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John Brown


1826 - 1883

Personal servant of Queen Victoria. Born, the son of a farmer, at Crathienaird opposite Balmoral Castle in Aberdeenshire. In 1842, Brown joined the staff of the castle, then owned by Sir Robert Gordon. When Prince Albert bought the estate in 1852, Brown became ghillie and Queen Victoria noticed the handsome young man. On the death of Albert in 1861, Victoria withdrew to Osborne House on the Isle of Wight in great distress and it was suggested that Brown come south to try to amuse her. Brown soon became her close personal servant and confidante. While he insisted on organising every detail of her schedule, pushed her to the point of bullying and was familiar, she treated him fondly, gave him many gifts and he rose to become the most influential member of the royal household. This caused jealousy, gossip, ridicule in the press and there were even rumours that he had secretly married Victoria. However, he saved her life during an assassination attempt in 1872 and this gained him the reputation of hero with the public. His devotion brought his end; he caught a severe chill which would have been cured had he taken to his bed. He died at Windsor Castle and lies buried in Crathie kirkyard.

Victoria is said to have asked that Brown's photograph and a lock of his hair be placed in her coffin, a request which horrified her children who strongly disapproved of the relationship. King Edward VII is said to have destroyed busts, paintings and papers relating to Brown.

Comedian and actor Billy Connolly was nominated for several awards for his portrayal of Brown in a fictionalised version of the tale, Mrs Brown (1997).


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