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Portrait of Queen Victoria in crown
Queen Victoria, the daughter of Prince Edward and granddaughter of King George III, ruled the British Empire from 1837 until her death in 1901. England was the first stop of General Grant’s world tour. The Grants experienced a gracious reception from the Queen though one that was not without tension. When Grant arrived in England, the Queen was away at Balmoral. As Grant was now a private citizen, the Queen had no obligation to receive him upon his arrival to England. However, he was welcomed first by the Mayor of Liverpool and various other public figures. Nearly a month after his arrival, Grant received an invitation from the Queen inviting him and his party to dinner at Windsor Castle on the 27th of June. There was some difficulty getting Grant’s son Jesse who was present with his parents in England enthusiastic about the royal meeting. Invitations for the royal dinner had come to General Grant and Mrs. Grant and other members of Grant’s entourage, but an invitation had not been delivered specifically to Jesse. Only nineteen at the time, Jesse felt the honor was meant for his father alone and preferred to spend the evening in London. Mrs. Grant also felt slighted by Jesse’s lack of an invitation. She felt Jesse should be recognized along with his father and receive an invitation from the Queen. General Adam Badeau, Consul General and Grant’s envoy to England, sent a message to Sir John Cowell, the Master of the Queen’s Household to see if an invitation could be sent to Jesse, hoping this inquiry would not be a breach of etiquette. Jesse received his invitation almost immediately afterwards. On the 26th the Grants left for Windsor Castle and were received by the Queen and her court later that evening in the Quadrangle. General Badeau noted Grant was not given the typical reception fitting an ex-sovereign. Rather than meet Grant on the foot of the Palace’s grand staircase as the Queen traditionally greeted another monarch or head of state, Queen Victoria was absent when Grant arrived. The Grants were told they would not see the Queen until dinner. Also the invitations that the Grants had received were not styled according to the protocol in which foreign diplomats or even ex-sovereigns were traditionally invited into the royal presence. Despite Badeau’s critical report of British hospitality, other aspects of Grant’s stay in England suggest that he and his wife were well honored. Once they arrived at the royal palace, the Grants were given the rooms that had been used by the Czar and the Duke of Edinburgh.
Between the hours of their arrival and dinner, the Grants were visited by important members of the Queen’s household who informed them of the protocol for the evening. It was at this point that both Jesse and Badeau realized they would not be dining with the Queen. Instead they would share a table in a separate room with members of the Queen’s household. After the dinner, Badeau and Jesse would be taken in to meet the Queen. This arrangement was typical etiquette in the Queen’s court. Members of the royal household were always served dinner in a separate room while only one or two ladies or gentlemen dined with the Queen. Still both General Badeau and Jesse felt slighted. They felt they had been specially invited by the Queen and the invitation had been withdrawn at the last minute. Jesse complained openly to his parents and in the presence of the Duchess of Roxburgh, one of the Queen’s ladies who would also be dining at the table with Jesse, that he would rather return to town then sit with the servants. The Duchess of Roxburgh informed the Grants that the Queen was unable to receive large parties at her table and that the ladies and gentlemen dining at the table reserved for the Queen’s household were all “persons of distinction”. Still, Grant expected to be treated as an ex-sovereign and felt that his family should be honored together. Jesse’s threats to leave Windsor at once further prompted General Grant to see if his son could be seated at his table with the Queen. General Badeau noted that this was a request that possibly had never been made to the Queen of England. He worried the dinner might be completely called off. However, the Queen resolved the issue responding that Jesse was more than welcome to dine at their table. They dined in the Oak Room with other members of the royal family such as Prince Leopold, Prince Christian, Princess Beatrice, Lord and Lady Derby and the Duchess of Wellington. Grant was given the honor of escorting the Princess Christian into the room, this being a gesture that recognized his rank equal to that of royalty. General Badeau observed that the Queen conveyed an air of graciousness. “…Her Majesty’s countenance, a grace of demeanor, when she means to be gracious…the plain little woman conquered me with a sweetness of look and smile which I had heard of before but had never seen at court”. He at least forgave the Queen for the incident over dinner. The Queen discussed her duties as queen with Mrs. Grant to which she replied, “Yes, I can imagine them: I too have been the wife of a great ruler”. After dinner, the Queen withdrew and General was invited to play cards with Prince Leopold. Grant would never see the Queen again but later on his deathbed the Queen made “friendly inquiries” and sent her condolences.
Ulysses Grant Dietz
Alexander Bassano, Studios 25 Old Bond Street, London, England
Mississippi State University Libraries (electronic version).
Ulysses S. Grant Presidential Library, Mississippi State University Libraries.
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