Long before King George III’s fourth son, Prince Edward, Duke of Kent became the father of the future Queen Victoria, he spent the 1790s in British North America. The Duke of Kent left his mark on the map of present day Canada, lending his name to both Prince Edward Island and Prince Edward county. In Prince Edward, Duke of Kent: Father of the Canadian Crown, Nathan Tidridge, author of Canada’s Constitutional Monarchy reveals that Duke also had a lasting influence on Canadian institutions and eventual nationhood.
Prince Edward, Duke of Kent: Father of the Canadian Crown is the first biography of the Duke of Kent to focus on the Prince’s impact on the development of Canada. British North America in the 1790s was vulnerable to invasion by the newly independent United States of America. The Duke applied his military experience in Hanover, Geneva and Gibraltar to improving the defences of Halifax, Nova Scotia. Tidridge presents compelling evidence that the Duke of Kent’s improvements to Halifax’s defences, including the renovation of Fort George on Citadel Hill and the introduction of a semaphore telegraph system deterred the Americans from attacking the city during the War of 1812.
Although the Duke of Kent resided in British North America in a military capacity, his vision for the region went far beyond improving city fortifications and introducing new technologies. Decades before Canada’s confederation in 1867, the Duke of Kent recognized the potential for the Crown to unify the diverse colonies and their inhabitants.
When rioting broke out during the 1792 elections to the Lower Canada (modern day Quebec) legislature, the Duke addressed the crowd in French, stating, “Can there be a man among who does not take the King to be the father of his people?…Part then in peace; I urge you to unanimity and concord. Let me hear no more of the odious distinctions of French and English. You are all his Britannic Majesty’s Canadian subjects.” Prior to this speech, the term “Canadian” referred to French Canadians alone. The Duke of Kent saw the potential for English and French speaking inhabitants of British North American to assume a common identity as Canadians.
In addition to discussing the Duke of Kent’s numerous contributions to the making of modern day Canada, Tidridge also provides a rich portrait of British North American society in the 1790s. In contrast to London, where royal mistresses were not received in polite society, the Duke’s partner, Madame Julie St. Laurent, acted as his hostess in North America and traveled with him from the Maritimes to modern day Ontario. Both the Duke and Madame St. Laurent socialized with the most prominent figures of late eighteenth century British North America including John Graves Simcoe, the Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada (modern day Ontario), and his wife, the geographer and diarist Elizabeth Simcoe. There were even visits from foreign royalty as the French Revolution brought the Duke d’Orleans to the Halifax harbour.
Previous biographies of the Duke of Kent focus on his real and imagined personal life including his often strained relationship with his parents and siblings, alleged obsession with military discipline and rumoured affairs that reputedly left Canada populated with half-siblings of Queen Victoria. Tidridge analyzes this reputation critically, creating a more nuanced and accurate portrait of the Duke. His focus on the Duke of Kent’s relationship with Canada is a fresh approach that reveals the Prince’s full significance as a historical figure in both Canada and the United Kingdom. Nathan Tidridge’s lively and insightful biography, Prince Edward, Duke of Kent: Father of the Canadian Crown, restores the Duke to his rightful place in Canadian history.
I will be delivering a guest lecture about the Queen in Canada on June 21 at 2pm at the Don Mills Public Library in Toronto.
I will be discussing the 60th anniversary of Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation on Entertainment Tonight Canada this evening (June 4 at 7:30pm ET/PT)
I will also be discussing the coronation on the CTV News Channel at 6:45pm ET
See also my interview today with Yahoo News “Has Queen Elizabeth II Made Her Last Trip to Canada“
My column in this weekend’s Kingston Whig-Standard discusses the potential for Prince Charles to receive a Canadian coronation when he succeeds Queen Elizabeth II. In May, 2013, the Church of Scotland approved a separate Scottish coronation for the next monarch in the event that Scotland votes for devolution from the United Kingdom in 2014. I argue that the revival of the 17th century practice of different English and Scottish coronations in the 21st century may prompt the introduction of investiture ceremonies for the monarch throughout the commonwealth. A distinct Canadian ceremony would increase support for the monarchy as a national institution.
Beginning June 1, 2013, my regular column on the monarchy will appear alternating Saturdays in the Kingston Whig-Standard.
June 2 marks the 60th anniversary of Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation in 1953. Click here for my interview with Janet Davison at CBC.ca about the significance of the coronation to Canada.
I will be discussing the Duchess of Cambridge’s pregnancy, the Prince of Wales’s expanding role within the royal family, Prince Harry’s recent trip to the United States and other current royal events on May 29, 2013 at 2pm as part of a canada.com online Live Chat. Readers are welcome to join the discussion and submit questions.
My column in today’s Ottawa Citizen discusses the history of Victoria Day in Canada. There is no holiday in the English speaking world like Victoria Day, which honours Queen Victoria as a Mother of Canadian Confederation.
I will be discussing the history of Victoria Day in Canada with Matt Holmes on AM 900 CHML talk radio Hamilton today (May 17, 2013) at 8pm EST. Click here listen live online
Queen Elizabeth II’s second son, Prince Andrew, the Duke of York, arrived in Vancouver yesterday for four days of engagements in the province of British Columbia, Canada. In February, the Duke of York attended the opening of the new British Columbia Trade and Investment office overlooking Hyde Park in London. At the reception, the Duke announced that he intended to visit British Columbia in May.
The Duke of York’s visit consists of two days in Vancouver on May 16 and 17 and two days in the provincial capital, Victoria on May 18 and 19. In Vancouver, the Duke opened the new dock at the Royal Vancouver Yacht Club, speaking with Canadian Olympic windsurfer Nikolas Girke. The Duke also visited the Vancouver Rowing Club, where he was greeted by an “honour guard” of rowers standing with their paddles upright.
In Victoria, the Duke of York will be chief of the 150th Victoria Highland Games and Celtic Festival, presenting some of the awards for the Highland Dance competition. The Games attracted 20,000 attendees in 2012 and organizers hope that the presence of royalty will increase these numbers regardless of the weather. While in Victoria, the Duke of York will also dine with Lieutenant Governor Judith Guichon and present Duke of Edinburgh awards at Government House to British Columbia youth. Like his father, Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, the Duke of York is interested in promoting youth athletics and his itinerary in British Columbia reflects this theme.
The Duke’s presence in British Columbia for the Victoria Day long weekend, which is the Queen’s official birthday in Canada and a popular time for royal visits, also reflects his longstanding relationship with Canada and the Canadian people. In 1979, Prince Andrew attended the Lakefield College School in Peterborough, Ontario as an exchange student from Gordonstoun in Scotland.
At the time of his term abroad, the Prince had already visited Canada during three consecutive summers, cheering his sister, Princess Anne, when she competed in the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal, accompanying his brother, the Prince of Wales to the 1977 Calgary Stampede and attending the 1978 Commonwealth Games with the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh. The Prince enjoyed his time at the Lakefield College School and returned on a personal visit in 1983 to join a student trip to the Northwest Territories.
The wedding of Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson in 1986 attracted widespread popular attention in Canada. Prime Minister Brian Mulroney sent the couple a pair of parkas as a wedding gift and established the Prince and Princess Andrew prize for photography in their honour, stating “These gifts will express the sincere best wishes of the people of Canada and bear witness to the affection Canadians have for the Royal Family.” Although the parkas reflected the royal couple’s interests, which included skiing and other outdoor activities, the gift sparked controversy in the press as it appeared to reinforce stereotypes about Canadian culture.
At the time of Prince Andrew’s wedding, there were rumours that the newly created Duke of York might be appointed Governor General of Canada and reside with the Duchess in Ottawa for a five year term. Other members of the royal family previously held this appointment including Queen Victoria’s son-in-law, Lord Lorne, King George V’s uncle, the Duke of Connaught and King George VI’s uncle, the Earl of Athlone.
During the reign of Elizabeth II, however, all Canadian Governors General were born in Canada and the Duke of York ultimately did not receive the appointment. In a 2009 interview, the Duchess of York speculated that their marriage might not have ended in divorce in 1996 if they had lived in Canada, telling the CBC, “We could have been Governor of Canada living in Ottawa in the Government House. It would have kept us together and we would probably be together now.”
The Duke and Duchess of York made well received official visits to Canada in 1987 and 1989, attending a diverse range of events including the Queen’s Plate horse race in Toronto, the 150th anniversary of the town of Cobourg and Jamboree 1989 at the Fort Amherst Provincial Park. The royal couple also undertook a fifteen day canoe expedition on the Hanbury-Thelon River in the Northwest Territories in 1987.
Since the Jean Chretien administration of 1993-2003, junior members of the royal family are no longer invited to Canada by the government for official visits. Nevertheless, the Duke of York continues to make frequent working and personal visits to Canada in support of the Lakefield College School, and his other Canadian charitable patronages and military appointments. The Duke of York is Honourary Colonel-in-Chief of three Canadian regiments, The Queen’s York Rangers, the Royal Highland Fusiliers of Canada and the Princess Louise Fusiliers.
The Duke of York’s 2013 visit to Vancouver and Victoria reflects his decades long personal relationship with Canada, his interest in promoting trade relationships between the various Canadian provinces and the United Kingdom, and his patronage of organisations that support youth athletics.
Buckingham Palace announced this week that the Prince of Wales will represent his mother, Queen Elizabeth II, at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) this fall in Colombo, Sri Lanka. The Queen is committed to her role as Head of the Commonwealth and has attended every one of these biennial meetings since 1971. The decision to send the Prince of Wales to Sri Lanka as the Queen’s representative in 2013 demonstrates that the 87 year old monarch is gradually reducing her overseas travel. In 2012, the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh toured the United Kingdom in honour of the Diamond Jubilee while their children and grandchildren visited all the commonwealth realms to mark the occasion. The Prince of Wales’s representation of the Queen at the 2013 CHOGM is part of the broader pattern. Click here for my interview with Janet Davison of CBC about the significance of the Prince of Wales attending CHOGM on the Queen’s behalf.
The Prince of Wales’s visit to Sri Lanka is also an example of the Queen carefully preparing her heir, and public opinion in both the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth realms, for a seamless transition between this reign and the next one. Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother lived to age of 101 and there is no reason to believe that the current Queen will not continue to reign for years to come but there is evidence that the Prince of Wales’s public role will continue to expand in the coming years in anticipation of his eventual ascension to the throne.
Prince Charles has participated in a number of high profile public engagements and commonwealth tours in 2012 and 2013. The role of Head of the Commonwealth is not hereditary. The Prince’s successful Diamond Jubilee tours of Canada, Australia and New Zealand in 2012 and attendance at CHOGM in 2013 affirm his commitment to eventually assuming this role and increase the likelihood that the Commonwealth Heads of Government will choose him as Elizabeth II’s successor as Head of the Commonwealth
Today, May 8, the Prince of Wales accompanied the Queen to the State Opening of Parliament at Westminster with the Duchess of Cornwall, the first time he has attended this event in 17 years. While the attendance of the Prince and Princess of Wales at State Openings of Parliament in the 1980s received public attention because of Diana’s fashions, the 2013 event showcases Charles in his role as future King.
Although Prince Charles’s reputation has improved considerably in recent years with greater public interest in his philanthropic and environment initiatives, successive opinion polls demonstrate that his mother, the Queen, and his sons, Prince William and Prince Harry remain more popular with the general public in both the United Kingdom and Commonwealth. The Prince of Wales’s second marriage to the former Camilla Parker-Bowles, his willingness to express his political opinions publicly and his increasing age have all prompted concerns about his suitability to become King. Prince Charles’s presence at high profile events such as the 2013 CHOGM and the State Opening of Parliament are all opportunities to demonstrate to the public that he has the experience and stature to serve as Head of State for sixteen nations in the twenty-first century.
As a young Princess, the current Queen experienced a similar “apprenticeship” from her father, King George VI that showcased her ability to effectively reign as a constitutional monarch through public engagements, wartime service and commonwealth tours. As Prince William explained to Robert Hardman in the 2011 book, Our Queen, “Back then there was a different attitude toward women. Being a young lady at twenty-five – and stepping into a job which many men thought they could probably do better – it must have been very daunting. And I think there was extra pressure for her to perform.”
George VI ensured that his elder daughter had the necessary training to overcome any skepticism about her ability to fulfill her constitutional role. Beginning in 1939, the thirteen year old Princess studied the history and structure of the British political system with Henry Marten, the Vice Provost of Eton College. During the final year of the Second World War, Elizabeth served at the Mechanical Transport Training Centre run by the Auxiliary Transport Service.
Princess Elizabeth completed her first commonwealth tour with the King and Queen in South Africa in 1947 then represented her father in Canada in 1951 and Kenya in 1952. If King George VI had not died in 1952 at the comparatively young age of fifty-six, this period of apprenticeship would have continued for decades in the manner of the current Prince of Wales’s preparation for his eventual ascension.
The Prince of Wales’s attendance at the 2013 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting as the Queen’s representative is part of a broader program of public events that present him to the public in his role as future King. Charles’s recent Diamond Jubilee Commonwealth Tours and presence at the 2013 State Opening of Parliament all demonstrate that he has been carefully prepared for the role of future monarch and that the Queen is planning for a seamless transition between her reign and that of her eldest son.