The Royal Company in the Reigns of King William IV, Queen Victoria and King Edward VII

The Royal Company continued to flourish, as much for archery as for its role as the Sovereign’s Body Guard for Scotland, during the reigns of King William IV, Queen Victoria and King Edward VII. The Captain-General, as Gold Stick for Scotland, attended King William IV at his Coronation in 1831 as he did again for the Coronation of Queen Victoria in 1837.

 

Five years later in 1842, Queen Victoria visited Scotland for the first of many visits. The Duke of Buccleuch, both as Captain-General and as Lord Lieutenant of Midlothian, ensured that the Royal Company had a prominent role. The first day did not, however, go according to plan:

The Royal Company of Archers, 1886’ by William Skeoch Cumming (1864-1929).
The Royal Company of Archers, 1886’ by William Skeoch Cumming (1864-1929).
‘The Royal Archers, the Queen’s Body Guard for Scotland, were on their march to meet Her Majesty when the Royal carriage came in sight at Howard Place. They here drew up, and as the carriage passed they endeavoured to get close to it; but the dragoons, ignorant of the high place as belonging to the Royal Company, pushed many of the gentlemen aside; and Lord Elcho, the commander, having got inside the guard, was pressed against the carriage by one of the dragoon’s horses, by which his arrows were broken, and he was somewhat bruised. And here it may not be improper to mention, in justice to all the members of the Royal Archers, that . . .  this gallant corps continued afterwards incessant in attendance upon the Queen.’

 

James Buist, National Record of The Visit of Queen Victoria to Scotland (1842)

The Royal Company provided the Queen with Guards of Honours at a number of Reviews of Volunteers, the most notable of which was ‘The Wet Review’ on 25 August 1881. ‘Unhappily marred by continuous rain’, nearly 40,000 volunteers paraded at Holyrood Park. All were thoroughly soaked; several volunteers subsequently died of exposure. The Royal Company of Archers’ Guard survived.

The Royal Company last attended Queen Victoria at the Glasgow Exhibition in 1888. This was the first occasion that the Sovereign had ‘required the attendance of her Body Guard beyond the precincts of the capital.’

A Levée of King Edward VII in the Throne Room at the Palace of Holyroodhouse, 1903. Members of the Royal Company of Archers are in two diagonal lines towards the centre. © Royal Collection Trust.

Archery continued apace but it was not until 1903 that the Royal Company undertook again the duties of Body Guard to the Sovereign for the first State Visit of King Edward VII. Having not paraded for ceremonial duties in fifteen years, both drill and dress required some serious attention. All went well and the King ‘trusted that so ancient and distinguished a military body would long continue to flourish.’