Title: The Queen at the Show | Victoria Attends Buffalo Bill's Wild West Circus | The Public Excluded—How "The World" Correspondent Managed to be Present—Excitement of the Cowboys—Calm Demeanor of the Indians—The Queen and the Indians

Periodical: The Washington Post

Date: May 13, 1887

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The Public Excluded—How "The World" Correspondent Managed to be Present—Excitement of the Cowboys—Calm Demeanor of the Indians—The Queen and the Indians.

LONDON, MAY 11.—Queen Victoria this afternoon visited the Wild West encampment at Earl's Court, where a private performance was given for her benefit. The public was not admitted to the grounds this afternoon, because the Queen had ordered to the contrary. She sent word yesterday afternoon that she desired to have the performance begin soon after her arrival at 5 o'clock. The Queen is almost the only ruler in Europe, except the Czar of Russia, [1] who will not attend any entertainment in company with the public. One hundred police and twenty detectives were on hand. The World's correspondent got a suit of buckskin and went in as a performer.

In the neighborhood of five o'clock a liveried messenger came running down to the line of stables and reported to Col. Cody that the Queen would be there within the next ten minutes. All the horses were now saddled. The Indians, in full dress of paint and feathers, stood at their horses' heads at the upper end of the line of stables. The lady riders, with whips in their hands, nervously switching their little boots, crowded together in a compact group under the sheltering wing of the King of the Cowboys, Buck Taylor. During the five minutes of waiting there was a good deal of chaff. Taylor said that as he was the King of the Cowboys he ought to go out and meet the Queen.


At length a mounted groom, in black coat and black top hat and white leather breeches and top boots, came dashing down the line as an avant-courier of the royal party. Col. Cody sprang onto his gray horse Charlie, and fell back into a position of attention. Then there came a carriage with coachman and footman in red livery on the box, driving with great rapidity, preceded and followed by outriders. This carriage contained one of the ladies-in-waiting to the Queen. The cowboys thought that this was the Queen and saluted profoundly and the cowboy band as this carriage passed around the corner began to play "God Save the Queen." But they had not played more than two or three bars when they were checked. This false start of the band seemed to amuse the cowboys very much. The Indians, however, were very grave, and remained standing, like so many statues. Next came the carriage containing the Queen. It was preceded by tow outriders mounted on bay horses ridden by positions, who wore mourning liveries. The harnesses were very plain, with some light gold plating. On the box were two men also in black liveries and top-boots, and upon the rear seat of the carriage were two Scotch gillies. [2] Behind the carriage came two equerries and two mounted footmen, all mounted on bay horses. The carriage was a heavy, plain, open landan devoid of ornament. The Queen sat on the right of the carriage, with Princess Beatrice [3] on the left. The Queen was at once driven to the royal box. The gates were kept closed until she had alighted.


The box was draped in purple velvet, with a canopy upon which the royal arms were embroidered in gold.

The guests whom she had invited to be present came in through the other gates and occupied seats to the right and left of the royal box. About forty people in all were invited to be present as her guests. Her box was decorated with flowers. There was also a line of flowers and plants in front of the box on the track. In the box, besides the Queen, were the Duchess of Athol, [4] Prince Henry of Battenburg [5] , Princess Beatrice and the Marquis of Lorne. [6] It had been threatening rain up to this time, but although the clouds hung heavy and grey the rain did not fall. There was, therefore, no hitch in the performance. Among the people present was the Earl of Latham, [7] the Lord Chamberlain. A group of detectives in high hats and black shiny clothes occupied sears well down towards the right. The policemen stiffened like stakes when the Queen entered the amphitheatre, and did not venture once to sit down upon any of the vacant seats near them.

The Queen took her seat, and when all of her party were seated she signaled to one of her equerries. He nodded to a policeman, and the latter touched the arm of handsome Richmond, [8] the orator of the Wild West performance. Richmond then waved a small red flag, and the scenery which had parted to admit the Queen and her attendants again opened, and the voice of Buffalo Bill was heard shouting "Go." Indians and cowboys came dashing in like the wind and formed in a parade line on the opposite side of the amphitheatre. Then each section of the separate tribes dashed to the front and posed in picturesque line in front of the Queen. The yelling of the Indians, the shouting of the cowboys and the rush of the steeds appeared to exercise a perfect fascination on the Queen. She put up a par of glasses and gave her entire attention to the line, going up and down, until Col. Cody came to the front at last, and, backing upon his graceful horse, bowed in front of her.


Everything was done with a rush. All the performers were very nervous, but in spite of their nervousness they were much more successful than upon the opening day. After a grand parade there were one or two races and then the rifle-shooting began. Lillian Smith, who shoots at moving glass balls, missed only twice in a succession of forty or fifty shots. When she had finished the Queen signaled to her to come to the box, whereupon Lillian Smith advanced and bowed, and the Queen bowed in return, nothing being said. Annie Oakley, who followed her was equally successful. She, too, was presented to the Queen. Both of the young women bowed, in a matter-of-fact way, and then walked off as if they were not at all overcome by the situation. The attack upon the coach greatly delighted the royal party. This and the attack upon the cabin was completed within ten minutes.


The war dance interested the Queen more than any other feature of the performance. Several of the most distinguished chiefs of the party were stripped entirely naked except their breach-clouts. When the fervor of the dance reached its height their only covering, except what has just been mentioned, consisted of a coat of paint and of a few bracelets. Richmond, the orator, in a picturesque suit of buckskin and beadwork, with his long brown curls floating in the wind, stood just at the left of the Queen, outside of the box, and called out in a clear musical voice an explanation of every item of the limited bill. Occasionally the Queen would turn to him and ask him some question.

The attack on the cabin was the closing act in the performance, This was done with great spirit and dash. The cowboys and Indians excelled themselves in most reckless and daring riding. Buck Taylor, when the cavalcade swept down near the royal box, fairly threw his horse around into twenty or thirty positions inside of a minute. He fired his revolver from under the horse and exhibited such lightning like gymnastic ability as to draw forth a perfect yell of approval from the excitable Maj. Burke, who stood at the right of the royal box, inspiring the boys with his enthusiasm and fire.

At the close of the performance a large portion of the audience which came with the Queen went through the exhibition part of the show.


The Queen did not go. She directed that "Red Shirt" and the principal Indians chiefs should be brought to where she was. Red Shirt was the first presented. The Queen now advanced to the front of the box. Every one uncovered as she stood up. I was not over six feet distant from the place where Red Shirt was presented.

The Queen, a short, compact, stout figure, was dressed in a suit of soft black cloth. She wore a large, square-shaped bonnet, also of black, and tied by two black ribbons under her heavy double chin. Over this dress she wore a plain black cloth coat embroidered with small designs of black beads. She has a very clear complexion and very few wrinkles in her face for a woman of sixty-eight years of age. Her hair is still thick and is only iron gray. Her forehead is full and prominent. Her eyes are cold gray-blue. Her nose is prominent and Roman in character. Her mouth is very determined in its expression. She has an air of one who is used to command, but in her manner she is as plain and direct as a man.

Standing slightly in her rear was Princess Beatrice, her favorite daughter and constant companion. She is tall and much more distinguished looking that her mother. She has a very clear complexion, a high forehead, the blue-gray eyes of her mother and also the same high arch nose. She wore an olive-green wrap brocaded in a darker shade over her dress of light brown cloth. Her bonnet was a dainty Parisians shape of the same shade as her coat, with light brown ribbons. Her husband, Prince Henry of Battenberg, a tall, slight, ordinary-looking young man, stood just at the back of her, while the Marquis of Lorne stood upon her right.


The Queen advanced to the opening of the box and stood upon the floor, which is about six inches above the level of the track. "Red Shirt" advanced and stood upon the tanbark. When he was presented by the interpreter the latter was very much overcome, but "Red Shirt" remained as self-possessed as the Queen herself. He half nodded and smiled. The Queen directed the interpreter to say to him that she was glad to see him, that she had admired his riding very much, and bade him welcome to England. "Red Shirt's" face lighted up when this was communicated to him in husky whispers by the interpreter. He responded in the gutturals of his native language, which the bashful interpreter translated in such a feeble tone of voice that the Queen could not understand. Orator Richmond, however, repeated the phrase so that the Queen heard it. It was as follows: "I have come many thousand miles to see you. Now that I have seen you, my heart is glad." The Queen nodded at this flowery sentence and "Red Shirt" stepped back.


Then "Yellow-Striped Face [9] ," the half-breed interpreter, was presented, and then came two squaws, mothers of two pappooses in the camp. The little girl pappoose was first presented. The Queen patted her cheek with her black-silk gloved hand, and then the little thing stuck out her brown paw, and the Queen shook it. After this the Queen stepped back, but the mother was not content. She walked up and stuck out her hand, and the Queen shook hands gravely and bowed. Then the other squaw came up and said: "How," and offered her hand, and finally a little brown boy pappoose came up and offered his hand. The Queen shook hands with them all, these being the only members of the Wild West party who were thus honored. Then Messrs. Cody and Salsbury were presented. Both of them bowed gravely, and Col. Cody smiled pleasantly at the compliment paid to him by the Queen. She told him that she had been very much interested and the his skill was very great. A moment after this an equerry signaled for the carriage and it came dashing up. The Queen gave directions to have the top of the carriage lowered. She then turned to the Marquis of Lorne and extended to him her right hand. He bent very low and kissed it and then fell back.


Two Scotch gillies now came forward uncovered. The postilions and all of the attendants uncovered; then the carriage steps were let down and the two gillies helped the Queen carefully up every step and did not let her go until she was safely seated in the carriage. A heavier cloak was put around her and the carriage robes drawn up, and then Princess Beatrice took her seat by her mother's side. The Duchess of Atholl was next helped into the carriage, and then came Prince Henry. The Queen turned and bowed one especial farewell to Orator Richmond, and then the carriage started and in a moment was out of sight.

Note 1: The "Czar of Russia" during 1887 was Aleksandr Aleksandrovich Romanov or Alexander III (1845-1894), who was the Emperor of Russia, King of Polland, and Grand Prince of Finland from 1881 until his death in 1894. [back]

Note 2: "Scotch gillies" are the male attendants or personal servants who attended to the needs of the Royals. [back]

Note 3: Beatrice Mary Victoria Feodore (1857-1944), the fifth daughter and youngest child of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. Beatrice married Prince Henry of Battenberg in 1885 and became Princess Henry of Battenberg. [back]

Note 4: "Duchess of Athol" is probably Duchess of Argyll who was Princess Louise Caroline Alberta (1848-1939), the fourth daughter and sixth child of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, who was a gifted sculptor and a dedicated advocate of many issues including the education of women. [back]

Note 5: Prince Henry of Battenberg is Colonel Prince Henry Maurice (1858-1896), descendant of the Grand Ducal House of Hesse who became a member of the British Royal Family in 1885 through his marriage to Princess Beatrice. [back]

Note 6: The Marquis of Lorne is John George Edward Henry Douglas Sutherland Campbell (1845-1914), 9th Duke of Argyll, who held the title Marquis of Lorne from 1847 to 1900. [back]

Note 7: "Earl of Latham, the Lord Chamberlain" is Edward Bootle-Wilbraham (1837-1898), who in 1880 was created the Earl of Latham in County Palatine of Lancaster, Great Britain. He later held the office of Lord Chamberlain of the Household from 1885 to 1892, and from 1895 to 1898. Lord Latham was appointed a Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath in 1892. [back]

Note 8: "Orator Richmond" is Frank Richmond (d.1890). Frank Richmond was the stage name of actor James E. Twitchell. He was a stage actor until 1882 when he was hired as the lecturer with Buffalo Bill's Wild West. Richmond became the arena voice and director of performances for Buffalo Bill's Wild West until his sudden death in early January 1890 in Barcelona, Spain, from typhoid fever. [back]

Note 9: Yellow Striped Face is not further identified in this article but may have been William "Broncho Bill" Irving (1856-1903). [back]

Title: The Queen at the Show | Victoria Attends Buffalo Bill's Wild West Circus | The Public Excluded—How "The World" Correspondent Managed to be Present—Excitement of the Cowboys—Calm Demeanor of the Indians—The Queen and the Indians

Periodical: The Washington Post

Date: May 13, 1887

Topics: Buffalo Bill's Wild West in Britain

Keywords: American Indians Cowboys Great Britain. Lord Chamberlain's Office Order of the Bath

People: Alexander III, Emperor of Russia, 1845-1894 Argyll, John Douglas Sutherland Campbell, Duke of, 1845-1914 Beatrice, Princess Henry of Battenberg, 1857-1944 Burke, John M., 1842-1917 Butler, Frank E., 1852?-1926 Henry Maurice, Prince of Battenberg, 1858-1896 Louise, Princess, Duchess of Argyll, 1848-1939 Oakley, Annie, 1860-1926 Red Shirt, 1845?-1925 Richmond, Frank, -1890 Romanov, A. A. (Aleksandr Aleksandrovich) Salsbury, Nathan, 1846-1902 Taylor, William Levi, 1857-1924 Victoria, Queen of Great Britain, 1819-1901 Wilbraham, Edward Bootle, 1771-1853

Place: Earl's Court (London, England)

Sponsor: This project is supported in part by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Geraldine W. & Robert J. Dellenback Foundation.

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