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A Queen Victoria Presentation John Brown Memorial Stickpin, 1883
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A Queen Victoria Presentation John Brown Memorial Stickpin, 1883

Measurements: Oval: 19mm x 16mm

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Provenance: Francis Clark, nephew of John Brown.

Gold mounted photographic portrait of the Highland ghillie and personal servant to Queen Victoria, encircled by a row of pearls, the reverse with glazed compartment containing a lock of  Brown’s hair, and inscribed on the gold border ‘J.B. 27th March 1883 From V.R.I.’ for Victoria Regina Imperatrix. Cased.

The present stickpin was commissioned by Queen Victoria (1819-1901) to commemorate the death of her faithful and favoured servant John Brown. The portrait derives from a carte-de-visite by George Washington Wilson (1827-83), showing Brown in highland dress, circa 1873, and wearing the Victoria Devoted Service Medal and the Faithful Servant Medal. The Queen also designed and commissioned a memorial portrait brooch for more general presentation to her Highland servants and cottagers to be worn by them on the anniversary of Brown’s death with a mourning scarf.

Francis Clark (1841-1895) entered service of Queen Victoria as Highland Attendant about 1870. He was a nephew of John Brown and shared the duties of Highland Attendant with his uncle Hugh Brown. Francis received the Victoria Faithful Service Medal in 1891, for twenty-one years faithful service. He died at Buckingham Palace on 7 July 1895 and was buried at Braemar.

John Brown (1826-1883) was the second of eleven children. Queen Victoria’s diary first mentions him on 8 September 1849. She described a trip to Dhu Loch with Brown, among others, accompanying her. From around 1851, John Brown became a permanent ghillie at Balmoral, often acting on behalf of Prince Albert, being responsible for the safety of Queen Victoria, or performing various outdoor tasks. Prince Albert enjoyed spending time with Brown and allowed him freedoms granted only to a very trusted servant. Three of Brown’s siblings also entered royal service. His brother Archibald Anderson ‘Archie’ Brown, fifteen years younger than John, eventually became the personal valet of Victoria’s youngest son, Prince Leopold, Duke of Albany. Following Prince Albert’s death, John Brown became the personal attendant and favourite of the Queen. He was resented by many for his influence and informal manner. The exact nature of his relationship with Victoria was the subject of great speculation by contemporaries. Perhaps the most compelling evidence of the depth of Victoria and Brown's relationship comes from the pen of the Queen herself. A recently discovered letter written by Victoria shortly after Brown's death, to Viscount Cranbrook, reveals the true extent of the loss: ‘Perhaps never in history was there so strong and true an attachment, so warm and loving a friendship between the sovereign and servant ... Strength of character as well as power of frame – the most fearless uprightness, kindness, sense of justice, honesty, independence and unselfishness combined with a tender, warm heart ... made him one of the most remarkable men. The Queen feels that life for the second time is become most trying and sad to bear deprived of all she so needs ... the blow has fallen too heavily not to be very heavily felt.’

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