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A Dinner At Windsor Castle

From an article in the Household Brigade Magazine, Spring 1939. By The Earl of Albemarle, formerly Scots Guards

The Earl of Albemarle was suddenly summoned, in 1899, to ‘dine and sleep’ at Windsor Castle The party that evening was small, and besides the courtiers in attendance, the only other guest was Mr Joseph Choate, the newly appointed American Ambassador. Lord Albemarle found himself seated beside Queen Victoria. His impressions were the solemnity of the occasion, the speed with which one course followed another and the minimal amount of interest shown by Her Majesty to anyone present but the Princess Beatrice. It was out of order for any guest to initiate a conversation and any remarks were meant to emanate first from The Queen.

Mr Joseph Choate, the American Ambassador

Princess Beatrice

‘The dinner at Windsor was very whispery’, wrote Lady Wolseley to her husband overseas. This was until, after a long pause in the desultory conversation that the Ambassador, who was seated two places beyond the Queen, felt that he might be useful in keeping the ball rolling. He leant forward speaking across the Princess and addressed Her Majesty loudly as follows: ‘Queen Victoria’ - dead silence – ‘Queen Victoria, I was just telling your dotter that she is looking remarkably fine this evening’.

A deathlike silence ensued upon this platitude and Lord Albemarle wrote ‘It was difficult to find any expression which can adequately describe the effect upon Her Majesty by this very accurate but unconventional compliment. To say that Her Majesty snorted would hint at disrespect; to say that she ignored the remark would be untrue, but an indescribably chilly inclination of the head produced a frost that was not broken until the timely arrival of dessert brought the repast to an end’. 

                                                                                                           Philip Wright


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