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John Brown (servant)

John Brown (1826 - 1883) was born in Crathie[?], Scotland, and went to work as a servant (in Scots ghillie or gillie) at Balmoral Castle when Queen Victoria and Prince Albert built it (1853 - 1855). After Albert died in 1861, Brown became Victoria's personal servant, and she was so grateful for his service (and his manner toward her, which was much less formal than that of her other servants) that she awarded him medals and had portrait paintings and statutes made of him.

Victoria's children and ministers resented the high regard she had for Brown, and stories circulated that there was something improper about it, but there was no basis for those stories. After Brown's death, she became similarly attached to an Indian servant, Abdul Karim, one of two who had come to work for her in late June 1887, days after her Golden Jubilee celebrating her first fifty years on the throne. Him she called "the Munshi" (or "teacher"), and he came to be hated more fiercely than John Brown had been, and for the same reason: the warm regard she had for him.

There are papers now which seem to prove that Victoria married John Brown in secret, despite never coming out of her mourning period. Because John Brown was a commoner it would be unlikely that this marriage would be recognised would it have been discovered at the time.


The 1997 film Mrs. Brown is the fictionalized story of John Brown. Billy Connolly stars as Brown, and Dame Judi Dench as Victoria.



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