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  • Writer's pictureVictoria Regina

Halloween at Balmoral, Queen Victoria’s Journal - 31st October 1873

Halloween, apologies I was so busy yesterday.

Preparations were made at the Castle for days beforehand. As darkness fell on 31 October, the Queen drove out in an open carriage carrying a lighted torch. She was followed by a procession of over 100 royal servants and tenants from the local farms with their families who also carried torches. They marched through the grounds accompanied by a piper. At the front of the castle was a huge bonfire made up of boxes and packing cases kept throughout the year especially for that purpose. As the fire burned, a hobgoblin appeared pulling a cart containing an effigy of a witch. There was a guard of fairies carrying spears. The torch bearers gathered into a circle and the goblin threw the witch onto the bonfire watched by the Queen, her family and members of the Royal household. Reels were then danced to the ‘stirring strains’ of Ross the Queen’s piper. In 1874 the celebrations were supposed to end with a dance in the ballroom but this plan was dropped when some the revellers behaved in ‘a rather disorderly manner’ at the bonfire.

Queen Victoria wrote about Hallowe’en at Balmoral in her 1873 diary, describing how she hurried back from a drive to be in time for the parade. Her daughter Princess Louise walked at the side of her carriage carrying a torch and looking to the Queen like one of the witches in Macbeth. Prince Leopold and Victoria’s favourite servant John Brown were also there with torches and the procession had ‘a very pretty effect’.

‘fair, but very dull morning. — At 11 rode with Beatrice up by the quarry & round Carop, through the wood, coming out on the road to Bowman's Moss. The mist was coming down low on the hills. Drove home. — It began to rain after luncheon. Sat with Leopold, & at ¼ to 5 drove with Beatrice & Ly Erroll to Mrs Grant's where we had our tea. The maids of Honour joined us, & Beatrice with them walked with the Halloween procession behind my carriage, carrying torches, as everyone did, & the Pipers walking in front. The rain had quite ceased. I never saw so many torches, there must have been quite 150. I got out of the carriage when we arrived at the house, & walked round the Castle with Beatrice & the Ladies, Gentleman, followed by all the servants, tenants. &c, with torches. Then these were all piled on the ground to make a bonfire, to which were added all Kinds of add pieces of wood & old packing cases, unit there was a tremendous fire, in front there was dancing, which I watched for a little while. Leopold had been rolled into my dressing room from where he could see quite well. The dancing went on till nearly ½ p. 7. — Only the 3 Ladies dined with me. — The good old King of Saxony has died.’

© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2012

© Bodleian Libraries © ProQuest

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