History Note – The Queen’s Scarf of Honour

I have been doing some research into Queen Victoria and her connection with the resurgence of knitting/crocheting during her reign.  Research is still underway but in the meantime, I found this fascinating story at the Canadian War Museum about the Queen’s Scarf of Honour. The text below is taken directly from the website:

In the last year of her long life, Queen Victoria crocheted eight scarves for presentation to members of her forces fighting in South Africa. Four were earmarked for members of colonial units, with one each going to “the most distinguished private soldier” serving in the forces of Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. The other four went to members of the British regular army. The Canadian scarf was awarded to Private R.R. Thompson for his actions in going to the aid of wounded comrades at Paardeberg on 18 and 27 February 1900.

With the passage of time, awareness of the scarf faded from Canadian memory. In 1964 Bombardier Kenneth Richardson, of the Royal Canadian Artillery, located the scarf with Thompson’s family in Ireland. It was returned to Canada by Thompson’s nephew in 1965, and has been on display at the Canadian War Museum ever since.

A number of misconceptions and legends surround the scarf. For example, some believed it to be the equal of, or even rank above, the Victoria Cross as a decoration. Research has established that the scarf has no relationship to the Victoria Cross and, in fact, has no status as a decoration. Nevertheless, to have received a scarf was a great honour.

I am not sure exactly why this story resonates with me so much.  I think because a hand made scarf is such a personal gift  to be given by such a distinguished royal person and this shows a high level of respect for the sacrifices and difficulties that Private Thompson faced during the Boer War.  The next time I am in Ottawa I will be sure to visit the Canadian War Museum and look for this fascinating piece of Canadian war history.

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