Sunday, September 4, 2011

September 20, 1860 --- A Royal Tour

Crossing the river from Windsor, Ontario, the Prince of Wales arrives in Detroit; the 19-year-old great-grandson of George III is the highest ranking member of the Royal Family to ever visit the United States.

When it was announced that the Prince would tour Canada during his Oxford vacation, President Buchanan - the former American Minister to the Court of St. James in London - invited him to Washington. For diplomatic reasons, the Prince travels as a student, "Baron Renfrew,"' but the ruse fools few. Fireworks and 30,000 people greet the "gorgeously decorated" ferryboat. The Prince and entourage spend just the night in the former frontier outpost; come morning, an open barouche, pulled by four white horses, carried the Prince through crowded, muddied streets to the railway station.

Via Chicago, Cincinnati and Baltimore, the Prince reached the capital two weeks later. "He won all hearts," Buchanan wrote the Queen; a visit to George Washington's estate at Mount Vernon was especially popular. Some newspapers were more unkind, "flunkey" and "dwarf" were common epithets, but the tour passed without incident. Expected protests from Irish-Americans never materialized.

The visit comes during the final weeks of the divisive 1860 Presidential campaign, resulting in the election of Mr. Lincoln. Crossing briefly into "Dixie," the Prince went to Richmond, Virginia, where, he recorded, "Every fourth person one meets is black." The Prince went on to Philadelphia (the "most beautiful" city) and New York, where the crush of admirers collapsed a hotel dance floor. The New York Times marvelled at how a young prince whose "maiden sword has never been fleshed in battle" could take so triumphantly a country which "all the veteran trooped and war worn commanders of the British Kingdom proved powerless to constrain into an unjust obedience, long years ago."

After a storm-tossed return voyage by battleship, Bertie returned to his "studies" at Oxford.

The Prince, while in Washington, photographed by Matthew Brady.

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