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Prince of Wales Royal Tour: 1860

by N.F. Morrison Ph.D., Radio Sketches of Essex County Historical Association, June 20, 1959

It began with his landing at St. John’s Newfoundland, on July 23, 1860, and ended nearly two months later, when the Prince crossed from Windsor to Detroit on September 20.

In the interim he performed various public acts – driving the last rivet in the famous Victoria Bridge across the St. Lawrence, laying the corner stone of the new Parliament Buildings at Ottawa, opening Queen’s Park in Toronto, and unveiling Brock’s Monument at Queenston. The Prince had also time to see the incomparable Blondin, tight rope walker, perform at Niagara Falls.

On the morning of September 13, 1860, the royal party left its quarters in London’s fine Tecumseh Hotel for a brief visit to Sarnia. Mrs. George E. Copeland, (1854-1951), long a resident of Windsor, attended that occasion in Sarnia as a little child named Mary Morrison. She remembered Indian canoes on the St. Clair River that day.

One of these canoes came to a slip in the dock and out stepped a number of figures in Indian costume, one of whom was the Prince, whose identity was revealed by his white face. An Indian tribe greatly amused him by their performance, after which they were presented to him and delivered an address, in which they welcomed their big brother, the son of their great mother, to their wigwam. (Ninety-one years later in mid-October, 1951, Mrs. Copeland, as an old lady of 97, witnessed the visit to Windsor of the then Princess and her husband. Two weeks later Mrs. Copeland died.)

A week later, in the early afternoon of Thursday, September 20, the royal train moved out of Hamilton en route for Windsor and Detroit. The royal train consisted of the Prince’s car, which was the last on the train, the directors’ car, two passenger cars and one baggage car...A pilot engine was dispatched in advance of the royal train to keep everything clear...

The Prince Arrives in Windsor

The loyal little town of Windsor (population about 2,500) was gaily decorated and alive with excitement. Mayor James Dougall had proclaimed Thursday, September 20, 1860, as a public holiday but during the morning torrents or rain descended.

At noon, however, the clouds broke away and the sun shone forth pleasantly. At 3 o’clock a company of light artillery, invited by the civic authorities, arrived from London to fire a salute in honor of the Prince when he reached Windsor. They marched to the public square beside the town hall (now a storage building at 255 Riverside Drive East), and there they deposited their artillery for use in the evening.

The royal train arrived at the station punctually at 8 o’clock and was received with cheers from the large crowd that had collected, the firing of cannon, display of fireworks, huge bonfires and general rejoicings by the whole people of Windsor, who had found it almost impossible to restrain their enthusiasm. The illuminations were set in a blaze and the town presented a most beautiful appearance.

As the royal party passed through the covered way that had been erected from the station to the steamer landing whence they would depart for Detroit, formal addresses were presented. After their very brief visit in Windsor, the royal party embarked on the beautifully-decorated steamer Windsor, where the governor of Michigan, mayor and alderman of Detroit and other prominent citizens were waiting to receive them.

Subsequently the Prince and his suite proceeded to positions for observation on the forward deck of the Windsor, from which they behold a line of steamers in the centre of the river ‘all beautifully illuminated with lamps of various colors .’ As the Windsor passed the first of these ships, a shower of rockets and candles were let off, a signal was answered by the whole fleet, filling the river with illumination. From the deck of the steamer Windsor ‘the whole village of Windsor seemed as if in a blaze of light. Every house was illuminated, bonfires were blazing in all directions, and rockets filled the air. Fireworks were discharged from all the vessels in the steam, while many of the large warehouses and other buildings on the wharf at Detroit were brilliantly illuminated. The extensive wharves of the Detroit and Milwaukee and Michigan Central railways were also illuminated, adding very greatly to the general effect upon the river.’

On approaching the landing at the foot of Woodward Avenue, the long lines of torches borne by the firemen disclosed to view the immense crowd of people that thronged the spacious avenue from the intersection of Jefferson Avenue to the water’s edge, from whom as the boat neared the dock, a shout of welcome went up that must have caused a thrill to go through the heart of the Prince.

And thus began his short visit to the United States where as had been the case in Canada, he received a welcome befitting royalty.

Royal Windsor

Since Cadillac’s arrival in this area in 1701, there has been a succession of 10 monarchs. Windsor has been visited by Royalty eight times since 1860, (including three visits by Queen Elizabeth) the last visit occurring in March of this year by Prince Michael of Kent, the new Colonel-in-Chief of the Essex and Kent Scottish regiment.

House Keeping

In 1917, the name of the Royal House was changed from “Saxe-Coburg and Gotha” to “Windsor”.



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