13/05/2019
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Hunting rifle gifted by Queen Victoria by John Brown to go on display at National Museum of Scotland this summer

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A hunting rifle gifted by Queen Victoria to her loyal servant John Brown has been acquired by National Museums Scotland. The rifle will go on public display for the first time in a major exhibition this summer, Wild and Majestic: Romantic Visions of Scotland. Read more about the exhibition in the Jul/Aug issue of History Scotland, available to pre-order now.

A gold plaque fitted into the butt of the 450 double-barrelled hammer rifle records that Queen Victoria presented it to John Brown as a Christmas gift in 1873. It was made that year in Edinburgh by noted Edinburgh gun maker Alexander Henry.

Queen Victoria and John Brown

John Brown worked on the Balmoral estate from 1842, and rose in the Queen’s favour to special status as Her Majesty’s Highland Servant. After the death of her husband, Prince Albert, in 1861, Brown supported Queen Victoria in her grief. Gossip soon spread regarding the Queen’s closeness to Brown and his influence over the royal household.

Brown died unexpectedly in 1883. Devastated by his loss, the Queen wrote to Brown’s brother Hugh, ‘we all have lost the best, the truest heart that ever beat!’

Tremendously significant

Dr Patrick Watt, curator of the exhibition, at National Museums Scotland, said: “This a tremendously significant acquisition for National Museums Scotland. It is a stunning object which shows directly the connection and the affection between Queen Victoria and John Brown. The high-quality design and obvious expense of the gift highlights the position of trust and esteem in which the Queen held her loyal servant.

“We are delighted to be putting it on display in Wild and Majestic: Romantic Visions of Scotland. In the exhibition, we explore the reality behind the Romantic fascination with Scotland that spread across the world in the late 18th and early 19th centuries and so infatuated Queen Victoria and her husband Prince Albert as they created their Highland idyll at Balmoral.”

The exhibition will also feature:

  • a tartan dress worn by Queen Victoria
  • the suit of Highland dress uniform worn by Brown in his role as personal servant to the Queen
  • a memorial tie pin commissioned by the Queen for her staff to wear on the anniversary of Brown’s death
  • a Gaelic edition of Queen Victoria’s journal detailing her life in the Scottish Highlands.

Pre-order your copy of the Jul/Aug issue of History Scotland for an expert article on Wild and Majestic.

The exhibition, sponsored by Baillie Gifford Investment Managers, spans the period from the defeat of the Jacobites at the Battle of Culloden in 1746 to the death of Queen Victoria in 1901. It runs from 26 June to 10 November 2019 at National Museum of Scotland, Chambers Street, Edinburgh.

(image copyright National Museums Scotland)

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