Queen Victoria

Hidden Glasgow

Queen Victoria and Prince Albert,
page 3 of 13

prosperity of the nation, as well as to her own domestic happiness. How well the Queen’s hopes were realized is amply recorded on the pages of the history of our own days. The Prince was a noble-minded man, lofty in aim and principle, and, in the truest sense of the word, a gentleman. He was deeply learned in all the arts and sciences, and a man who had studied to profit contemporary history, constitutional and social. He and the young Queen were passionately attached to each other, and it has been well remarked that no marriage contracted, even amongst the humblest classes in life, could have been more entirely a union of love. The Prince was indeed the very pattern of a true knight, and Tennyson has by no means overdrawn his picture when, in his grand dedication to the “Idylls of the King,” the poet speaks of him as the knight—

                                    “Through all his tract of years
                  Wearing the white flower of a blameless life,
                  Before a thousand peering littlenesses,
                  In that fierce light that beats upon a throne,
                  And blackens every blot.”

Possibly the year 1848 may be regarded, so far as the commercial and social affairs of the country were concerned, as one of the most gloomy, if not the darkest, of all the years of Victoria’s long and happy reign. Great depression in all our commercial centres, with stagnation of trade as a natural result, and a bad harvest — whose crowning item was the total failure of the potato crop in Ireland — brought on a winter of discontent, hardship, and misery which had not been equalled in this country within the memory of any of its inhabitants. Provisions were at famine prices, and the people in the cotton manufacturing districts were starving. In Glasgow all the factories were closed, and their operatives were in the utmost destitution. The local authorities, by influential committees and private charity from many of the wealthy citizens, did much to alleviate the distress; but it was impossible to cope fully with the widespread misery. It became only too evident that there were manifestly present in the city all the essentials to rebellion, including those spirits of lawlessness and disorder who are always at hand and ready to act when such unfortunate conditions arise. A serious riot broke out, and a great part of the centre of the city was for several hours at the mercy of the mob. Three formidable barricades were erected in Argyle Street, High Street, and Saltmarket respectively, to obstruct the action of the military, and shops in all the leading thoroughfares were entered and ruthlessly looted. The military, which included detachments of the 3rd Dragoons and the 1st Royal Scots, then quartered in Glasgow, were called out. A large number of police, together with a contingent of special constables who had been hastily sworn in, also appeared on the scene, headed by Superintendent (afterwards Captain) Smart. The Riot Act was read by the late Sheriff Glassford Bell, and, the rioting still being carried on regardless of life or property, the authorities resolved to take extreme measures to defend the same. The two forces came into conflict in John Street, Bridgeton, when the military fired, with the result that seven of the mob were killed. Fighting took place in various parts of the city, at intervals, into the night; but, to show the determination of the law-abiding citizens to put the rioting down, before ten o’clock in the evening ten thousand citizens had come forward and taken their places as special constables. The troops bivouacked all night within the Royal Exchange and the Tontine, and on the following day the riot was completely suppressed.

In pleasing contrast, so far as Glasgow was concerned, to the unhappy events which found a sad prominence in 1848,


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