John Brown

John Brown / Famous Historical Figures

Born in 1826 at Craithenaird, Balmoral, the son of a crofter. Brown worked as a ghillie at Balmoral, the royal family's estate, rebuilt by dear, dear, Albert, the Prince Consort, who died in 1861 from typhoid. Brown had become Albert's ghillie in 1849, guiding him for fishing and shooting. He also became Queen Victoria's servant, in particular looking after her pony and carriage; he prevented injuries to her in at least two carriage accidents (statistics then indicate an amazing carnage from accidents involving horses), and one possible assassination attempt.

Combining the offices of groom, footman, page and so on, Brown became more of a friend than a servant, and when, following Albert's death, he was brought to the Isle of Wight to be her constant companion, the usual petty jealousies which riddled court affairs were stoked high.

What seems certain is that in the unnatural and often unfriendly atmosphere through which royalty apparently have to move, a true friend such as Brown could be immensely supportive; this seems to be the case with Brown. Victoria could easily overlook his liking for whisky, and seemed privately amused at his often blunt Highland approach to social niceties. She was truly devastated when he died, after a short illness, on 29 March 1883.

In 1884, she dedicated More Leaves from a Journal of our Life in the Highlands to Brown, as 'Beloved Friend'. She had a statue to him erected at Balmoral (taken down after her death of course), and would have published a book on him, had she not been persuaded otherwise. She went to her grave with a photograph of her faithful companion on her wrist.