'I am in such terrible distress at the loss not only of my best & most faithful attendant but at the loss of my dearest and best friend.'
ONE MORNING IN MARCH 1883, a year after the attempt upon her life by the Scottish soi-disant poet, Roderick Maclean, John Brown had woken up at Windsor with a high fever and a return of the swellings on his face and head indicative of the erysipelas which had troubled him before. He was said to be 'quite helpless all day'. He had recently caught a severe cold while driving through an icy wind in an open dog cart to deliver a message from the Queen to Lady Florence Dixie, in Dr Reid's opinion 'rather a queer customer', who complained improbably that she had been assaulted by two men, possibly Fenians, dressed as women, and had been saved from serious injury only by the sudden appearance of her St Bernard dog. 1
The days passed and Brown -- who had spent hours searching for the Fenians or for clues that might lead to their apprehension -- lay increasingly ill in the Clarence Tower. On 26 March Dr Reid noted that 'he was worse' and, additionally, suffering from delirium tremens. 2 The Queen was not, of course, told of this; indeed she was unaware of how ill he was. There was, in any case, no question of her going to see him, since she had fallen downstairs the week before and had subsequently suffered a succession of extremely painful rheumatic attacks and sleepless nights. 'She is confined to her couch,' Dr Reid wrote home to his mother, 'and has me in to see her very often.' She managed to walk round her sitting room, supported on his arm; but she could not climb the stairs.