A Royal Obsession – Part II

Albert Edward, Prince of Wales at the time of his visit to North America in 1860.

Reading a bit on the life of Albert Edward Saxe-Cobourg and Gotha (Edward VII) one can only imagine the field day the tabloids would have with him in this day and age. Though there were gossip magazines galore in Victorian England they tended to be chary in their handling of royal “affairs”. If Royal scandals surfaced – and scandals there were, I mean did you know he had mistresses???? Including the grandmother of Camillla… well enough said about that – it was in the Welsh, colonial and U.S. press seldom in the English newspapers or journals.

A few weeks ago in Sailstrait, his rich historic site on Island things nautical, Harry Holman told us about the American presses’ reporting on Albert Edward’s visit to Prince Edward Island in 1860. And though they were respectful to the Prince of Wales they were decidedly less so to our fair isle. This past week, to balance the scales, he told us about the visit as reported by the a far more circumspect British chroniclers of the age.


“Thy grandsire’s name distinguishes this isle;
We love thy mother’s sway, and court her smile.”
Banner hanging in the ballroom of the Colonial Building, Charlottetown 1860.

A recent posting on this site featured American accounts of the 1860 visit of the Prince of Wales to Charlottetown and highlighted, perhaps unfairly, the carnival-like atmosphere, overcrowding  and drunkenness which the journalists from the States chose to make a centerpiece of their reporting.  For the Americans, the Prince’s visit was a unique experience and their florid accounts strained to find moments of interest in what was oftentimes a repetition of the rounds of addresses, salutes, dinners and balls which would characterize the events across two nations as the Prince travelled to Canada and the United States.

Prince of Wales receiving addresses at Colonial Building 1860. London Illustrated News

For the English media, royal appearances were less of a one time event and more…

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Go Ahead Ask

For whom the bell tolls ….

The bells of Charlottetown’s beautiful St Dustan’s Basilica have been silent for the past 40 years but that is about to change come July 1st of this year.  A committee spearheaded by historian Catherine Hennessey and co-chaired by Kevin Murphy have worked tirelessly to have the structural problems that caused them to be silenced righted and to raise the $400,000.00 needed to refinish and retune the 17 bells, install the infrastructure and electronic system.

St. Dunstan’s Cathedral Basilica is a stone French Gothic church and was built in 1913 from the remains of the previous cathedral that had been damaged by fire that year. The fourth church on the site it is one of the most visible landmarks in Charlottetown. The only Roman Catholic cathedral and basilica in the province, it is one of the most elaborate churches in the Maritimes.

The bells were cast by Paccard Fondrie Des Cloches in Annecy, France and installed in the north tower of the church in 1928.  They are sister chimes to the bells at St Patrick’s Cathedral in New York and L’Oratoire St-Joseph-du-Mont-Royal in Montreal.  The restoration work is being done by the Christoph Paccard Bellfoundries in South Carolina.

The good people at Vintage Charlottetown posted this video from Cocktail-VP showing how the bells would have been cast back in 1927-28.  The foundry in this case is the famous Whitechapel Bell Foundry in London but the process was the same – and with few modernizations as it has been for centuries.

This video ends before the tuning processes is shown.  When the bells of St Dunstan’s were cast they would have been tuned using tuning forks and lathes.  As Nigel Taylor, the head tuner at Whitechapel, explains techniques have evolved considerably even over the past ten years.

I’m looking forward to hearing that first peal of bells on July 1st as we celebrate the 150th Birthday of my country.  I can think of no more joyful sound.

On this day in 1855: “Border Ruffians” from Missouri invade Kansas and force election of a pro-slavery legislature.