After traveling to Halifax, Cape Breton Island, Charlottetown and Cavendish, we came to the end of our honeymoon at Dalvay-by-the-Sea, the historic hotel in the Prince Edward Island National Park, on Dalvay Beach. This beautiful location has a long and colourful royal history, culminating in the 2011 visit by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.
Dalvay-by-the-Sea was built in 1895 by Alexander MacDonald, a wealthy businessman and former president of Standard Oil Company with John D. Rockefeller. Although MacDonald had made his fortune in Cincinnati, Ohio, he had spent his childhood in Scotland and named his new summer house after his boyhood home. At Dalvay-by-the-Sea, Prince Edward Island, Macdonald entertained on a grand scale, filling his majestic house with house guests.
As well as magnificent scenery of the North Shore there were numerous amenities at the estate including a bowling alley and a billiard room. To look after his summer guests, MacDonald employed a large number of servants including cooks, housemaids, a gardener, two butlers, two laundresses, a caretaker and two men to look after the horses and stable. When he died in 1910, MacDonald left his two granddaughters, sixteen-year-old Helena and seventeen-year-old Laura a $15 million fortune, making them among the wealthiest young women of their generation. Their father, MacDonald’s son-in-law, Edmund Stallo, was entrusted with the management of the estate until Laura and Helena came of age.
In circumstances familiar to fans of Downton Abbey, the American heiresses were courted by members of Europe’s titled but comparatively impoverished aristocracy. Both Laura and Helena married European aristocrats who held the title of Prince. Helena married Prince Michel Murat of France, a descendant of Napoleon Bonaparte’s sister Caroline, and her husband Joachim Marat, King of Naples. Laura married Prince Francesco Rospiglioisi of the former Holy Roman Empire, a descendant of the Earl of Newbergh who supported Charles II’s restoration to the English throne.
Unfortunately, Laura’s and Helena’s inheritance was mismanaged by the their father. Due a series of bad investments, the fortune had dwindled to almost nothing by the time they came of age and both ladies were divorced by their princely husbands. Unable to maintain the property in their reduced circumstances, Laura and Helena sold Dalvay-by-the-Sea for the sum owed in back taxes. The property changed hands a number of times before being acquired by the Canadian government in the 1950s to be leased as a hotel in the Prince Edward Island National Park.
Dalvay-by-the-Sea and Prince Edward Island’s North Shore are familiar to television audiences worldwide as the setting of the White Sands Hotel in The Road to Avonleaseries, based on Lucy Maud Montgomery’s novels, The Story Girl and The Golden Road. In common with Montgomery herself, the characters in her novels have a strong interest in royalty, and this popular royalism is reflected in The Road to Avonlea. The residents of Avonlea often express hope that a royal visitor will come to stay at the While Sands Hotel. For example, in Season 6, Episode 8, “Fools and Kings,” which is set in late fall, 1909, Hetty King hears a rumour that the future King George V will be visiting Avonlea and naturally will be staying at the community’s finest hotel. Hetty organizes a grand reception at the White Sands by the Daughters of the Dominion only to learn to her disappointment that there will not be a royal visitor.
The residents of Avonlea would have approved of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s visit to Dalvay-by-the-Sea during their 2011 tour of Canada. The Duchess of Cambridge is believed to be an admirer of Montgomery’s novels and the visit to Dalvay provided her with the opportunity to meet the cast of Anne of Green Gables the musical.
During their afternoon visit, the royal couple participated in a Dragon Boat race on Dalvay Lake with Prince William winning by a narrow margin. The Duke of Cambridge also highlighted the contributions made by Canada’s military to the training of search and rescue pilots by participating in a training session for the “waterbird” emergency landing procedure in a Sea King helicopter. The 2011 visit to Dalvay-by-the-Sea provided the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge with the opportunity to experience Prince Edward Island’s majestic natural environment first hand and visit a setting with its own royal history and culture.