Title: "Wild West" Show a Success | Queen Victoria Gives the Show a Special Audience and Seems Pleased

Periodical: Columbus Journal

Date: June 1, 1887

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Queen Victoria Gives the Show a Special Audience and Seems Pleased.

As is known by all newspaper readers, "Buffalo Bill," that is, Hon. William F. Cody, soldier, scout, Indian fighter, cowboy and ex-member of the Nebraska Legislature, is now in London with a large troupe composed of veritable cowboys, Western hunters and genuine wild Indians, astonishing the people with real scenes of wild Western life. They took the great metropolis, London, by storm from the beginning. The statesman, Gladstone, being among the first to visit them, and was so well pleased that he entertained them with a magnificent dinner, at which there was speech making and exchange of good will. Since then, many other of the "big wigs" of Britain have visited and been astonished and delighted by the show. And the other day Queen Victoria herself, fat and old as she is, expressed a desire to see the illustrious representatives of Western life, and had an entertainment for her special benefit. Following is the account of her visit, received by cable dispatch:

"Queen Victoria this afternoon visited the 'Wild West' encampment at Earl's court, where a private exhibition 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 the performance to 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. The order to exclude everyone not directly connected with the 'Wild West' company, so that none should be present except those especially invited by her, was rigidly enforced.

Yesterday afternoon half a dozen detectives in plain clothes went down to the exhibition and took up their station there to look out for possible dynamiters. This afternoon a hundred policemen and twenty detectives were sent out. There were policemen standing guard over every stable. The cowboys were very hard to repress. They would keep coming out of the stables and go lounging about, greatly to the horror of the policemen. These constables appeared to be rather afraid of the cowboys and would beg of them to go back, instead of ordering them. As the cowboys were all armed to the teeth, and had numerous belts of extra cartridges buckled around their waists, there was good reason for the respect paid them by the constables.

In the neighborhood of 5 o'clock a messenger, in a tightly-buttoned coat coming down well over his white skin-tight trousers, came running down to the line of stables and reported to Colonel Cody that the queen would be there within the next ten minutes. The cowboys were now directed to saddle their horses and get ready. The horses appeared to share in the excitement. Some of them backed out of the stables and began plunging and rearing, greatly to the terror of the London police. They begged the cowboys to get their horses back, but it took an order from Cody himself to get the way perfectly clear. The Indians in full dress of paint and feathers stood at their horses' heads. At the upper end of the stables lay 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.


In five minutes of waiting there was a good deal of chuff. [2] Taylor said that as he was king of the cowboys he ought to go out and meet the queen. 'The king takes the queen, doesn't it?'

Another of the boys called out: 'The old lady seems to be a long time coming; I wonder what keeps Vic?'

At this kind of talk two or three of the policemen on guard turned pale with indignation, but none of them ventured on remonstrance. At 5:15 just before the queen came, Cody walked down the line to see that everything was in absolute order. He was dressed in a close-fitting suit of buckskin, with high patent-leather boots coming above the knee. The breasts of his coat were embroidered with handsome bead-work. He looked every inch a prince. A mounted messenger in black coat and black top hat and skin white knee-breeches and boots came dashing down the line, the avant courier of the royal procession. Cody sprang on his gray charger, Charlie, and back into a position of attention.

The guests that she invited to be present came in and occupied seats at the right and left of the box, which was decorated with flowers. There was a line of flowering plants also in front of the box on the track. In the box besides the queen was the venerable Duchess of Athol, [3] Prince Henry of Battenberg, [4] Princess Beatrice [5] and the Marquis of Lorne. [6] Forty other persons were present, including the Earl of Latham and the lord chamberlain. [7] A group of detectives in high hats and black, shiny clothes occupied seats well down toward the right.

The yelling of the Indians and shouting of the cowboys and the rush of steeds appeared to have a perfect fascination for the royal spectator. She put up a pair of glasses and gave her entire attention to the line going up and down until graceful Colonel Cody came to the front at last, and backing upon his grceful horse, bowed in front of her. The regular program was not given. The time of the queen was limited. She said that she could not remain only until 6:20. This gave scant three-quarters of an hour and everything was done with a rush. All of the performers were very nervous, but in spite of their nervousness they were much more successful than upon the opening day. After the 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 her royal box. Miss Smith advanced and bowed and the queen bowed in return. Nothing was said. Annie Oakley, who followed her, was equally successful. 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 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, [8] when he was presented by the interpreter. The interpreter was very much overcome. Red Shirt was 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. The interpreter translated it, but in such a feeble voice that the queen could not hear. Orator Richmond [9] repeated the phrase so that the queen heard it. It was: "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, [10] the half-breed interpreter, was presented. Then came two squaws, the mothers of the two pappooses in the camp. A 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. At this the queen stepped back, but the mother was not contented. 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. Then the 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 that were thus honored.

Then Cody and Salsbury were presented. Both of them bowed gravely. Cody smiled at the compliment paid to him by the queen. She told him that she had been very much interested and that his skill was very great. A moment after this an equerry signaled for her carriage and it came dashing up. The queen turned and bowed one especial farewell to the orator. Then the carriage started, and in a moment was driven from the ground through the great compact crowd waiting outside.

The visit of the queen has secured for the Wild West the public indorsment of every member of the royal family. The wild west fever now raging in London has extended to Paris. General Boulanger [11] will head a party of French officials coming over next week.—Martinsville (Ind) Republican.

Note 1: The Czar of Russia during 1887 was Alexander Alexandrovich Romanov who became Alexander III (1845-1894). He was the Emperor of Russia, King of Poland, and Grand Prince of Finland from 1881 until his death in 1894. Russia fought no major wars during this time which earned Alexander III the moniker, "The Peacemaker." [back]

Note 2: "Chuff" is unnecessary small talk. [back]

Note 3: The Duchess of Athol is likely the 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 for many issues including the education of women. [back]

Note 4: Prince Henry of Battenberg is Colonel Prince Henry Maurice (1858-1896), a 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 5: Beatrice Mary Victoria Feodore (Princess Beatrice of the United Kingdom, 1857-1944), fifth daughter and youngest child of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, married Prince Henry of Battenberg in 1885 and became Princess Henry of Battenberg. [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: Edward Bootle-Wilbraham (1837-1898), known as the "Earl of Latham," held the office of Lord Chamberlain of the Household from 1885 to 1892 and again from 1895 to 1898. Lord Latham was appointed a Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath in 1892. [back]

Note 8: Tanbark is shredded bark from which the tannin has been extracted; it is used to cover circus arenas, racetracks, and other surfaces. [back]

Note 9: Orator Richmond was James E. Twitchell (d. 1890), whose stage name was Frank Richmond. In the fall of 1882 Richmond was hired as the lecturer with Buffalo Bill's Wild West; he became the arena voice and director of performances until his sudden death in 1900 from typhoid fever in Barcelona, Spain. [back]

Note 10: Yellow Striped Face is not further identified in this article but may have been William "Broncho Bill" Irving (1856-1903). [back]

Note 11: General Boulanger is Georges Ernest Jean-Marie Boulanger (1837-1891), a French general, minister of war, and politician who led a brief but very influential authoritarian political movement to depose the Third Republic of France in the 1880s. The popularity of Boulanger inspired a French song entitled C'est Boulanger qu'il nous faut ("Boulanger is the One We Need"). The political movement of this time is often referred to as Boulangism. [back]