Field-Marshal Roberts Honored By The Queen
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
WHEN Field-Marshal Roberts returned from the war in South Africa, he was received by the royal family and the people of England with honors, such as, perhaps, had not been bestowed upon any military leader since the days of Wellington. The government laid out a most elaborate and magnificent programme of processions and exercises. The royal family took the lead in the reception. At Osborne, underneath arches of flowers and evergreens and mottoes, and amidst the enthusiasm of the multitudes, the hero passed through the grounds of the palace. After an exchange of greetings, he was conducted into the drawing-room, where Queen Victoria received him alone, and conferred upon him the dignity of an Earldom, and invested him with the Order of the Garter. There had been a vacancy since the days of the Duke of Argyll, and it was universally expected that he would receive the coveted honor. The exercises continued the following day, when he went with a blaze of glory from Southampton to Buckingham Palace. He was met at Paddington Station by the Prince and Princess of Wales, Princess Victoria, the Duke and Duchess of York, the Duke of Connaught, the Duke of Cambridge and Sir John Aird, one of London's twenty-eight new Mayors. The procession moved forward in the following order. The royal personages with their escort of Life Guards, drove a long distance in advance of Lord Roberts, so that the throngs behind the lines of soldiers in the streets might single him out as the sole object of their interest and grateful homage. The Commander-in-Chief was in a carriage with General Ian Hamilton and Kelly-Kenny and Colonel Carrington, and was at-tended by an escort of thirteen hussars and six mounted Indian orderlies. Lord Roberts' staff and Sir Evelyn Wood and the Headquarters' Staff were behind in carriages with the Secretary of War, Lady Roberts and others. A detachment of hussars brought the cavalcade to a close. Fifteen thousand regular soldiers were employed to keep the populace from crowding the carriages in the parade. Hundreds of thousands of people, wild with delight, lined the streets. They recognized loyally the heir to the throne and his attendants, but when they saw the little man, with brown face, white hair and gray moustache, they gave full vent to their enthusiasm, cheering themselves hoarse. A heavy fog had made it necessary to turn on the city lights at mid-day, and had delayed the procession several hours, during which time the people, chattering and shivering with the cold, persistently held their places in the line ; and when the carriage passed that held " good old Bobs," and they had gotten one look at their hero, they said they were paid for all their trouble, and went back contentedly to their homes.
At the royal banquet at Buckingham Palace, the Prince of Wales, pro-posing the health of the Field-Marshal, said :
" It is my pleasure, on behalf of the Princess and of all the members of the royal family, in the Queen's name, to welcome Lord Roberts home from the distant country where he has commanded our gallant army in very difficult and trying circumstances. We congratulate Lord Roberts upon the success he has achieved and upon seeing him safe back. In the name of all present, I wish to express our delight at finding Lord Roberts accompanied by his wife and two daughters." Lord Roberts, replying, said :
"Your Royal Highnesses, My Lords and Ladies and Gentleman: I am deeply sensible of the honor Your Royal Highness, with the Princess and the Duke and Duchess of Connaught, paid me in coming to see me at Paddington Station, and I appreciate very highly the kind and flattering words in which Your Royal Highness has proposed my health. My heart is full of joy at the unexpected and magnificent honor with which Her Majesty the Queen has been graciously pleased to reward my endeavors in South Africa, and at the splendid welcome the public of England have given me. The only drawback to my happiness is that circumstances in South Africa have prevented more of my comrades from being with me, the comrades to whose valor and military skill I owe any success that may have been achieved in South Africa.
" Your gracious words, sir, and the kindness of this distinguished company in responding to them, will, I assure you, never be forgotten by me."
This unusual tribute to Lord Roberts was partly on account of his military skill and service to the Empire, and also of his admirable qualities as a man. Because he was one of the truest, purest, kindliest, manliest of men, the common people as well as Royalty made him their idol.
The highest honors that the greatest rulers can confer upon heroes for valor or military success, are trifling when compared with that honor which the King of Heaven will bestow upon the humblest Soldier of the Cross who is loyal to His Son. They shall ride in royal chariots, underneath triumphal arches through palace grounds, and be admitted into the Palace, where the Sovereign of the universe will bestow upon them a crown of life.