Fremantle Stuff > Early Days: Journal and Proceedings of the Royal Western Australian Historical Society
Honniball , J.H.M. 1980, 'Our first royal visitor: Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh', Volume 8, Part 4: 65-82.
[scan not completely corrected]
Prince Alfred and party with their hosts in Government House gardens, Perth, 1869. Prince Alfred is seated on the balustrade; at his left is Mrs. Lefroy, and behind her, her husband, Anthony O’Grady Lefroy. Lord Charles Beresford is standing at the head of the steps; at the foot is Colonel Bruce, the Acting-Governor and nearest him is Miss Louisa Hare (later Mrs. Septimus Burt). By courtesy of The Library Board of W.A. this photograph is reproduced, with apologies for some defects.
The first royal visit to Western Australia was made, in 1869, by Queen Victoria’s second son. Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh, who was then serving m the Royal Navy as Captain of His Mother’s Ship Galatea. A short account of the visit was read to the Historical Society in 1934 by Miss Dircksey Cowan, but her paper was never published in the annual Journal. She began by saying:
“Few living now remember this visit. Miss Dorothea Lefroy was too young to remember the Duke but recalls her mother Mrs. Anthony O’Grady Lefroy being called upon to act as hostess at Government House. The final arrangements had been very hurried and Mrs Lefroy told of the many household problems in arranging Government House satisfactorily, and in stocking the larder, “no easy thing in those days”. A household staff had also to be engaged. Table silver and plenishings were borrowed, with the result that a brave show was contrived for the formal dinners.” (1)
Dorothea Lefroy was nine years of age at the time of the visit, and seventy-five when Miss Cowan read her paper.
In 1869 a royal visit was a rare phenomenon indeed for a remote outpost of the empire. For two hundred years past, only princes who were likewise in the armed services had so crossed the oceans, and until lately they had crossed only the Atlantic. During Western Australia’s first forty years there were scarcely any members of the royal family of suitable age and station who could possibly have undertaken a lengthy overseas voyage. However, imperial sentiment was gathering new strength, communications were fast improving, and a new pattern was able to be established.
In accordance with the wish of his father the Prince Consort, the young Prince Alfred had entered the navy at the age of fourteen. Four years later, in 1863, the Greeks had elected him by overwhelming popular vote to fill their vacant throne, but the offer had to be declined when it was revealed that a
secret treaty between the great powers - Britain, France, and Russia - forbade the candidature of any of their own royal scions; the throne went instead to a Danish prince, brother of the new Princess of Wales. The opportunity was now taken to decide the future of a smaller but safer throne in central Germany, that of the duchy of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. As it appeared that the reigning duke would not be producing any legitimate offspring by his duchess, the throne looked destined to pass to the eldest son of the late and much lamented Prince Albert. But, as it was considered undesireable that the Prince of Wales should succeed both in little Coburg and in Great Britain, the decision was taken that his next brother, Alfred, should be declared heir to Coburg and meanwhile continue his naval career.
When he was twenty-two and newly created Duke of Edinburgh, Alfred was given command of H.M.S. Galatea and instructed to cruise around the world. After calling on the Emperor of Brazil at Rio, he was to go on to the Cape Colony and then proceed “to the west coast of Australia, and visit Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Hobart” and New Zealand. Advised thus by the Admiralty, the Duke of Buckingham as Secretary of State for the Colonies, wrote on 1st May 1867 to Governor Hampton in Perth, saying that the prince ‘would probably visit the colony under your government in the course of the present year’. Great preparations were accordingly made in Perth, and , among other things, it was planned that the prince should open the new bridges across the Swan River at Perth and Guildford, both of them constructed with the abundant convict labour. Hordes of Aborigines also converged on Perth in October 1867 in order to stage a grand corroborree for the expected visitor.
Alas! Settlers and natives watched in vain day after day for the Galatea, and eventually learned, with great dismay, that the vessel had sailed straight from the Cape to Adelaide. Expressions of disappointment and of protest were soon conveyed to England, and the colonists sought compensation for the expense they had incurred for decorations and other outlay. In reply the Colonial Office authorised payment of compensation, but stipulated it should come from the colonial rather than the imperial treasury! The relevant despatch drew comment from the Herald, the vigorous newspaper that had begun publication at Fremantle that year:
“In it His Grace of Buckingham gets rid of the querulous and unpleasant remonstrances addressed to him on account of the go-bye given to us by Prince Alfred when in the Australian waters . . . We are disposed to think that the Admiralty were glad to avail themselves of the bad reputation of our roadstead to cover their own ignorance of where Perth was situated, in fact of the latitude and longitude of this overlooked colony ... We blush for the colony requesting the good offices of the Duke of Buckingham to obtain payment out of imperial funds of money expended in preparing for the visit.” (2)
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Meanwhile Western Australian readers followed with interest the newspapers’ accounts of the prince’s progress in the other colonies. When in March 1868 he narrowly escaped assassination by an Irishman in Sydney, the Swan River settlers were just as concerned and outraged as their eastern brethren, and sent heartfelt messages of sympathy and relief to the sailor prince and his august mother.
Then, early the following year, the colonists rejoiced to hear that the prince was to make another cruise in Australian waters and would soon be in their midst. Buckingham’s despatch conveying the glad tidings was dated 5th November 1868, but evidently missed the proper monthly mail connection and took eleven weeks to reach Perth. The extract from the prince’s schedule which the Government Gazette reproduced on 26th January 1869 showed he should arrive at Swan River at the end of January and depart at the beginning of February! No wonder they were in such haste with their preparations at Government House.
For three months now the colony had been awaiting a new Governor, as Hampton had left when his term of office expired, and his announced successor had failed to appear when due. The temporary vice-regal mantle had fallen on Colonel Bruce, commandant of the military forces. As Mrs. Bruce was absent in England, the colonel had quickly to summon his daughter from her normal duties at ‘Cambray’ as wife of the Colonial Treasurer, Lefroy.
Bishop Hale described the scene in a letter he wrote to his daughter in England on 2nd February:
“The whole place is in no little excitement about the visit of the Duke of Edinburgh. He is fully due here now according to the official programme. Is it not funny that our old friend Bruce should after all be the Governor to receive him? He has asked me to accompany him on board the Galatea on her arrival ... Mama declines entering into the affair at all. The colonel not only invited her to the ball but seemed quite to wish her to go to one of the dinner parties that she might sit next to His Royal Highness. She says she almost faints at the very idea. Dear Aunt Flora’s death enables her, without any appearance of disrespect or want of loyalty, to excuse herself. Aunt Georgie means to stay away also. I have accepted for the ball. The Colonel expressed a strong desire for my presence, and took the trouble to look up a case in which Bishop Heber had attended on a similar occasion and that to go is the proper thing for me to do. Mrs. Lefroy has gone into Government House to do the Governor’s lady and to take care of His Royal Highness. I hear that she is looking dreadfully tired and used up with the labour of preparing. I hope she will last through the affair itself. A four-in-hand is provided for the youth, and if he stays about a couple of days I dare say they may manage to amuse him. But if he makes a much longer visit than that they will be terribly put to it to entertain him.” (3)
It is true that Mrs. Hale was of a rather retiring nature, but might she perhaps have had other reason to prefer avoiding the prince? The Molloy sisters must
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surely have known that their paternal grandfather was reputedly a royal duke of earlier times and that, apparently in fact, if not by accepted conventions, they were second-cousins to Alfred. (4)
On Wednesday 3rd February the Galatea hove into sight. Of 3,227 tons, the huge man-of-war was by far the largest vessel ever yet seen in Gage Roads and a spectacle in itself. Moreover, in bringing not just a prince, but 570 sailors, it offered the isolated colonists a welcome opportunity for social intercourse with visitors in number that was a rare experience a century ago. The visit lasted five days, and at the end of this ‘occasion of such unparalleled moment’ in the colony’s history, Colonel Bruce sent to England a formal summary of the whole proceedings:
“At one o’clock p.m. [on the 3rd] I proceeded to Fremantle, accompanied by His Lordship the Bishop of Perth, His Honor the Chief Justice, and some of the superior officers of the Government, for the purpose of waiting upon the Duke of Edinburgh and ascertaining His Royal Highness’ pleasure with respect to future arrangements.
On our boarding the vessel I had the honor of being received by the Prince himself at the gangway, and from thence conducted with my party to His Royal Highness’ saloon, where, after ascertaining the probable period of the Galatea's stay in our waters, I proposed certain arrangements, which were graciously approved by His Royal Highness.
The following day at half past one o’clock the Prince landed at the South Bay jetty, under a royal salute from the field pieces attached to the Enrolled Pensioner Force, and received an address from the inhabitants of the port, represented by the chairman of the Town Trust and other townspeople ... I enclose copies of the address and the reply of His Royal Highness.
Fremantle was amply decorated with flags, and with loyal devices and words of welcome to the illustrious visitor. The streets were lined by soldiers of the 14th Regiment, Enrolled Pensioners, and Volunteers.
Carriages were in readiness, and I accompanied His Royal Highness and suite to Perth, where similar preparations had been made by the authorities and people to welcome the son of their beloved sovereign.
After a brief period of rest at Government House, where I had the honor of receiving the Prince and his suite as my guests, His Royal Highness drove through the streets of the city, and inspected the Pensioners’ barracks, and viewed the various other public buildings.
On the next day His Royal Highness held a levee at Government House, when addresses were presented by the bishop and the clergy, and by the inhabitants of Perth, and of other parts of the colony. I enclose copies of these addresses, and of the replies graciously made thereto by His Royal Highness. In the afternoon the Prince drove to Guildford, a prettily situated village about nine miles distant.
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Great eagerness was manifested on the part of the inhabitants of the colony to give expression to their loyalty through the truly English medium of public entertainments, and several fetes were accordingly proposed, but a public ball on the night of the 5th instant was the only demonstration that the limited stay of His Royal Highness would allow.
The next day, Saturday the 6th, His Royal Highness drove to Fremantle and visited the Convict Establishment. I had the honor of accompanying His Royal Highness, and the Comptroller-General, Mr Wakeford, met the Prince at the gate and conducted him over the prison. His Royal Highness was afterwards present at a cricket match between the officers of the Galatea, and some of the inhabitants of Perth and Fremantle, after which he returned to Perth.
During the Prince’s first journey to the seat of government, as well as on all other occasions when His Royal Highness drove out, the escort consisted of six well-mounted and efficient Dragoon Pensioners clothed, armed, and equipped as Hussars, under the able direction of Major Crampton. Each man of the six had borne his part in one or more great battle, and one exhibited across his face a sabre cut received in the renowned Balaclava charge: a more efficient escort Hounslow could not furnish, and at my request Captain Fawcett of the Pinjarra Mounted Volunteers, an active young man and formerly an officer of Dragoons, took command of the party. By this arrangement the Prince was most efficiently guarded, without placing the Mounted Police in immediate contact with the royal carriage.
On the morning of the 7th the Prince left Government House, and being Sunday requested that there should be no guard of honor or salute. I had the honor of accompanying His Royal Highness by invitation, who, out of respect to the day, proceeded on foot by a retired path to the Perth jetty, where the Galatea's steam launch was in waiting.
When close to the bar at the mouth of the river the launch grounded upon a sandbank, whereupon a gang of 21 convicts who, being employed upon a public work, were hutted on the adjacent shore, plunged at once into the river and by their exertions forced the launch into water that carried her over the bar. I consider this circumstance the more interesting from the fact of the gang in question being composed of men of exceedingly troublesome character. On the occurrence I mentioned to the Prince that this prompt and spontaneous act of duty should not go unrewarded, which promise appeared to gratify His Royal Highness, and I have since authorised the Comptroller-General to grant to each man a remission of 12 months’ gang labor.
I had the honor of partaking of breakfast and luncheon, as well as of attending Divine Service, on board the Galatea with His Royal Highness, and about 3 o’clock, a few minutes before the ship proceeded to sea, I experienced a cordial and graceful leave-taking from her illustrious Captain, whose benign presence during his brief visit truly radiated our shore.
It is with unalloyed pleasure that I take the opporunity of confirming the
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testimony so frequently borne by former Governors of this colony to the warm loyalty and attatchment to the throne and person of Her Majesty the Queen felt by the inhabitants of Western Australia, and conspicuously displayed by the hearty and unaffected manner of their reception of His Royal Highness; and I have the further gratification of being able to assure Your Grace that, during the visit of His Royal Highness, the good order and observance of the laws, usually maintained by the inhabitants of the colony, were apparent in a remarkable degree.” (5)
The references that Bruce made to the prince’s safety and protection were significant, and he had no need to amplify them for the Colonial Office. The local authorities were not only mindful of the near tragedy in Sydney a year earlier, but also wary of Fenian sympathies in the community’s substantial Irish minority, which included many of the Pensioners as well as ex-convicts. However, there was an ample military presence, as 167 men of the 14th Regiment had been secured from Hobart the previous June for a year’s tour of duty. Bruce himself had at first opposed the importation, but the soldiers proved popular with the colonists for having shown their prowess in the new game of Australian-rules football. Since 1863 local security had relied on the Police and Pensioner forces, and on the newly raised Volunteer corps, although again Bruce had his reservations about the glamorous mounted unit at Pinjarra that was inspired by Captain Fawcett. In his despatch then, the colonel failed to mention the speed of the first royal progresses through Fremantle and Perth which disappointed the large crowds lining the streets and showered them with dust; the subsequent and slower royal drives were evidently designed to make amends. Bruce also overlooked such things as the prince’s initial visit ashore incognito and the various local squabbles and incidents, but gave London further general reports by sending copies of Arthur Shenton’s newspaper, the Perth Gazette.
An account of quite a different kind was published in the young Fremantle newspaper whose proprietors were a pair of talented ex-convicts. The Herald had already acquired a reputation for its fearless satirical criticism of the colony’s rulers, and particularly for its regular column called ‘Chips by a Sandalwood Cutter’, in which a vagabond known as Chips recorded his experiences amongst all walks of colonial society. Chips dealt with the royal visit in three successive issues of the weekly paper (6), the first number appearing on the Saturday that the Galatea was in port, with his column thus:
PRINCE ALFRED’S ARRIVAL
I was sittin’ under a tree on the Perth Road, and quietly smokin’ a pipe of Solomon and Nephews’ cut Aromatic, and sippin’ a cup of Carter & Co’s cannister coffee, and thinkin’ what’s the next thing I can send to them ‘rael boys’ of the Herald, when I hears a horse cornin’ along
I just managed to get to the road side as a pleceman on a grey horse comes tearin' up. “Hullo” I sings out. “Prince ... Galatea” and he was out of sight.
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Here’s a row thinks I! O! wont there be a hexplosion! Nobody ready, everythin’ in a muddle, — just like Swan River. It wasn’t long before I saw people gallipin’ and runnin’ about in all directions. Just at that minute there comes along a trap with only one driver in it and I calls out “give us a lift” and jumpin’ up was soon fiyin’ along the road to Fremantle.
“There she is! there she is!! there she is!!!” screams the feller drivin’, lookin’ over the sand hills out to sea, “there she is!” and he lays into the horse right and left. I looked, and all I could see was a jolly lot of smoke, and thinks I, that aint bad now. If the Royal Captain’s a bit of wag, as I’ve no doubt he is, he’s been sayin’ to somebody on board “Put on the coals and make a smoke, there’s plenty on shore if them good people of Swan River can see us, so we may as well have a little here among ourselves at sea”, and puff!! puff!! puff!!! I could see the smoke goin’ up in the sky. Them stokers is pitchin’ it on, and if some of them £4 householders and taxpayers as got a vote in England now was to see all that smoke, they’d be tryin’ to get their member Mr Dodges to move for a return of coals used on board the Galatea. ” (A reference to the Reform Act of 1867).
Soon after we was in Fremantle, everybody runnin’ about not knowin’ exactly where they was goin’. “Here she is’,” that’s about what every [body] said to everybody, except that some was wonderin’ how she managed to get so close without bein’ seen. And still the smoke kept puffin’ up and out of the funnel as tho’ it knew what was goin’ on, and larfin’ and enjoyin’ the fun.
Poor steady-goin’ Swan River never had such a excitement, there was some on horseback and some on foot. Some carryin’ flags, some carryin’ flowers, and nobody knowin’ exactly what to do. There was the Pensioners gettin’ them old guns ready to fire the salute, and the good tempered Captain (Finnerty), his face all smiles, orderin’ this and orderin’ that, and afraid he wouldn’t have time to put on his clothes before the gun went off, for the ship wouldn’t wait, but kept comin’ in nearer and nearer and the smoke puffin’ and larfin’ at all the hurry and flurry.
Everyone as had a flag or anythin’ that would do for one, hung it out of the window, or pulled it to the top of a pole or stretched it across the street until in a very short time the place looked like a fair. Everythin’ was forgotten, but the Prince and the Galatea. The English mail was nearly forgotten, people who was goin’ to write long letters, took a sheet of paper and scratched,“Prince coming’ - can’t write too excited.”
At last the anchor went down and the guns went off — our guns on the hill — and everybody was listenin’ for the ship to fire but she didn’t or if she did we didn’t hear. It was said as the Prince was seen with a hear trumpet listenin’, fancyin’ he heard guns from the shore, but as he wasn’t quite sure he didn’t let his guns off in return.
After waitin’ a long time to see if there was to be any firin’, people went away to cook their dinners — no one was left in the houses to get ‘em ready.
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It wasn't very long before the Governor and the Bishop and the Judge and the Col.Sect. and the Surveyor General and the Private Secretary came tearin’ down in one of Mr D. Leech’s whirlwinds — and went off to the Galatea, a good many of the heavies sheddin’ a tear that they couldn’t go. When they came back - they wasn’t long away - they looked as happy as men just married, and cut off to Perth to tell their friends the news, and let people see how they looked, after talkin’ to a Prince.
In the afternoon I was strollin’ on the jetty in the river, and I see a ugly little thing of a steamer cuttin’ along, and I thinks I’ll stop and see who’s cornin’. The ugly steamer and another boat, a long one, a “gig” a sailor called it, come up, and a lot of regular first-class swells got out. ‘I knows you,’ thinks I, fixin’ my eye on one in particular, ‘if you aint the very individual as they’re all dyin’ to see, I don’t know sandalwood from mahogany.’ But I aint the one to let on and when I saw him lookin’ at me I just moved off as tho’ I hadn’t taken any particular notice - and then I sees him goin’ right up the street, and I will say this, as he looked pleased at what the people was doin’ to show how glad they are he’s come. It wasn’t known for a certain it was him, and a good job, for some of our gals as hadn’t got themselves up for the occasion in their Sunday best, would have dropped down stone dead. He went off again quite quiet and there wasn’t many as knew him - tho’ he’s one as once seen aint to be forgotten.
I didn’t go the bonfires in the evenin’, I was too tired - but I hope the Town Trust spent about £20 in fireworks and give away some beer.
I saw him come ashore the next day. There was more goin’ on than I can tell you just now - the people screamin’ and how he was run throu’ the town that quick that nobody could sec him, and most people thought the person sittin’ by the driver was the Prince. I was a goin’ up to Perth after ‘em but couldn’t get up in time. Well it was a pity as they didn’t give everybody a chance of seein’ him, as he dont look one bit like the kind of man they say he is. But I spose it was my old friend the Kernel’s fault. There aint no making’ anything’ of him - he’s reglar cross grained. Why I actually heard he was that jealous as he wouldn’t let them Pinjarrah Volunteers as offered to pay all their own expenses, act as a gard to the Prince.
And what a precious mess he’s made of them invitations to the ball. He hadn’t many friends before and he’ll have less now, and tho’ he and I is upon good terms, I must say, it wouldn’t matter much if he hadn’t got any. Ah my friend I’ve often give you a bit of advice an you’d do well to act upon it.
It’s pretty cheeky of me p’raps to say anythin’ to a real live Prince, but he don’t look as tho’ he was easy made angry, and so I’m just goin’ to say one or two words to him - he wont hear them anywhere else, and I shant have a chance of writin’ again before he’s gone.
‘It aint no use of denyin’ it, this place is got a awful bad name, and I daresay that went a long way to preventin’ your Royal Highness coinin’ here last time
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you was in Australia. Well havin’ made up your mind to come here - I’m pretty certain you’ll go away with a better opinion of it than you had - and though there aint as many people here, nor as much money as there is in the other colonies you went to last year, yet we’re as loyal, as warmhearted, and as lovin’ as they arc, and if we cant make quite as big a show as they did - why we’ve done all we could and your Royal Highness recollects the parable of the wider’s mite — and you’ll know how to look on the poor but hearty efforts we’ve made to give you a joyful reception. “Chips” aint given to flatterin’ or even makin’ kind speeches - but he’ll just say this, that if all the voices of eveybody in the colony could be made to utter one sound at this moment it would be WELCOME — and when you go - GOD BLESS YOU.’
SIGHTS AND SOUNDS DURIN’ THE PRINCE’S VISIT
“Well it’s all over - the Prince has been and gone, or as my dear old friend Stebbin’ (Edmund Stirling, editor of the Inquirer) has it in his paper of Wednesday in b’utiful poetry — such as Lord Bryon couldn’t write:
‘The sun of that moment has set
He came, he is gone — we met.”
... Look at that now. Aint that poetry worth quoting? and aint it a credit to the paper as printed it?
... I shouldn’t a mentioned poor Stebbin’ in this paper, only he really was one of the “sights” durin’ the Prince’s stay — runnin’ about everywhere — talkin’ to everybody — and his reporters hirin’ boats and horses and makin’ a dust that you’d a thought would have had more in it than what 1 saw on Wednesday, when the Inquirer came out.
Poor old feller, thinks I, after all you aint a very bad sort, only you’ve been so long livin’ in “Sandy Hollow”, and so ordered by this one and that one, that you aint hardly able to think for yourself, and just repeats what you hear others say - it’s a pity you don’t try and think a little bit more for yourself, and be a trifle more independent.
The Perth Blister (Perth Gazette), however, beat him holler - hirin’ a steamer all to himself to go to the ship — dinin’ with the Prince - appearin’ at the ball - But we’ll come to these things presently.
Of course everybody knows that Chips has a friend at court, that lets him in and out, or how could he see and hear the things that he does? Well I was traper-sin’ about Perth, wonderin’ how on earth I should manage to see what I wanted to see and hear what I wanted to hear, when who should run agin me under them mulberry trees where I was shadin’ myself from the sun, and wipin’ my face,
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but this very friend, and without any fliss, “Chips”, says he, “here’s a bit of paper, and it’ll admit you anywhere. One word,” says he, just as he was slippin’ away. “Don’t be too hard on the old Kernel”.
“He'll get what he deserves,” I says, “and nothing more or less”.
The very same night, Thursday, I was just goin’ in the door of Cover’ ment House, when I runs up agin somebody. It was just that nasty kind of light when you can see a person, but can’t tell who he is.
“May I ask who I has the honor of addressin’?” says I, suspectin’ who it was by his voice.
“Alfred,” says he, “ and may I ask who you are?” he says.
“Certainly, my name’s Chips,” I says in a whisper.
“How are you?” he says, takin’ my hand and givin’ it a shake, “I was told about you as soon as I came ashore, and was wishin to see you.”
“Well here I am Sir,” I says, “And what do you think of the place?”
“Well.” he says, “between us, I aint seen much of the place, but the little I have seen I don’t dislike, but the people - at least them as I’ve seen and spoken to - they’re the queerest lot I’ve met in all my travels. They seem as tho’ they was all born a hundred years ago, an are all as jealous as children. If one of ‘em sees me speakin’ to another, he looks as glum as a child as has had its cake taken away. I can’t make ‘em out, I don’t feel easy among ‘em and such tales as they tell me, I declare I’m very near frightened.’
“Don’t you believe ‘cm.” I says, “You’re as safe here as in Buckin’am Palace. There aint a man in the colony as wouldn’t lay down and let you walk on him -but they tells you these tales to keep you to their selves.”
“Arc you cornin’ to the dinner tonight?” he says.
“Well, no I don’t think I am,” I answeres, “I could go, but I don’t want to be known”.
“That’s easily managed,” says he, “I’ll lend you a suit of uniform.”
‘Thankee,” says I.
“Come this way.” says he, and I follered him into a little room. “There”’ he says, “in that bag you’ll find some clones; you can keep ‘em till I’m goin’ (away, and while you’ve got ‘em on, nobody’ll ask you any questions,” and he went out.
I soon had the clo’es on, but Lor’ I felt as awkward as a cow in a crinoline
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— however, out I goes, and everybody I met was a-touchin’ their hats and bowin’. Hooky Walker, thinks I, if they only know’d it, wouldn’t there be a jolly row, touchin’ their hats to that vagabond Chips.
Well after all it ain’t the person people pays respect to so much as place. Even the Kernel when he passed me lifted his hat, but if he’d know’d me he’d a lifted his foot, tho’ I am his friend.
I was at the dinner — a very solemn affair. I’ve seen a good deal merrier feeds at a funeral. Everybody looked miserable and seemed glad when it was over.
As the Prince was leavin’ the room he pinches me, and whispers, “Give it ‘em next week.”
“Well Kurnell”. I says meetin’ him with his hat in his hand, runnin’ to pick up somethin’ he saw the Prince drop, “why didn’t you have the Pinjarrah Volunteers?”
“Just because I wouldn’t,” says he.
“But they offered to bear their own expenses,” says I.
“I don’t care,” says Kernel. “I wouldn’t gratify ‘em, they can go home as they came. If they want to be soldiers let ‘em go somewhere and ‘list - they ain’t goin’ to play soldiers here, just because the Prince is come.”
“Well,” says I, “it ain’t fair and you shows a bad paltry spirit in keepin’ ‘em away — why even old Hampton wouldn’t a done that.”
“I don’t care”, he says, “They ain’t a comin and they can growl as much as they please.”
When I mentioned it to the Prince, as we was strollin’ out early afore anybody was up, says he, “Just what I should have expected from the old feller,” he says, “He has it in his face. I wish he’d a let ‘em come, I should have liked to see ‘em, young colonials ain’t they?”
“Yes,” I says, “some of ‘our boys’ and rare fellers they are too.”
“He never spoke to me about ‘em’” says the Prince, “or I should have said, let ‘em come by all means — make everybody happy, and let everybody see me. But he’s a cross grained old soldier and you can’t expect much from him. You’re cornin’ to the ball I s’pose?” says he. “I shall want you to tell me who they all are.”
“Yes,” I says, “I shall be there,” and so I was, and a pretty ball it turned
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out! - a reglar muddle, and the least said about it the better. Scores there had no right to be there, and scores left out who ought to have been asked - and the Prince quite annoyed, not bein’ introduced to more ladies, but obliged to go and play cards with old fogies.
Then the Prince got wind of the row outside through not invitin’ the merchants to the ball, and says he to me, “I’m off, and if I’d know’d how it was to be I wouldn’t a come. Why because I visited an old sailor as I know’d at home (Crokc, the Harbourmaster) they’re that jealous they’re ready to eat their fingers’ ends. Yours is a queer colony, but they’re queerer people that govern it. Narrow minded and selfish. You won’t do any good till you get a change of rulers.’’
“They intended havin’ that,’’ says I.
“And the sooner the better,’’ says he. “Bye the bye,’’.says he, “Who is that as is drivin’ me about?’’
“Well,” says I. “about as deservin’ a person as there is in the colony,’’ and what’s more,” says I, “only for him, blow’d if you wouldn’t a had to be wheeled about in a wheel-barrow - they couldn’t a got the things, and if you knowed how they’ve humbugged him you’d pity him and make him a present.”
“It was a first rate turn out,” says the Prince, “and I’m blessed if I don’t give him somethin’,” but whether he did or not, I can’t say. There’s no knowin’ what was said, and Mr De Leech ain’t a pet of the Kernel’s nor the Kernel’s son-in-law, I know — or they wouldn’t a been tryin’ to borrow horses here and harness there, to try and do without him, but they couldn’t.
On Sunday mornin’ when I saw the Prince — he says “Good bye old fellow. I’m advised to go the back way. I should liked to a stayed a day longer but I’m frightened. — Come off to lunch, you can come in them close I lent you and you can leave‘em,” - and so I did — and a precious long chat we had, which I intends sendin’ next week.
A little lunch party came off, not to eat and drink but to get their prizes -there was only one really worth anythin’, and that went where everybody envied it. The Prince winked at me for he saw the sour looks, and says he, “That’s just how I like to serve ‘em. Good bye old feller,“ he says, “and mind and send on the Herald to Sydney.”
A CHAT WITH THE PRINCE, AND NOTES ON THE BALL
I told you last week, as how the Prince said to me, “Come off to lunch -and we’ll have a chat.”
I ain’t easy flattered, but I did feel a little bit proud at this, and where’s the man as wouldn’t a been? — Why I’ve been told this very last week that a person
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was a boastin’ about havin’ a lock of Alfred’s hair - and on making particler enquiry of a female friend of mine as was assistin’ at Govcr’ment House - and tellin’ her what I’d heard - she says, “Well if people won’t go for to do anythin’ out of tryin’ to make themselves look great and grand, a boastin’ and tellin’ stories that it’s a mercy the earth don’t open and swallcr ‘cm up. Why that person if I didn’t see her with these here eyes - as don’t need spectacles to see the meanness of them as thinks themselves above them as was once their betters, but has come down through the way of Providence which as we are told in the catechism we must submit unto - a gatherin’ the hair out of the comb and brush as was used by Prince Alfred Victoria, and I a wonderin’ what she was doin’, as little thought she meant to go about boastin’ as makes my flesh creep as they can do it and not expect a judgement on ‘em.”
But I’m a wanderin’ any where. However, at last I gets on board, and the Prince seein’ me runs up and takes me by the hand and sayin’, “Glad to see you. ”
When we gets in the cabin he gives me a cheer and asks me what I’d take and I says, “A little brandy please,” and he gets it - then he shuts the door and says, “Now we’re alone and we can say what we like.”
“And how do you like the colony Sir?” I says - I didn’t say Royal Highness, it’s such a mouthful and I was afraid it’d choke me if I tried it.
“Oh much better than I thought I should. In England they ain’t any idea it’s such place. I don’t think I ever was more deceived - I thought when I come ashore — there would be nothin’ but convicts with ugly faces ready to rob you of a sixpence, and plecemen as thick as bees lookin’ after ‘em, and yet I couldn’t tell the ones who’d been prisoners from the others who hadn’t.”
“Yes,” I says, ‘The country’s got a bad name it don’t deserve, but I spose we’ll get over it — and how did you like the ball Sir?” I asks.
“Oh,” says he, ‘That’s the thing - tell me Chips what you’re goin’ to say about it — I want to know. I thought ‘em a queer lot bundlin’ me off to play whist and not lettin’ me dance with any of the young ladies, and I saw a good many pretty ones there —’‘specially one as carried her head like a queen and danced better than any other in the room - I’d a given anythin’ to a danced with her. I was too much pestered by old people to enjoy myself - When I was in Adelaide dear old Sir Dominic Daly said “I’m a old man, your Royal Highness, and ain’t of course company for you. Here’s Government House - make yourself at home in it, and make your own amusement; the public entertainments I’ll look after, but I’m old enough to know that the old don’t suit the young for companions.’ Well I was as happy there as in any place in my life - why didn’t your governor do the same?”
“Well I don’t know,” says I, “But he’s been here so many years and he’s got so many relations about him, and ain’t himself over wise or liberal that his conduct ain’t to be wondered at — He’s to be pitied as much as blamed.”
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*i read what you said about him in yesterday’s paper,“ says the Prince, “and 1 expect you’ll catch it from his friends.”
“Can’t help it Sir. I knows the Herald won’t do more than its duty and I’m quite sure it won’t flinch from it - Colonel Bruce’s friends didn’t make a noise when Governor Hampton caught it. Them fellers of the Herald wouldn’t screen anybody, not their best friends - and they ought to be respected for it, that’s what writers in papers ought to do.”
“But about the ball,” says the Prince.
“Well I ain’t got much written but I’ll just read you what I’ve taken down.
Note 1. — Prince settin’ in drawin’ room - persons cornin’, go in and bobs their heads and the Prince bobs his and the person goes out and gets upstairs to the ball room. A good many persons looked very frightened, and as tho’ they didn’t enjoy themselves.
2. - The Prince goes to ball room, and bobs his head to everybody, and everybody who was standin’ up bobs their heads - Notices a person they said was connnected with the smallest paper in the colony with the largest quantity of extracts - bobs very low.
3. - Prince comes down very grave and takes a lady to dance. Kernel Bruce did the same, and the lady dancin’ with the Prince looked very happy; all the others tried to look as tho’ they didn’t care, but couldn’t manage it and looked awful mis’rable.
(For the opening quadrille the Prince took as his partner Mrs Lefroy, and Colonel Bruce led Mrs Barlee. For his fourth note, Chips recorded that another young lady (Louisa Hare) had the honour of a waltz with the royal guest; but after that the prince danced no more, being rather fatigued, so the Inquirer claimed, after a long day that had begun with an early morning shooting excursion on the river.)
5. - Great row about a door slammin’ between two persons, one little and the other big, one with red hair and one with white...
6. - Great hubbub gettin’ into supper - some got tickets, some ain’t -Crowdin’, squeezin’ and crushin’ - speeches awful. . . Everybody was starin’ at them two servants of the Prince’s in beautiful close, and their heads done all over with flour. “Ain’t they his brothers?” says a gall to me. “No,” I says, “one’s his footman and the other his piper.” “oh, one looks after his pipe, and the other his boots, I s’pose,” she says.
(In the piper, Chips was referring to the Duke of Edinburgh’s practice of being attended on formal occasions by a bagpipes player clad in tartan and kilt.)
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He alluded to three other rows before concluding:
10. - Peeped in at the card party - awfully dull. . . Tall nice-looking lady (Mrs Leake) loses but looks pleased.
“Thems all I have at present Sir,” I says, “I’m goin’ to fill ‘cm in and send ‘em to the Herald. ”
“Don’t alter ‘cm a bit,” says he, “Send ‘em just as they are - they’re first rate and take this,” says he a slippin’ a purse with soverins into my hand.
“Thank you Sir,” I says, “And if I can I’ll write some poetry about you next week.”
“Who was that person with white trousers and gold stripes?”
“Oh that was the Chancilor of our exchequer,” (Lefroy) says I.
“I thought he was a Austrian staff officer, ha! ha!, Good bye Chips, Good bye,” and he handed me over the ship’s side.’
(The first row in the ballroom which Chips mentioned evidently referred to the miller from Bunbury who, as Bishop Hale told his daughter, “was very angry because he was not introduced to the prince and did not shake hands with him.” Although the colonel invited 400 guests, some of the snobs nursed a grievance, Hale said, ‘because everyone was not asked to the ball. As it was, the place was so crowded that dancing was a matter of no little difficulty.’ (7) Doubtless the local citizens particularly enjoyed the rare treat of hearing a new band - that of the Galatea — to whose music they danced until 3 a.m.)
The issue of the Herald containing Chips’ second and third instalments were in fact sent on to Sydney by direction of the Colonial Secretary, Barlec. To see himself treated with such familiarity in print was very likely an unusual experience for the royal captain, but he probably took it in good part. The colonel, however, was not so amused at the relentless criticism of himself in the news paper, and the bishop ‘determined to discontinue taking it’. (8)
The royal visit and the absence of a proper Governor combined to make a crisis of the long-standing animosity between the Conservative Bruce and Barlec, the frustrated Liberal. Bruce knew that Barlec had granted the editor of the Herald an interview shortly after the royal visit, and, moreover, the newspaper complained that the prince had been too much appropriated by the Acting-Governor and his family, while the Colonial Secretary and the Attorney-General (G.F. Stone) had been kept in the background. When Bruce reported this and other episodes to the Colonial Office, Barlec maintained that he had merely given the editor information about the colony’s finances and that all newspapers alluding to the duke’s visit had been sent on at the request of a royal equerry who had parti-
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cularly stressed the Fremantle paper. After sifting through the lengthy correspondence, the under-secretaries in London apportioned equal blame to both antagonists. A senior official felt Barlee had “a fair answer” in sending the papers to the Galatea, but that in furnishing official information to the Herald on several occasions, he was “usurping a discretion which should belong to the Governor.” (9) The newly selected Governor-designate, Weld, was instructed to try and restore harmony between his chief lieutenants once he reached Perth.
Just two days after the royal visit, incidentally, Barlee had the honour of planting the first pole of the telegraph line that was soon to connect Fremantle and Perth and thereby obviate the need to despatch a horseman from port to capital with news of an important arrival.
In producing his remarkable literary efforts, Chips apparently drew confidence from a close family connection between the editor and the chief royal equerry. The editor, William Beresford, had come to the colony in 1858 as a convict, but had soon obtained his ticket-of-leavc and conditional pardon. His kinsman, the young Lieutentant Lord Charles Beresford, was in the tenth year of a very distinguished career in the Royal Navy. In old age in 1914, Admiral Beresford claimed “most pleasant recollections” of the cruise of the Galatea and acknowledged “the most unbounded hospitality” experienced in every place they visited in Australia.
“At Perth I visited the convict settlement; and there I found a relative or connection of the Beresford family, who had been so unfortunate as to be transported for forgery. He appeared to be a most respectable old gentleman, and (with the permission of the governor) I presented him with a small cheque. Alas! incredible as it may seem, the sight of my signature awoke the ruling passion, and my gentleman promptly forged a bill of exchange for £50, and (as I found when I came home) got it cashed.” (10)
Since the author was astray in saying he had met his relative at the convict settlement, it is probable the new case of forgery was also a fanciful embellishment for the sake of a good story. In the year he published his Memoirs, Lord Beresford achieved a dubious fame for the part he played in terminating the naval career of Prince Louis of Battcnbcrg, grandson of Alfred’s sister and grandfather of the present Duke of Edinburgh.
There can be little doubt but that the two Beresfords actually met one another cither at Fremantle or even aboard the Galatea, and it is possible that the young lieutenant provided the elderly editor with at least some of the material that went into the newspaper. A firm place in history was accorded William Beresford in 1979 when his name was imprinted on one of the 150 special flagstones sunk into the footpaths of St. George’s Terrace to mark the state’s sesquicentenary year.
The purse of sovereigns that Chips said Alfred gave him may have had its real counterpart in a present from Beresford to Beresford, but it may also have reflected the parting gifts the Prince gave Lefroy for the benefit of worthy local
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institutions. The royal largesse consisted of £40 each for the newly established Anglican and Catholic orphanages and £10 each to the Mechanics’ Institutes at Perth and Fremantle.
In the next few years the local newspapers continued to inform their readers about the prince’s naval career and also about his matrimonial prospects. When in 1874 he married the daughter of Czar Alexander II, it was the first instance in history of a match between the royal houses of Britain and Russia. The young John Forrest commemorated the happy event in course of his great exploratory journey that year when he named the Alfred and Marie Range in the remote Gibson Desert.
Prince Alfred rose to the rank of Admiral of the Fleet before he retired from the navy in 1893, and two months later his uncle’s death took him to Germany to become Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. He soon displayed a keen interest in the agricultural and industrial prosperity of his little “double duchy”, which, with a quarter of a million people and nearly a thousand square miles, ranked fourteenth among the twenty-five states that owed supreme alligancc to his nephew the Kaiser. But, sadly, Duke Alfred’s reign lasted only seven years, for in 1900 he died of heart disease a week short of fifty-six years of age and six months before his aged mother. Having lost his only son to tuberculosis in 1899, he was succeeded by his nephew, the young Duke of Albany.
The pleasant little city of Coburg lies today within a few kilomctcrcs of the grim iron curtain that hides Gotha, and a prominent plaque records its inhabitants’ gratitude that their civic fathers of 1920 chose to merge with the state of Bavaria. A model of a sailing ship is displayed in the former ducal castle, and another point of interest for the Antipodean visitor is the Natural History Museum which contains a collection of stuffed birds and other items that the captain of the Galatea acquired while serving on the Australia station. Alfred’s family associations remain much in evidence, and this very month (May 1980) some distinguished historians are meeting there to engage in a seminar concerning Prince Albert and to lay plans for the establishment of an Institute of Victorian Studies (11).
A century after the Galatea sailed into Fremantle, Western Australia has been able to welcome a succession of royal visitors with increasing frequency thanks to their use of air travel. They have included one of Alfred’s own descendants -his great grandson, the exiled King Peter II, who flew into Perth in 1960 to spend a week visiting former compatriots from Yugoslavia.
1. D.C. Cowan, The Duke of Edinburgh’s Visit to Western Australia in 1869’, (typescript, HS 378).
2. Herald, 30 May 1868.
3. M.B. Hale, letters to his daughters, 2 February 1869 (typescript; Anglican Church Office).
4. A. Hasluck,‘John Molloy’, Australian Dictionary of Biography, Vol. 2.
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5. Governor’s Despatches, Bruce to Buckingham, No. 39 of 12 February 1869.
6. 7. 8. 9. Herald, 6, 13, 20 February 1869. M.B. Hale, Letters to his daugheters, 3 March 1869. M.B. Hale, Diary, 13, 16 February 1869 (typescript). Governor’s Despatches, Bruce to Granville, 140 of 17 July, and 150 oi
10. 11. 12 August 1869; enclosures inC.O. 18/163 (AJCPreel 1661). The Memoirs of Admiral Lord Charles Beresford, (Lond., 1914), p.75. The Times, 19 March 1980.
Garry Gillard | New: 7 September, 2020 | Now: 14 September, 2020