 6 o’clock in the Royal train which went to Wrexham from Ruabon. There were flags and various decorations, and stands for people all the way from Ruabon to Wrexham.
After I got back from the station, I made up the flower vases for the large dining room table, because the Queen was to dine downstairs with her guests. Mr. Robertson and theBishop of St Asaph (Dr. Edwards) were invited and dined with the Queen. I filled two glass crosses, one glass circle in two parts, six finger glasses, and one tall glass. I had plenty of nice flowers, and an abundance of carnations and picotees. I sent in some fine fruit for the Royal table, and took out the racquets and balls to the tennis ground.
After the royal party got back here, some of the members of the Household and Princesses played at tennis until it got too dark. I was in the dining room at the time, and could see Princess Henry very active. While I was in the dining room the Queen sent me by Mr. Thompson, her page, the bouquet she had presented to her at Glanllyn the previous day. The bouquet was presented to the Queen by Miss Williams Wynn, the little daughter and only daughter of Sir Watkin and Lady Williams Wynn. There was much myrtle in the bouquet, and the Queen wished me to root some of the sprigs for her. I learned afterwards when at Glanllyn that the myrtle came from Llangedwen, the home of the Dowager Lady W. Wynn.
Mr. Thomson said I could take Frances to see the table set ready for the Queen and her guests. We went together to see it and were very pleased to see the arrangements of the table. Mr. Thomson was very kind and would insist upon Frances sitting on the chair which the Queen was to occupy when dining. It was a low chair with a footstool in front of it. Mr. Martin also was very good natured; he is the chief in the pantry for the Queen at Palé. The chief of the Queen’s Indian attendants stood near the door of the dining room, ready to stand behind the Queen’s chair and attend to her wants. Mr. Thomson had to bring the chair from her upstairs dining room, take it up again, and attend to special wants. The table was arranged in the following order –
Mr. Thomson had to see that the table was properly set, and everything correct. Frances and I came away well pleased with our inspection.
Roberts family (Father and nine sons) gave a selection of music on harps and other stringed instruments, and so ended Saturday’s doings – I may add that the Roberts band is well known in most of Wales as very good musicians. Their home is at Newtown, Montgomeryshire.
The Indian who attended to the queen is named the Munshi Hafiz Abdul Karim; he acts as Hindustani instructor-secretary to the queen, and is in great favour with her. Munshi is his title, the rest is his name.
Queen Victoria’s account of the afternoon and evening from the middle of this page