PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND
(For Queen Victoria’s father)
Canada’s smallest province was named for Prince Edward, the Duke of Kent, the fourth son of King George III. Edward was the first member of the royal family to live in Canada for an extended period of time, residing in Halifax and Quebec City during the 1790s in a military capacity and eventually becoming commander-in-chief of the British North American forces.
During his time in Canada, Prince Edward endeavoured to improve military standards. He commissioned a town clock and parade grounds in Halifax and an improved communication system for the city’s fortified area.
His extensive travels set precedents for future royal tours, and he was the first to describe both English and French speakers as “Canadians.” He is reported to have dispersed a 1792 riot in Charlesbourg, Lower Canada, with the words, “Part then in peace; I urge you to unanimity and concord. Let me hear no more of the odious distinction of French and English. You are all his Britannic Majesty’s Canadian subjects.”
Prince Edward was unmarried during his time in Canada, but he lived with his long-time mistress, Julie de Saint-Laurent. In Britain he could not appear in society with Saint-Laurent, but the British North American elite invited the couple into their homes, and they became close friends with John Graves and Elizabeth Simcoe. There are numerous Canadian families that claim to be descended from an illegitimate child born to the couple during their time in British North America, but there is no evidence that they started a family in Canada.
After his return to Britain, Prince Edward faced pressure to marry a princess and to father legitimate heirs. Hoping Parliament would pay his debts if he married a suitable bride, he reluctantly ended his relationship with Saint-Laurent and married Princess Victoire of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld, a widow with two children, in 1818. Prince Edward died of pneumonia just nine months after the birth of the future Queen Victoria in 1819.
Although Prince Edward never actually visited his namesake island, its residents were no doubt grateful for the fortifications he ordered for Charlottetown to protect the city from raids by sea — a frequent problem during the settlement’s early history.
Ontario’s Prince Edward County is also named after the Duke of Kent, as are many other places throughout Canada.
Prince Edward, Duke of Kent.