The History of Leith

February 12, 2005

The Landing of George IV at Leith 1822

The Landing of George IV 1822
painting by Alexander Carse
One of the greatest events of its time in Leith was the landing there of George IV., on the 15 of August, 1822.
The king was on board the Royal George, which was towed into the Roads by two steam- packets, followed by the escorting frigates, which fired salutes that were answered by the flagship and Forte frigate; and a salute from the battery announced that all had come to anchor. Among the first to go off to the royal yacht was Sir Walter Scott, to present the king with a famous silver star, the gift of the ladies of Edinburgh. Sir Walter remained in conversation with the king an hour, in the exuberance of his loyalty pocketing as a relic a glass from which His Majesty had drunk wine; hut soon after the author of Waverley,in forgetfulness, sat down on it and crushed it in pieces.
Leith was crowded beyond all description on the day of the landing ; every window was filled with faces, if a view could be commanded; the ships yards were manned, their rigging swarmed with human figures; and the very roofs of the houses were covered. Guarded by the Royal Archers and Scots Greys, a floating platform was at the foot of Bernard Street, covered with cloth and strewn with flowers; and when a single gun from the royal yacht announced that the king had stepped into his barge, the acciamations of the enthusiastic, people, all unused to the presence of royalty, then seemed to rend heaven.
The cannon of the ships and battery pealed forth their salutes, and the combined cheers of the mighty multitude filled up the pauses. An immense fleet of private boats followed the royal barge, forming an aquatic procession such as Leith had never seen before, and a band of pipers on the pier struck up as it rounded the head of the latter. As the king approached the landing stage three distinct and well-timed cheers ca from the manned yards of the shipping, while the magistrates, deacons, and trades, advanced, the latter with all their standards lowered. So hearty and prolonged were the glad shouts of the people that even George IV the most heartless king that ever wore a crown and was visibly affected.
He was clad in the uniform of an admiral, and was received by the magistrates of Leith and Edinburgh and the usual high officials, civil and military; but the Highland chief Glengarry, bursting through the throng, exclaimed, bonnet in hand, Your Majesty is welcome to Scotland
The procession preceding the royal carriage now set out, the Earl of Kinnoul, as Lord Lyon, on a horse caprioling in front of a cloud of heralds and cavaliers his golden coronet, crimson mantle flowing to the ground, his embroidered boots, and golden spurs, would have been irresistible in the eyes of a dame of the twelfth century.Sir Alexander Keith, as Knight-Marischal, with his grooms and esquires ; Sir Patrick Walker, as Usher of the White Rod; a long alternation of cavalry and infantry, city dignitaries, and Highianders, followed.
At the end of the vista, preceded by ten royal footmen, two and two, sixteen yeomen of the Scottish Guard, escorted by the Royal Archers, came the king, followed by the head quarter staff, three clans of Highianders, two squadrons of Lothian yeomanry, three of the 3rd Dragoon Guards, Scots Greys, and the Grenadiers of the 77th regiment; and after some delay in going through the ceremony of receiving the city keys which no monarch had touched since the days of Charles I the magnificent train moved through the living masses by the foot of the Calton Hill towards the Palace of Holyrood.
As a souvenir of this event, on the first anniversary of it a massive plate was inserted on the Shore, in the exact spot on which the king first placed his foot, and there it remains to this day, with a suitable inscription commemorative of the event
George IV at Edinburgh Castle
painting by Denis Dighton

Thomas Rowlandsons Cartoon
Thomas Rowlandsons cartoon of George IV at Holrood. Apparently he kissed 456 ladies in an hour!!

Source-Old and New Edinburgh, James Grant 1883.
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