Recollections of Three Reigns

Recollections of Three Reigns

Recollections of Three Reigns

Recollections of Three Reigns

Excerpt

When Major-General Sir Henry Ewart was appointed Crown Equerry in 1894, that is, the official in charge of the stables, it created a vacancy among Queen Victoria's Equerries.

In Charles II's reign, the Groom-in-Waiting was the man who made all the arrangements for the King's journeys and for all the private ceremonies that were not managed by one of the great officers of State. He was the only official who attended the King when he went in the Royal Barge. This post continued to be the pivot of the Royal Household until Queen Victoria's reign when, in order that Her Majesty should be attended by adherents of the Government in office, all grooms were made Parliamentary grooms, that is to say, they were members of Parliament. As this entailed their coming in and going out with the Government, it was obviously impossible to make them responsible for arrangements of any description, and so the Equerries took their places while the Grooms became purely ceremonial officers.

Whenever a vacancy occurred in the Household all sorts of suggestions were invariably put forward by members of the Royal Family, but Queen Victoria had definite ideas of her own. On this occasion she determined to do what she thought would please my father, Sir Henry Ponsonby, who had been her Private Secretary for a great many years, and appoint me as a surprise for him. She therefore telegraphed direct to me in India without telling him, and the first he heard of it was a telegram from me asking if I could refuse. He might have thought I was too young at the age of twenty-seven for such a post. He, however, replied that I could not well refuse and so I accepted. Later I heard there were two subsidiary reasons for Queen Victoria's deciding to offer me the appointment. I had acted in a French play at Osborne and she thought I should be useful to her in France as I spoke French well. Secondly, there were questions relating to her Indian attendants which she thought that I, fresh from India, would be able to deal with.

As my duties as Equerry to the Queen only occupied four months in the year, I had to serve as a soldier for the remaining eight. In those days this presented no real difficulty, but, despite the fact that most of my four months' duty as Equerry had to come out of my leave, I soon incurred the wrath of my commanding officer on account of my absences from the battalion. He suddenly became very democratic, and said that it was monstrous that I should count as an ordinary officer in the battalion when I was so often away. But as my position was laid down in regulations, he could do no more than make caustic remarks on the subject.

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