Proof surfaces for affair between Queen Victoria and her male assistant





Julia Baird, a contributing opinion writer, is working on a biography of Queen Victoria.

THEIR relationship titillated a nation. For more than a century, biographers have tried to fathom the improbable friendship Queen Victoria had with her Scottish servant John Brown. It has been posited as one of the great unanswered questions of her reign. How intimate were they?...

Most evidence cited in support of an affair is several points removed from the original source: The claim by the sculptor Joseph Edgar Boehm that Brown was allowed “every conjugal privilege” was recorded by the poet Wilfred Scawen Blunt, who was told by a friend. Another tale that emerged, of a priest’s confessing on his deathbed to marrying the pair, was recorded in 1885 in the diary of a Liberal politician, Lewis Harcourt, who was told by his father, William, then the home secretary, who claimed to have heard it from the priest’s sister. All delicious, all rumor, all too far removed.

Lady Elizabeth Longford, who in the early 1960s was the first biographer to write in detail from Victoria’s diaries and letters from the archives, has long insisted that Victoria would have had only a platonic relationship with Brown, especially given her view that widows should not remarry. She wrote in 1999 that if Brown had been Victoria’s lover, “one or other of her numerous courtiers, equerries, ladies-in-waiting, dressers, ‘rubbers’, readers or other attendants would at some point have accidentally seen something.”

In a little town near the southern border of the Scottish lowlands, the archives of Victoria’s trusted doctor, Sir James Reid, are kept by his descendants. They are remarkable because they are among the few original documents relating to Queen Victoria kept outside the carefully controlled Royal Archives.But while researching my own biography of Queen Victoria, I came across a startling discovery: Someone did.

The highly respected Sir James was Victoria’s doctor for 20 years; he was by her side when she died. He kept immaculate diaries in a neat hand, where he documented daily movements and medical appointments. On one day, though, he recorded a most curious sight, which has not been published before.

Opening the door to Victoria’s room on Thursday, March 22, 1883, he saw her flirting with John Brown as she “walked a little.”

Brown says to her, lifting his kilt, “Oh, I thought it was here?” 



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