1889 Queen Victoria’s visit – retrospective


Photograph of Queen Victoria displayed in the Victorian Schoolroom, Milton Keynes Museum

Insights are interesting and sometimes amusing – the Queen’s preference for whisky rather than wine with meals; the request of the Indian servants for flowers in their railway carriage, somewhat contributing to the suggestion that other members of the Household thought that they gave themselves undue airs and were over indulged by the Queen.  Also the picture of Thomas being allowed by the head housemaid Miss Reynolds to sit in the Queen’s chair.

Queen Victoria’s statue in Bangalore, erected 1906, 5 years after her death. Photograph Rajesh Dangi GFDL via Wikimedia Commons

At the end of the volume of Thomas’ journal he has pasted newspaper reports concerning some of the people he had met during the visit.

It must be acknowledged that the Queen worked hard while at Palé, for she was out to somewhere every day. I learned that her Majesty keeps very regular hours; she get up at 8 am, has breakfast at 10, but takes a cup of tea when she gets up.  The Queen gets through a good deal of business before 10 o’clock. The Queen is fond fruit and has usually a plate of fruit on her breakfast table; she is more fond of peaches than grapes. If the weather is at all favourable, her Majesty is very fond of having her breakfast in a tent on the lawn; the weather was  unsettled for that here. Luncheon time is at 1 o’clock,, and dinner at 9 o’clock, rather a late hour. Her Majesty’s usual dinner beverage is whisky, either in seltzer or Lithia water, she never drinks beer and seldom wine.

Her Majesty usually sat up writing until one or 2 o’clock in the morning. When her Majesty dined upstairs, she always had the Princess Alix with her, sometimes Lady Churchill, sometimes the Hon. Harriet Phipps, at other times Sir John McNeil, Sir H. Ponsonby, or any other to make up a party of four with her, including Prince and Princess Henry of Battenberg, making five with the Queen. The chief Indian helped the Queen down the stairs, the Queen taking hold of his arm, and holding onto a thick cord put up for the purpose with the right-hand. Her Majesty had to be carried upstairs, an Indian and a Highlander always carried her Majesty upstairs on a chair kept for the purpose; whichever of them went before her Majesty, had to walk backwards. The Queen’s maids are called “dressers” and not ladies’ maids. When they retire from the Queen, they bow to her Majesty by bending the right knee and wheel around and away. When Lady Churchill all the Hon. H Phipps retired, they bent the knee and made a graceful bow. When Mr. Robertson was presented by Mr Raikes to her Majesty, he went down on his right knee and kissed Her Majesty’s hand. I was told that the Queen asked Mr Thompson, her page, at a dinner where the fruit for her table was from, because she remarked that it was very beautiful fruit.  Indeed her Majesty is in the habit of making enquiries into things, and takes much notice of the servants of her household.

There was a master cook (Mr Feltham), a meat cook,(Mr Tustan) a pastry cook (Mon. Ferry), and a roasting cook (Mr. Goring). There was a kitchen maid with the Queen, Miss Lamond, a Balmoral Lassie, and a head housemaid, a native of Suffolk, named Miss Reynolds. Mr. Bishop was the Queens upholsterer.  Then there was a tapissier, a cellar man, several tall strong looking footmen, some in scarlet and gold liveries.   The four Indians being Mahometans, cooked for themselves, and would not eat any meat except it had been killed by themselves.  They only have fowls while they were here. The chief Indian came with the one Mr Clark introduced to me, the evening they were going to leave and wanted a few flowers to put in their carriage when in the Royal train. Both were tall, about 5’10” live and very active men. They were natives of Agra. They were dark brown in colour, but a little man who acted as Cook was rather darker in colour. I got them to give me their names; the chief wrote for both, because he was able to write in English, and he learned since he came over in the year of the Jubilee.  The chief wrote his name as follows – “Mūnshi Hafiz Abdul Karim, Indian Clerk to the Queen Empress”.  Both were very pleased with me for showing them the flowers and fruit. The chief Indian was belonging to a lancer regiment when in India, and he often amuses the Queen by going through the tent pegging on and Arabian horse.

A sanitised version of the swift despatch of the Munshi following Queen Victoria’s death, as depicted with some historical accuracy in the film Victoria and Abdul. Note the assertion that he had been well provided for!

Mr. Schoberth acts as a factotum in looking after indoor supplies, and general management. He is shrewd German. The dressers were elderly ladies; they did not go out with the Queen to any place while here.  They dined with the upper servants. The Queen brought a couch and an easy chair with her, both were upholstered in figured damask. There were two little pillows on the couch, one at each end. The chair was a low, very comfortable one to sitting, for I sat in it ( by the request of Miss Reynolds) and looked nice in its crimson and gold damask.  The Queen always takes a bedstead and bedding with her wherever she goes. It is her travelling bed. It was a plain half tester mahogany with curtains of figured white muslin, and green satin hangings. The counterpane was a beautiful work of art; it had figures of squirrels, butterflies, foliage and fruit worked all over it in raised work, and most beautifully done. The material of it was all fine soft satin. The Queen also brought an inkstand with her it is made from the hoof of the favourite horse, which Prince Albert used to ride out on, and on which Her Majesty used to ride too.  The hoof was gold mounted and had an inscription on it to say it was the hoof of Prince Albert’s horse.

The Queen brought a large quantity of massive silver plate to Palé; the articles were heavy. The glass was also very good cut glass ornamented with the crown. Her Majesty had peas, French beans, cauliflower, etc. from the garden. I had plenty of vegetable marrows but her Majesty is not fond of them.  Prints and Princess Henry of Battenberg are fond of fruit, the Prince is fond of white grapes. I had the pleasure of packing the Queens fruit box, the one she takes with her when travelling. It is a moderate size square silver box, about 10 inches long seven wide and four deep I put a good little bunch of grapes into it, two peaches, and two pears I had from Mon. Ferry.  The Queen was to take it with her for use on the way to Scotland.

 Wednesday 28th The Queen’s horses, carriages, stablemen, police, pages and Mr and Mrs Manning left at 10 o’clock forenoon in a special train for Windsor and London. The Queen had 15 horses, and 10 men in the stables; in fact I may say we had all the Queen’s horses and all the Queens men to put Humpty Dumpty up again. The carriages were travelling carriages, and the horses were useful roadsters, but nothing much to look at. The pony for the garden chair was 26 years old, strong and bulky. The little carriage was very comfortable one on four wheels. The men in the stables cooked their own food in the saddle room. Carriages were plain but comfortable. The men were very civil and allowed me to take any friends through the stables to see the horses, and to look at the carriages.

Many people called here during the day to see Palé and the grounds. I went through with the Fronderw family, Mrs Jones and young ladies. Mr and Mrs Edwards of Liverpool were here also, and had tea with us.

Thursday the 29thMany people here today and again to see through the house and grounds. The Queen’s Cooks left for Windsor. I brought out all of my plants and vases again for fear of getting injured.

Both Highlanders at Palé, Hugh Brown and Francis Clark were related to John Brown.



27th August 1889 morning at Palé

Vic in residence
Queen Victoria about 1889 (not taken at Palé Hall)


27th AUGUST 1889





I never expected to have the great pleasure of talking quietly with her face to face, and to have the pleasure of showing my collection to our beloved Queen was quite beyond all expectation.‘  This unusually lengthy passage details a moment which was certainly the highlight of the Queen’s visit for Thomas, and probably the highlight of his entire life.

After planting a tree in the garden, the Queen and Princess Alix proceed to the fruit room where encouraged by Dr. Reid the Queen makes a detailed and close examination of his fossil and mineral collections.  Her question about the age of a bronze age axe has to bee seen in the light of the Darwinian controversy earlier in her reign, and the tension between church and science about the age of the Earth.  The Queen’s question has to be seen as forensic, and Thomas’ reply as diplomatic!  Her question about his origins in Scotland show that his accent even after so many years away from Jedburgh had remained Scottish.  He certainly wasn’t going to divulge his Irish roots.

The Queen’s Journal mentions to inspection of the fossils only briefly.  Since we are reading Princess Beatrice’s redaction of the original Journal it is not possible to say whether she mentioned Thomas.  Beatrice was known to excise mention of the servants from her version of the Journal, thus diplomatically excising mentions of John Brown or the Munshi Abdul Hafiz.

Sir Theodore Martin called at Palé during the morning, and returned to Berwyn before luncheon. Colonel Wilson and Mr. Darby came from Brymbo accompanied by the heads of various departments at the steel works, exhibited specimens of ornamental steel to Her Majesty, and had specimens to illustrate the process of steel manufacture. Mr. Robertson went with them. Mr. Edwards of Trevor showed Her Majesty specimens of his TerraCotta (sic)  Several others exhibited various articles.

Screenshot 2018-08-26 16.20.55
Turkey Oak leaf

The queen next wished to plant a tree in the grounds in memory of her visit; everything was ready and Her Majesty planted a Turkey Oak a little beyond the end of the lawn tennis ground. Her Majesty took one of the garden steel spades in her hand and with the help of Mr. Clark her Highland attendant put some fine earth on the root of the tree, and said ‘Shall I put a little more on it’.  Her majesty was accompanied by the Princess Alix of Hesse (The Queen’s granddaughter ), Lady Churchill, Mr. Robertson and the aboveMr. Francis Clark. Mr. Cameron and I were present to see the ceremony, which was performed at quarter to twelve noon.

After the ceremony was over, the Queen asked which way she was to go next, so Mr. Robertson asked her if she would like to see the cromlech, the Queen said ‘Yes’ and added, ‘Anywhere.’  Mr Clark then led the pony ( the Queen had entered her pony carriage) along the lower walk under the Cromlech wood; the Queen walked from her little carriage to see the cromlech, and after the Queen was seated again, Mr. Robertson guided her to the end of the long walk, from which they then returned by the upper walk and crossed the lawn again as when going to the front of the Hall. From there, they came by the front, passing the gun room, until they arrived sat the little iron gate leading to the Lower, or fruit garden. Here the Queen got out to walk round the lower garden.

During the time the Queen was along the long walk, or “Queen’s Walk” as it ought to be called now, I went to get in the fruit for luncheon. I was coming from the upper or Kitchen garden when I was met by Mr. Francis Clark whotold me that I must come at once to go with the Queen around the garden. I followed Mr. Clark, and as the Queen by this time had got to the end of the walk leading to the conservatory. Mr. Clark and I went round the west end of the garden and past the conservatory to the store door; here Mr. Clark told me to stay until I was called; the Queen continued her walk until she got to the fruit room steps; here a halt was made as the Queen expressed a wish to go up into the fruit room to see my fossils etc. Dr Reid was in possession of it with the door open [TR’s footnote: I used to leave the key of the fruit-room on a nail for Dr. Reid to see the fossils at his leisure]; the doctor was near the door, examining the fossils, he told the Queen he was much interested in the fossils, and Her Majesty said ‘I fear you are more interested in the fruit than in the fossils.’ – This caused a laugh at the Doctor’s expense. The Doctor then came out and told the Queen it wasvery interesting up there – meaning the fruit- room. The Queen was then helped up the stone steps and Mr. Clark was at once sent back for me to go to explain the collection to Her Majesty.

On entering the fruit room, I found the Queen with her head down looking over the fossils; Mr Robertson was standing on the left by the door, Mr. Francis Clark on the right near the door, Lady Churchill in the north passage of the fruit room, and the Princess Alix standing at the end next the door of the south passage. The Princess looked straight at me, and as the Queen was stooping over the fossils, I bowed to the Princess, who nodded back.  On the Queen raising her head, she looked at me, Mr. Robertson said, “This is the gardener,”and when I bowed the Queen nodded, and then said “These are very wonderful and must be very interesting,” and added, “Did you get these yourself?” I answered Her Majesty that I collected and arranged them all myself, then Her Majesty said, “Very nice” and continued examining the specimens.  I pointed out to the Queen the arrangement of the various groups and their peculiarities, the Queen remarking as I went on “Yes, yes.”

I took up one of the tablets [TR’s footnote Echinospherites balticus]and showed the Queen the label on the back of it, which gives particulars of the locality where the fossil was found and other information. Her Majesty read the label slowly and carefully, and then said “Very nice”.  When Her Majesty looked at my specimens of univalves or fossil snailshells, she remarked, “Wonderful, so natural”.  Then Her Majesty asked me, “Are these from near here?”  I told Her Majesty that they were to be found in various locations between Corwen and Bala, and that Bala was the typical district for Bala fossils, but they were also to be found near Llangollen. Her Majesty then said “This part must be rich in these”, and after a prolonged examination Her Majesty said “Very nice”.

Screenshot 2018-08-26 16.46.49
Echiospherites specimens – an extinct group related to the sea lily and starfish, found as fossils in Ordovician marine rocks (between 505 and 438 million years old).

The Princess [TR’s footnote Now Empress of Russia –Nov 1894] took up the tablet on which the gold quartz from Gwynfynydd or the Morgan minewas fixed, I told the Princess to take it to the door where the light was best, and then the Princess examined it carefully as I pointed out where the visible gold was to be seen. The Queen was much interested in it, and when I told Her Majesty that it was from the Morgan mine near Dolgelly, Her Majesty gave me a nod and smiled very knowingly, as much as to say plainly “All that glisters is not gold.”  In fact the mine has been so puffed that people are distrustful of it.  [TR’s footnote (it was a failure afterwards)]

The Princess Alix then called the attention of Her Majesty to my flint flakes, stone hatchets bronze hatchets, etc. Her Majesty took up the bronze hatchet or Celt in her hand, examined it, read the label on it, and asked me if it was found near here, I said it had been found on the estate, then Her Majesty took it between her fingers, and looking at me closely and straight in the face said “Can you tell me the age of this?”  I at once answered “I think that is beyond man’s knowledge, Your Majesty,” and as I said this I looked full into Her Majesty’s face, which was only half a yard from mine; Her Majesty still looking into my face said, “Well, I suppose it is.”

After that the Queen seemed to have finished her inspection of the fossils,and as she was standing looking round at the room, Lady Churchill told her Mr. Robertson wished her to have a peach; Her Majesty said “Not now” [TR’s footnote; When the queen was inspecting the fossils and chatting, she was at her natural ease, but stood dignified when talking ofthe fruit.] and then added “You have very fine peaches and grapes here,indeed, very fine fruit.”

When the Queen prepared to go down the steps again, her pug dog went to get down, but seemed afraid to go, and stood whining on the top step. Her Majesty then said to Mr. Clark the Highland attendant “Carry him down carefully,”  and then smiling and looking at all of us said, “He has the rheumatism and cannot well go down.” Then when Her Majesty was being helped down the steps, Mr. Robert son told me to go before and open the hot house doors for Her Majesty. The Queen looked into the forcing houses but was afraid to go through for the heat, then she walked slowly and stiffly along the back of the forcing houses until she got to the end of the peach house, here she stopped to admire a beautiful border of penstemons in full bloom; then she walked slowly after me through the peach-house, remarking to the Princess when she saw the peaches caught in nets, “That is very nice”, then through the conservatory, and on getting into the vinery, Her Majesty looked at me in the face and said, “I suppose this is a good country for fruit and flowers.”  I said it was very fair.

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Queen Victoria’s pug ‘Basco’ is seen here at her feet. Princess Alix and Princess Beatrice stand behind the Queen. Note her ‘boat shaped hat trimmed with white flowers’ as mentioned by Thomas. About 1887, Royal Collection

We got out at the west door of the vinery, and then past the flower border in which grew Love-in-a-mist, Victoria asters,salpiglotis, gladioli, Rockets, Dahlias, and sunflowers next the wall. Then past the narrow flower border, in which grew dwarf chrysanthemum, asters, peony asters and African marigolds.  Her Majesty admired the flowers, and stopped when she got near the west entrance gate to admire the iron palisade which was almost hidden with flowers, consisting of clematis, scarlet and yellow nasturtiums, the yellow creeper Tropaeolum Canariense, and the Tropaeolum Speciosum. The whole had a striking and beautiful effect, and as Her Majesty looked at it, she called the attention of the Princess Alix to it and said, “Isn’t that beautiful,” and then said as she pointed to the Tropaeolum Speciosum “That is a pretty little red plant.”

When Her Majesty got seated in her pony carriage, she turned to me and said “What part of Scotland do you come from?” I said “From Jedburgh,Your Majesty,” at which the Queen remarked to Lady Churchill, “That is near Floors” (Floors Castle, Kelso), Lady Churchill said “It is”, then the Queen said looking at me again “I have been there”, and I said “And to Jedburgh too Your Majesty”, the Queen at that nodded to me and said “Yes”. Then she said “I do not wish to get out again”.

Mr. Robertson then told me to go on before and tell the stable keepers to open the stable doors so that the Queen could look in. When the pony carriage was led past the doors, Her Majesty said “I see they are very nice.” After that the Queen continued her out past my house, and went down the road to see the laundry, and the other houses there, and returned up the drive to the Hall.  I left at the gate here as I wished to finish getting the fruit. Mr. Robertson signalled to me the time to leave. I left my hat near the outside of the fruit room door when I entered, and went afterwards round with the Queen without it. Mr Robertson did the same.

When I went to the Queen in the fruit room, I felt nervous, but Her Majesty’s very pleasant way of speaking to me, and her kind manner eased me very much. Indeed, her manner was simplicity itself. Her way of speaking was in short sentences, and like stout people with a little difficulty. The queen evidently wished me to feel at ease, for she looked pleasantly at me and spoke very kindly to me.

Before Her Majesty came to Palé I was wondering if it would be possible for me to get a good look at her, but I never expected to have the great pleasure of talking quietly with her face to face, and to have the pleasure of showing my collection to our beloved Queen was quite beyond all expectation. To me certainly it was a Red Letter Day, and I fully appreciated Her Majesty’s kindness in honouring my collection with a visit.

The Queen is under middle height, has a very full round face very stout, and hair grey. She wore a dress having black and grey stripes, a black mantle with a fringe to it. Her hat was large, of boat shape, with white flowers in front. When walking she took short steps and walked stiffly, from the effects of her rheumatism, I expect. I was pleased to see the great interest Her Majesty took in everything.

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Dr. Reid, the Queen’s Physician

When I went back to the fruit room for my hat, I found Dr. Reid inspecting my collection again, as soon as he got Her Majesty away he went back again, and there I left him as I wanted something to eat. Mr. Minshall of the Oswestry Advertiser was in my house waiting for me to get particulars of my interview with the Queen, but I declined to say more than that her Majesty inspected my collection with much interest.

After the Queen had luncheon, Mr. Evan Morris, Mayor of Wrexham, arrived at Palé and was knighted by Her Majesty. Sir John McNeill handed his sword to Her Majesty, and as Mr. Morris knelt on his right knee, Her Majesty touched him on both shoulders with the sword, and addressing him as Sir Evan Morris, commanded him to rise. Sir John Puleston also came to Palé and was presented to the Queen by Mr. Raikes. Mr. Raikes left during the afternoon. I only saw Mr. Raikes when he was with the Queen at the dog trials; he was very tall, stout and full-faced.

Queen Victoria’s Journal here

27th August 1889

Vic in residence
Queen Victoria about 1889 (not taken at Palé Hall)





27TH AUGUST 1889



The fruits produced in the hothouses of Palé Hall were obviously popular, not only with Queen Victoria who was presented with them for her breakfast, but also with her household, several of whom found Thomas in the garden asking for a peach.  When Sir John McNeill found Thomas with fruit in mind, the two amateur antiquarians got into conversation, with interesting details revealed about a Viking burial on a Scottish island.

Viking grave Kiloran Bay Colonsay, discovered by Sir John McNeill


Tuesday August the 27th I sent in fruit for the Queen’s breakfast and saw to various things, and at 9 o’clock Sir John McNeill hunted me up in the garden to get a peach from me.  When we were talking about antiquities, Sir John told me that stone hatchets were frequently to be found in the Western Highlands, and on his estate in the Isle of Colonsay he lately discovered the remains of a Viking, and with the remains there were armour, enamelled ornaments, bronze scales and other curious things. Sir John told me he put the bones of the Viking and various other articles in a velvet lined box and sent the whole to the museum Edinburgh on loan, and that they were there now. Sir John also added that a Swede who had read about the find was so interested in one of the articles found that he came over to Edinburgh to see it, and on getting to Edinburgh he found the precious relic had been lentto a gentleman in the West of Scotland, so thither the Swede went to see it, – so anxious was he to examine it. I was much pleased with the manner of Sir John.

Prince and Princess Henry of Battenburg left here by the Royal Train for Barmouth to lay the foundation stone of the Barmouth new Church. The Hon. Harriet Phipps and Major Bigge went with them to be in attendance. The Royal train arrived at Barmouth at 12.50.  The greater part of the county Magistrates and several ladies were at Barmouth to receive the Prince and Princess.

Barmouth was gaily decorated and an immense number of people were in the town.  There was a procession from the station to the site of the church, a short way off.  The Bishop of the Diocese (Bishop of Bangor) and the Bishop of London (The latter was staying at the time at Dolgelly) were there, and many clergymen.  The Princess received a silver trowel and laid the stone in the presence of a large assembly of people. The church is to cost £20,000, and of this sum, Mrs Dyson Perrins and her family give three fourths, and £3,500 has been subscribed by others. Mrs. Perrins lives in a large house near Barmouth, on the way to Llanaber.  Mrs. Perrins is of the sauce makers of the firm Lea and Perrins.


St John’s Church Barmouth
Photograph © Arthur C. Harris Creative Commons

After the stone was laid, the Marchioness of Londonderry from Plas Machynlleth gave a luncheon at the Corsygedol (note – a Barmouth Hotel) to the Prince & Princess, the bishops, Lord H. Vane Tempest, Lord and Lady Harlech, Mr.W.R.M. Wynne of Peniarth, Mrs. Dyson Perrins and members of her family from Brynmymach, Barmouth and a fewothers. Lady Londonderry was the principal in getting the Princess to lay the stone.

The Lord Lieutenant of the County, Mr. R.D. Pryce of Cyfronyd, gave a luncheon in the Masonic Hall to the county magistrates and others. After luncheon, the Prince and Princess, with the Marchioness of Londonderry drove to Aberamffra harbour and back on to the esplanade; they were loudly cheered on the way and were everywhere well received.

Train on the Festiniog railway
© Stephen McKay – Creative Commons

At 4.10 they left in a Cambrian saloon for Minfford junction where they got into a train of the Toy or Festiniog Railway on their way to Plas Tanybwlch and had tea with Mr. Oakley, the owner of the Plas and the large estate around.  Mr. Oakley afterwards drove the Royal party to Maentwrog Road station, from there they came home by the Royal train a little after 7 o’clock.

26th August 1889

Vic in residence
Queen Victoria about 1889 (not taken at Palé Hall)





26TH AUGUST 1889


Once again Thomas and his family get a close up view of the Queen and her retinue as she sets out to visit Llangollen, first using the royal Train and then setting out in a carriage to visit Sir Theodore Martin at his home, Bryntisilio Hall nearby.

26th August, the birthday of the late Prince Albert, was a fitting day to visit the man whom Victoria had chosen to write her husband’s biography.

Five Volume biography of Prince Albert – The Life of the Prince Consort: Prince Albert and His Times by Sir Theodore Martin

Further information about Sir Theodore below.  I suspect that some of the description of the Queen’s afternoon was copied from a local or national newspaper, as this technique was used in other places in the journal by Thomas.

At half past three o’ clock we all went to the stand at the station again to see the Queen and her attendants go by the Royal Train to Llangollen. There were a great number of people to see the train leave, and all were very orderly.  We had a very near and good view of the Royal party. The Prince and Princesses went with the Queen. The afternoon was sunny and fine, and added much to the pleasant scene. when the Queen got out of the carriage, she walked alone to the train. The people cheered long and loud when the Queen was going to the station and when the train was leaving.

After I got back here, I had the flower vases to fill for the dining table, because the Queen was to have guests and dine downstairs in the usual dining room.  There were to be eleven to dinner including the Queen; there were eleven on Saturday too, and four upstairs. The Queen returned at 7 o’clock, bringing many bouquets with her.

The Queen arrived at Llangollen at two minutes past 4 o’clock, there were hundreds of people there to see the Royal party, who had a very loyal reception. The Queen walked to her carriage (the carriage left here for Llangollen in the morning) with the aid of the Llanderfel stick. The two scarlet liveried servants mounted on grey horses preceded the Queen’s carriage; the carriage was drawn by four horses (greys), the near horses being mounted by postillions in blue and gold.  The Gillies were seated behind the carriage, and following the carriage were Colonel Cornwallis West M.P. on horseback, the equerries and two outriders. The second carriage contained Sir H. Ponsonby and Mr. Raikes MP in private clothes, with them were Lady Churchill and Hon Harriet Phipps. The road was lined with people in various places along the route, many being on the slope of the open hillside  On approaching Bryntisilio. The Queen, the Prince and Princesses were loudly and loyally cheered all the way, the Royal party acknowledged the reception by bowing and smiling. The Indians followed in a closed carriage.

Scenery near Llangollen ©Roger Kidd via Geograph    (Creative Commons)

It is a beautiful and pleasing route all the way from Llangollen to Bryntysilio; the north side of the road slopes up into the hills, the north side slopes down to the canal and river, and the south side of the river slopes up into hills again.  Pretty villas enliven the scene, and the whole is beautifully wooded, and at the present time the trees are changing into their autumn tints. At Pentrefelin, the Queen had a view up the vale of Valle Crucis, but could not see the Abbey ruins.

Bryntisilio Hall

Bryntysilio, the seat of Sir Theodore Martin is on rising ground overlooking the vale of Llangollen and the vale past Llantysilio, for some distance. This is certainly beautifully situated, and although of no great size, it has a good effect. It was in one of the rooms looking up the vale, immediately overlooking the church of Llantysilio, and on the first floor that Sir Theodore wrote the life of Prince Albert; the Queen wished to see this room. The Queen had tea with Sir Theodore and Lady Martin, and Miss Alice Helps, daughter of Sir Arthur Helps. During Her Majesty’s stay there was some singing by 20 of the Llangollen Choral Society.

Like Henry Robertson, Sir Theodore Martin was an Edinburgh Scot who later settled in Wales. Wikipedia article  

On returning to Llangollen, the Queen halted for a minute or two to receive an address of welcome from the inhabitants, and then went on the Holyhead road to Corwen.  The Queen made a halt at Glyndyfrchwy to accept a bouquet from Miss Tottenham, shook hands with Major and Mrs. Tottenham and said they lived in a beautiful country. The Queen arrived at Corwen at 7 o’clock, left Llangollen about 5.45.  The Royal Carriage came to a standstill in the middle of the square at Corwen, here the Queen received an address of welcome, and then drove on to the station where the Queenentered the saloon of her Royal train and made the rest of the journey by rail. The Queen had a loyal and hearty reception all along the route, sothat she was much pleased with her visit. And as the whole route is through a beautiful part of the country, and the day was fine, Her Majesty could not help being pleased with the people and the country.

Welsh. The Queen gave the conductor, Mr. W. T. Jones of Brynmelyn a silver mounted ivory baton as a memento of her visit.

There are a number of interesting illustrations and commentary on Queen Victoria’s visit at the Wrexham History site

Queen Victoria’s journal for the afternoon here

Sunday 25th August 1889

Vic in residence
Queen Victoria about 1889 (not taken at Palé Hall)



Thomas again provides fruit for the royal breakfast, then comments on the events of the day: the Queen attends a service led by the Bishop of St. Asaph, she goes for a short expedition in the Pony Chair, and then a longer outing in her barouche taking in a visit to Crogen, the former home of the Robertson family before they came to Palé.

Sunday the 25th It was a little quieter here today, but the baker’s cart had to come from Corwen, and one or two tradesman’s traps came from Bala with supplies. I was up at 7.15, went over the gardens, then got the letters and my breakfast. After my breakfast I sent in fruit for the Royal breakfast table, and saw that all was right in my department.

Screenshot 2018-08-15 14.31.24

Alfred George Edwards (1848 -1937)

He had only recently become Bishop of St. Asaph in March of 1889.  Much later in a distinguished career in 1920 on the disestablishment of the Church in Wales he became its first Archbishop.

In her journal for the previous evening the Queen calls Edwards ‘a pleasing and very young-looking man’.

Photograph of A. G. Edwards, Bishop of St Asaph (later Archbishop of Wales), c. 1910 postcard published by G. D. & D., London. Public domain

At 11 o’clock the Queen had the Bishop of St. Asaph to officiate at Divine service in the Hall; the Bishop was assisted by some of the choir from St. Asaph, and after the service was over the Bishop left for Corwen where he had stayed the previous night. The service lasted but a short time.  Mr. Savage, inspector of the Windsor police told me that if the Queen had been settled here for any time, she would be sure to have the servants all connected with her present at the service. But as this was an exceptional stay, there were but few at the Bishop’s service.

At 12 noon the Queen went out in her pony carriage, accompanied by Prince Henry andthe Princesses, the Highlanders, a footman, and Hugh Edwardswere to follow at about 50 yards distance, so as to be ready to answer questions if wanted. The procession went slowly down the drive to the back of Brynbwlan, then turnedback to the park gate, and from there down the park to the riverside, crossing the railway at the level crossing. They went along the riverside walk to Brynselwrn Meadow near Calethor brook, and returned the same way. I had a view of the party when starting: it came on a little rain, so the pony stopped a minute or two, then the Queen said something and laughed a little, and then they went on again. They returned at 1 oclock for luncheon. There was a little rain during the afternoon.

Pony Chair
Queen Victoria in her ‘Pony Chair’ in this case drawn by a donkey.  The Highlander may be Francis Clark, mentioned by Thomas on 24th August.  From a print owned by the editor
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Pony Chair
Note her rendering of Llanderfel as ‘Llandifer’.

24th August 1889

Vic in residence
Queen Victoria about 1889 (not taken at Palé Hall






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.

Screenshot 2018-08-15 09.30.20
From https://www.wrexham-history.com/queen-victoria-visit-1889/

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.

Robert Trebor Roberts (left) and colleague dressed as part of the welcoming ceremonies for Queen Victoria. The Roberts family still has Robert’s trumpet in their possession. Photograph courtesy of the Roberts family.

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 –

Thomas’ journal page for August 24th shows his plan of the table for the royal supper, as shown to him by the Queen’s chef.

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.

Photographby Robert Milne (1865–1952) of Ballater and Aboyne. Via Wikipedia

Queen Victoria’s account of the afternoon and evening from the middle of this page

24th August 1889

Vic in residence
Queen Victoria about 1889 (not taken at Palé Hall)





Thomas rose early on the second day of the Queen’s visit, to pick fruit for her breakfast from his hothouses.  Then one of the Queen’s Highland servants asked him to show him the garden, so that he could ascertain whether the Queen’s ‘pony chair’ – a small individual carriage- could negotiate the grounds.  Thomas put up the tennis net at the request of Princess Beatrice, and then observed the Queen watching sheep dog trials which had been arranged for her amusement.

The Queen’s journal demonstrates that she was, indeed, much amused by the sheep dog trials as she gives a good deal of detail about the event in her journal.

Saturday the 24th.  Before breakfast I took in peaches and grapes for the Queen’s table, and after breakfast, Mr. Francis Clark, a burly and goodnatured Highlander, asked me to go round the flower garden walks with him to see if he could get the Queen’s pony carriage round that way. I asked him if he thought the Queen would be displeased if shesaw us, he said “You are the gardener and I have to lead her pony, so we have a right to go.”

He told me the Queen could walk pretty well, but as she had been much troubled with rheumatism, she did not care to walk much. As we went round the walks, Mr. Clark asked me to point out Her Majesty’s rooms to him, & when returning he introduced me to one of the Queen’s Indian attendants– Saiyad Ahmad Husain, who was very pleasant.

Saiyad Ahmad Hussain appears riding a horse on the extreme left of this photo taken at Balmoral. Abdul Kareem ‘The Munshi’ is next to him. Queen Victoria and Princess Beatrice are in the carriage.       Photo © Nabeel Syed/SWNS.com

After breakfast I was asked by a messenger from the Princess Henry of Battenburg to mark the tennis ground for her, and to get the tennis balls and raquets (sic) ready for playing.

At 10 o’clock the Queen went in her pony carriage , or “Garden Chair” as it is usually called to the park to witness the sheep-dog trials. The dogs went through the sheep pen-ring i.e. between Brynbwylan and the gate going to the laundry. The Queen was sitting in her garden chair on the top of the bank between Brynbwylan and the garden, close to the crab-apple and the bank. It came on showers, so that the little carriage was drawn under the shelter of an oak tree on the top of the bank near the crabtree. Mr. Raikes kept going between the Queen and the judges, and every time he went up to the Queen he took off his hat.

The Princesses were with the Queen and took shelter from the shower under the crab tree.  Prince Henry was not there. Frances and I with Henry looked on from near the old fernery, where we had a good view of the Royal party. The queen had to keep up her umbrella most of the time, and as the showers continued, she went indoors and the princesses got out from the park by the gate from the old fernery and went along the walk at the north side of the garden, and crossed the lawn from near the park gate to the front door.

I then went to get the net fixed up on the tennis lawn, and while there Prince Henry & Princess Henry came along the terrace walk to the large sycamore tree; they were talking about the two tame ravens, and the Prince said “They were here a short time ago,” and then asked me “Where are the ravens?, I answered, “They are gone to the wood”, and the Prince said “Will they be back by luncheon time?”.  I said “They are almost sure to be.” Both of them then went off chatting.  Prince Henry went with Hugh Edwards for a short ride in a coracle during the morning.

Page from Thomas’ Journal August 24th 1889

Queen Victoria’s Journal for the morning here