When King George IV acceded to the throne on 19 July 1821, he had been ruling the country as Prince Regent for over a decade, during which time his popularity had wained, and therefore his ministers organised splendid celebrations and royal visits across the kingdom in an attempt to drum up support.
This was accomplished in great style in Scotland to which King George became the first reigning monarch to visit since 1650. The visit, which took place in August 1822, had a lasting influence, not only on the King's increasing popularity, but also on Scotland's national identity through Sir Walter Scott's (1771-1832) innovative use of tartan kilts as a central element in the costumes that he designed.
During the Regency the King had become acquainted with Scott, the famous Scottish author, who by 1822 had become a baronet, and was chosen to arrange the King's visit to Scotland. Scott brought together the Highland societies and Clan chieftains to coordinate an extravagant two-week pageantry involving a great costumed procession through the streets of the city, a Grand Ball at the Assembly Rooms, and a service at St. Giles Cathedral on the Royal Mile.
On Friday 23 August, a review of 3,000 volunteer cavalrymen was held on Portobello sands, just east of the city centre, and this is the event depicted in the present watercolour. The oil painting by Turner de Lond of this scene is in the National Gallery of Scotland and there are other known watercolours by the artist recording his trip to Edinburgh that include a view of Carlton Hill.