Albert Edward, King Edward VII of the United Kingdom of Great Britain, Mount Vernon, Niagara Falls, North American Tour, President Buchanan, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, Prince Edward Duke of Kent, Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom, the prince of Wales
HRH The Prince of Wales (Albert Edward, future King Edward VII, November 9, 1841 – May 6, 1910) was the eldest son of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. Prince Albert Edward was Prince of Wales and heir apparent to the British throne for almost 60 years. During the long reign of his mother, he was largely excluded from political power, and came to personify the fashionable, leisured elite. He travelled throughout Britain performing ceremonial public duties, and represented Britain on visits abroad.
In May of 1859, the Legislature of the Province of Canada invited Queen Victoria and her husband Prince Albert to come to British North America “to witness the progress and prosperity of this distant part of your dominions.” The Victoria Bridge (le pont Victoria), the first bridge to span the St Lawrence River which joined Montreal on the north shore with St Lambert on the south shore, was nearing completion and the Canadian Legislature hoped that the Queen would officially open the bridge.
The visit was believed it would “afford the opportunity the inhabitants [of the Province of Canada] of uniting in their expression of loyalty and attachment to the Throne and Empire.”
Saying that “her duties at the seat of Empire prevent so long an absence,” Queen Victoria regretfully declined the invitation. Another factor in her declining this offer was due to the fact that Transatlantic travel in the mid nineteenth century was still an arduous journey, taking two weeks or longer, even if the weather was favourable.
In her place, Queen Victoria offered to send her eldest son, Albert Edward, the Prince of Wales. It would be consudered an ifficial a “coming out” event for the nineteen-year old prince who would later become King Edward VII.
(above: The Prince of Wales at Niagara Falls)
The Queen’s offer to send the Prince of Wales was greeted with enthusiasm. U.S. President Buchanan also invited the Prince of Wales to tour the United States upon hearing that he would be visiting British North America.
This was the first tour of North America by a Prince of Wales. The visit to Canada and the United lasted from July 10, to November 15, 1860. Prior to this members of the British Royal Family had visited North America.
One example is Queen Victoria’s father, Prince Edward, Duke of Kent and Strathearn, son of King George III of the United Kingdom. The Duke of Kent requested to be transferred to present-day Canada, specifically Quebec, in 1791. The Duke of Kent had been serving in the military in the Mediterranean and his request for a transfer was due to the extreme Mediterranean heat.
The Duke of Kent arrived in Canada in time to witness the proclamation of the Constitutional Act of 1791, becoming the first member of the Royal Family to tour Upper Canada and became a fixture of British North American society. Edward and his mistress, Julie St. Laurent, became close friends with the French Canadian family of Ignace-Michel-Louis-Antoine d’Irumberry de Salaberry.
The Prince of Wales, displayed genial good humour and confident bonhomie which made the tour a great success. He did inaugurated the Victoria Bridge, which was the motive for the visit, and he also visited Montreal, across the St Lawrence River, and laid the cornerstone of Parliament Hill, in Ottawa.
Just as Mayor Alexander Workman, dressed in his robes of office, commenced his dock-side welcome speech, the occassion was marred by a torrential rain storm. While the Prince of Wales soldiered on despite the soaking, the thousands of onlookers scattered for cover.
After the welcoming speeches the prince and his entourage were taken by carriage to the Victoria House Hotel at the corner of Wellington and O’Connor Streets. Despite the continual rain there followed a somewhat bedraggled parade of soldiers, firemen, and government employees.
However the next day brought bright and sunny skies for the laying of Parliament’s cornerstone. At 11am, the prince, followed by Sir Edmund Walker Head, 8th Baronet and the Governor General of the Providence of Canada, along with members of the prince’s party, entered the Parliamentary grounds through yet another triumphal arch; this one decorated in a Gothic style.
Canadian Cabinet ministers were dressed in blue and gold. The cornerstone ceremony was held on a dais under an elaborate canopy, surrounded by wooden bleachers to allow several thousand Ottawa citizens to view the proceedings.
What is interesting to note is that in1917, Fifty-six years to the day after the Prince of Wales had laid the cornerstone, his brother, Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught, and Governor General of Canada (1911-1916), re-laid it as the cornerstone of the newly rebuilt Centre Block on Parliament Hill for the new Parliament Building that replaced the original building, which had been gutted in a mysterious fire in February 1916.
While in Canada the Prince of Wales watched Charles Blondin traverse Niagara Falls by highwire, and stayed for three days with President James Buchanan at the White House. Buchanan accompanied the Prince to Mount Vernon, to pay his respects at the tomb of George Washington. Vast crowds greeted him everywhere. He met Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.
Prayers for the royal family were said in Trinity Church, New York, for the first time since 1776. The four-month tour throughout Canada and the United States considerably boosted Edward’s confidence and self-esteem, and had many diplomatic benefits for Great Britain.