On Victoria’s own death in 1901, at the age of 81, she was buried with Prince Albert’s dressing-gown and a plaster-cast of his hand, a lock of John Brown’s hair, a photograph of Brown clasped in her hand, several of his letters and a ring belonging to his mother.There is a pathos and a poignancy about Victoria’s desperate dependence on the burly and bullying Brown.After the birth of their youngest child, Princess Beatrice, in 1857, Victoria’s doctor, Sir James Reid, gave her a stern warning against attempting any further pregnancies. She had described her sex life with Albert as ‘heavenly love-making’. When, to combat Victoria’s deepening melancholia, John Brown was brought south from his post as Albert’s ghillie at Balmoral to become her personal groom at Osborne, her house on the Isle of Wight, he immediately adopted a bullying and familiar manner with her that astonished courtiers and caused the Queen’s daughters to refer to him as ‘Mama’s lover’. The first anti-Brown propaganda, claiming that he was the Queen’s ‘morganatic husband’ (married but with the stipulation that he would have no claim on any title), appeared in pamphlets circulated by the Scottish socialist republican nationalist Alexander Robertson.The story of the Queen’s alleged marriage also surfaced in the late 19th-century diaries of the Liberal politician Lewis Harcourt, which claimed that one of the Queen’s chaplains, the Reverend Norman Macleod, had made a deathbed confession, repenting his action in presiding over Victoria’s marriage to Brown.Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee in 1897 marked the refulgent patriotic zenith of the British Empire.Standing less than 5ft tall, but nevertheless a towering colossus throughout the world, the iconic Queen Empress gave her name to an age that produced an empire measuring some 40 million square kilometres, with 387 million subjects.
She gave him three houses: a cottage at Windsor, a bungalow on the Isle of Wight and a lovely house at Balmoral, all of which he filled with his penniless Indian relations at the British taxpayer’s expense.
In some of the numerous permutations of what clearly started out as republican and anti-monarchist propaganda, there was not just one secret child, but three.
An alleged ‘son’ of the Queen by Brown died in Paris as a 90-year-old recluse.
So appalled and unnerved did Albert become by his wife’s daily and nightly onslaughts that he took to cowering behind the locked door of his bedroom. ’When four years later, Albert succumbed to typhoid fever at the age of only 42, he was no longer the slim, attractive Adonis of his youth, but fat, bald and prematurely middle-aged.
After years of being a royal breeding stud, Albert was forced to invent and install a bedside switch to activate mechanical locks on the bedroom door so that their nine children, all still minors, would not come in and catch their parents in flagrante. Courtiers speculated that the sexual athletics imposed upon him by his wife had worn him out both in body and spirit. She was soon referring to the hirsute Highlander as ‘fascinating Johnny Brown’, and the shocked Foreign Secretary, the Earl of Derby, recorded that they slept in adjoining rooms ‘contrary to etiquette and even decency’.