On December 30, 1909, in a very short editorial, the Montreal Star lent its support to the general and long standing desire that King Edward VII visit Canada. “All Canadians are heartily desirous of seeing their King in their own country,” affirmed unabashedly the Tory newspaper. Of course, as most Montrealers of the period were aware, the king had already visited Montreal in 1860 when he was the Prince of Wales, and all of 18 years of age at that.
When the youthful heir to the British throne sojourned in this city in August of 1860, he stayed at the home of the Public Works Minister, Sir John Rose. It was a magnificent estate styled ‘Rosemount’, located just on the edge of Mount Royal. While the abode was owned by Rose, it was at the time temporarily occupied by Sir William Fenwick Williams, Commander of all Her Majesty’s Forces in British North America.
(below, the Prince of Wales at ‘Rosemount’ in Montreal in 1860)
The already – opulent residence was completely refurnished at government expense to mark the occasion. One researcher noted that carpets, curtains, furniture were all changed while the drawing room was extensively altered in order to both please and honour the prince.
What many twenty-first century Montrealers may not realize, however, is that ‘Rosemount’ was situated exactly where today is found ‘Percy F. Walters Park’, the very spot that is the centre of an on-going dispute between dog owners and others over the privileges extended to our canine friends (“Local councillor hopes park skirmish is over”, Gazette, July 19, 2013, A-3).
Apparently, during his celebrated stopover at that same site, Sir William was the gracious host and the prince, from all accounts, thoroughly enjoyed himself. His aides – de – camp did not stay with him at ‘Rosemount’ but instead were housed in the first unit (where today stands the Best Western Ville Marie Hotel at Peel and Sherbrooke) of the newly constructed nine – flat Prince of Wales Terrace near McGill University. The prestigious block itself was built to pay yet another tribute to the Crown Prince. Sadly, the last units of the superb terrace were demolished in 1971 to make way for McGill’s Samuel Bronfman Building.
(below, the Prince of Wales Terrace at its completion in 1860)
Of course, the Prince of Wales was here primarily on royal business. He arrived in Montreal from Quebec City early the morning of August 25. The weather was horrendous yet the prince was warmly received by over 60,000 well-wishers; this, in a city of 90,000!
His busiest time in the town was surely that very same day when he officially inaugurated both the Crystal Palace and the Victoria Bridge.
(below, one of the many arches erected to mark the visit of the Prince of Wales. In the background can be seen the newly-opened Crystal Palace, and on the extreme right, a very tiny portion of the also newly-opened Christ Church Cathedral)
The Crystal Palace stood on the south side of St. Catherine, at the foot of the old, and now built over, Victoria Street. It was constructed to serve as an exposition hall for the Montreal Industrial Exhibition of 1860. Its inspiration was the Crystal Palace in London’s Hyde Park that was put up for the Great Exhibition of 1851. Montreal’s much smaller version was eventually dismantled in 1878 and re-erected in Fletcher’s Field (today, Jeanne Mance Park). There, like its London’s namesake, it was destroyed by fire in July of 1896.
(below, Crystal Palace, St. Catherine Street, 1866)
Earlier that same day, the Prince of Wales also formally opened the Victoria Bridge, considered by many at the time to have been the ‘Eighth Wonder of the World’. In fact, that function was the principal reason for his journey across the Atlantic; his mother, Queen Victoria, having declined the honour herself.
(below, the official opening of the Victoria Bridge by the Prince of Wales)
The following day, Sunday, Edward attended divine service at the newly opened Christ Church Cathedral, but a stone’s throw away from the Crystal Palace. He later presented the congregation with a beautiful, personally autographed Bible bearing the Royal Coat of Arms.
On Monday, 5000 people attended a Grand Ball offered by the ‘Mayor and Citizens of Montreal’, again to pay homage to the visiting prince. As there was no facility in the city (including ‘Rosemount’) that could accommodate that many individuals, the municipality spent $25,000 to erect a temporary wooden pavilion in which to stage the happening. It was put up on the east side of Peel Street just south of Sherbrooke, and was dismantled immediately upon the departure of Edward from Montreal on August 31. Reports say that His Royal Highness danced that evening until 5:00 in the morning.
Before leaving the city for other parts of Canada, the Prince of Wales attended a ‘cantata’ at the Crystal Palace at which Montreal-born soprano, Emma Albani, performed. In addition to Albani, a leading tenor and activist from Montreal’s fledgling Jewish community of the day, Jacob L. Samuel, sang along with celebrated soprano Adelina Patti before the prince and 8000 others. By all accounts, it was an evening to remember.
At the end of each day’s activities in our burgeoning town, Prince Edward returned to his splendid accommodation at ‘Rosemount’ for a well-deserved night’s rest.
Somehow I doubt that everyday Montrealers were running their dogs on that illustrious domain in August of 1860.