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Royal Deeside : John Brown,
faithful servant to Queen Victoria

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Recently, the relationship between Queen Victoria and her servant John Brown was portrayed in the film 'Mrs Brown' starring Dame Judi Dench and Billy Connelly. Over many years there has been much speculation about the exact nature of the relationship but, as portrayed in the film, it was probably that of a loyal servant and lonely monarch.

John Brown was born at Crathie and was buried there. On his death Queen Victoria paid him the tribute.

'Friend more than Servant, Loyal, Truthful, Brave
Self less than Duty, even to the Grave'

A brief life of John Brown is given below.

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John Brown's Gravestone near Balmoral
John Brown was buried in Crathie kirkyard close to Balmoral

One of the most fascinating stories about Queen Victoria's personal life was her relationship with her 'personal attendant' John Brown. Brown was born on a farm at Crathie in 1826 and was employed at Balmoral at the time of its purchase by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. He rose to become Prince Albert's personal ghillie and then Queen Victoria's servant. But after the premature death of Albert in 1861 he became a great support for Queen Victoria who mourned Albert for the rest of her life. Between 1861 and his death in 1883 Brown received many gifts from Victoria and at least two medals specially created for him, one of which also carried an annuity. Brown wore these medals - the Faithful Servant Medal and the Devoted Service medal - with pride. The Queen commissioned a large portrait of him (below) and after his death she had a life sized statue of him erected in the grounds of Balmoral Castle. (It was reputed to be so life-like that superstitious members of the Balmoral staff kept well away from it whenever possible.) 

John Brown, sevant of Queen Victoria

Portrait of John Brown

commissioned by Queen Victoria

Brown appears to have been very 'honest' in offering genuine friendship to the Queen at a time of need but equally telling unwanted truths to the important people surrounding her. Even the Prince of Wales, Prince Edward, was probably on the receiving end of Brown's tongue. Much gossip attached to the unlikely relationship and much animosity generated by those who resented the trust placed in the 'low-born' Brown by the Queen. The Queen refused to desert Brown because of the scandalous talk - which she dismissed as 'ill-natured gossip' - and Brown could not be ordered away because his orders came directly from the Queen. On at least one occasion Brown saved the Queen from harm as when he disarmed an assailant in 1872. Ultimately, Brown's loyalty to the Queen probably cost him his life - he died at Windsor Castle in February 1883, aged 56, as the result of a chill which could have been avoided had he taken to his sick bed. He was buried in Crathie churchyard.

Until her death in 1901 Queen Victoria kept Brown's memory alive. Upon her death, however, Brown's enemies got their revenge. Edward VII attempted to destroy everything that reminded him of Brown, destroying busts and photographs. Fortunately, many of Brown's possessions were in the care of his family. (Brown's statue, then close to the Garden Cottage where Queen Victoria often wrote letters, was moved to a remote corner behind the dairy. The casual visitor to Balmoral is unlikely to come across this statue. Perhaps, one day it will be re-sited somewhere that would have received more approval from Queen Victoria.)

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Introduction A History of Royal Deeside The Deeside Railway The Old Military Road Old Kirkyardst
Queen Victoria and Royal Deeside John Brown, Loyal Servant Francis Farquharson Lord Byron, poet Alexander Gordon
Macbeth and Braemar Braemar Gathering and Highland Games History of Braemar Clan Farquharson Bridges of Ballater
19th Century Ballater History of Dinnet area Aboyne History Aboyne Wartime Poetry Aboyne Great War Records
History of Dinnet History of Tarland Scott Skinner, the Strathspey King Glen O' Dee Hospital Brunel's Bridge
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