Prince be­moans ‘pip-squeak place’ dur­ing New­found­land visit


Ed­ward, Prince of Wales, was truly a Prince Charm­ing. The hand­some, gre­gar­i­ous el­dest son of King Ge­orge V had be­come the toast of the Bri­tish Em­pire by the end of the Great War of 1914-18.

So great was his ap­peal that Prime Min­is­ter Lloyd Ge­orge de­cided that th e hei r to t he throne should make a se­ries of tours around the Em­pire.

The king and the prime min­is­ter agreed that the first visit would be to North Amer­ica, and that it would be­gin in New­found­land.

On Aug. 5, 1919, the prince sailed west­ward, aboard HMS Renown, a Bri­tish battle cruiser. She and her Royal Navy es­corts an­chored close to Bell Is­land in Con­cep­tion Bay six days later, on the morn­ing of the 11th.

The Prince went ashore near Top­sail beach to stretch his legs. The next morn­ing he sailed around Cape St. Fran­cis aboard HMS Dragon, one of the light cruis­ers es­cort­ing Renown through the Nar­rows.

Af­ter be­ing wel­comed of­fi­cially by the Gov­er­nor, Sir Alexan­der Har­ris, and other lo­cal dig­ni­taries, he was driven west along Wa­ter Street, up Queen Street to New Gower and on to the Colo­nial Build­ing. He spent that night at Gov­ern­ment House.

The next morn­ing he went to Quidi Vidi Lake, and watched the Re­gatta. It had been moved from its nor­mal first Wed­nes­day in Au­gust to the 13th in his hon­our. From there he was driven to the har­bour and his ship, which sailed at once for Hal­i­fax.

Sir Alexan­der de­scribed the en­tire visit as “an un­qual­i­fied suc­cess” in a Se­cret Quar­terly Re­port that he sent to Lord Mil­ner, the Colo­nial Sec­re­tary, on Sept. 26, not­with­stand­ing the im­pli­ca­tions that arose be­cause of “ the de­ci­sion that only the chief rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the [St. John’s Mu­nic­i­pal] coun­cil should be di­rectly pre­sented to the prince.”

He went on to add that “as a mat­ter of fact if all the coun­cil had been present on the land­ing stage to bid His Royal High­ness wel­come he woul d him­self have caused them all to be pre­sented as he did in other cases: the self­ish­ness which pre­vented cer­tain mem­bers from do­ing this cour­tesy de­feated its own end. Those who were ab­sent were pro­por­tion­ately an­noyed and two of them were so mis­guided as to re­sign from the coun­cil.”

The Prince told his fa­ther that he had re­ceived “a rap­tur­ous re­cep­tion” in New­found­land. But he told a dif­fer­ent story in his letter to his mis­tress, Freda Dud­ley Ward, a mar­ried woman with two small chil­dren. Here is what he told her in a letter writ­ten from Gov­ern­ment House on Aug. 13, at two in the morn­ing, af­ter the ball held in his hon­our.

“Fredie dar­ling dar­ling beloved lit- tle sweet­heart mine, my first night ashore since leav­ing Eng­land... I trans­ferred to ‘ Dragon” in Con­cep­tion Bay to steam round to this lit­tle hole where I landed of­fi­cially at noon and it is a lit­tle pip-squeak place no mis­take!!

“ Christ we have laughed as the gov­er­nor of New­found­land is the com­pletest old dud and his wife is be­yond de­scrip­tion!! ... This seems to be an ex­cep­tion­ally loyal colony and they cer­tainly gave me a good wel­come, though it’s a cold au­di­ence and pub­lic as com­pared to Great Bri­tain; it’s all very prim­i­tive ... and of course democ­racy rules but that is very re­fresh­ing!!”

Mrs. Ward’s ro­mance with the prince lasted for 16 years, un­til she was sup­planted by Wallis Simp­son. (Mrs. Simp­son be­came the Duchess of Wind­sor when Ed­ward mar­ried her shortly af­ter his ab­di­ca­tion as King and Em­peror in De­cem­ber 1936, af­ter a reign of less than a year.)

Ed­ward wrote to Mrs. Ward con­stantly, some 2,000 let­ters in all. The 263 writ­ten be­tween March 1918 and Jan­uary 1921, in­clud­ing the ones writ­ten from St. John’s, were pub­lished in 1998, in a col­lec­tion edited by Ru­pert God­frey, en­ti­tled “Let­ters from a Prince.”

Royal blood, it seems, is no bar to hypocrisy.

The 1919 visit to St. John’s wasn’t the first time the Prince of Wales had en­coun­tered New­found­lan­ders.

Colonel Ni­chol­son, in “ The Fight­ing New­found­lan­der,” the of­fi­cial his­tory of the Royal New­found­land Reg­i­ment, records that on Oct. 9, 1916, as the reg­i­ment was pre­par­ing to move into the Bri­tish front line trench at Gueude­court, two of its of­fi­cers “en­coun­tered a Bri­tish bri­gadier, who was ac­com­pa­nied by a young of­fi­cer wear­ing cap­tain’s rank badges. The younger man, whose face looked strangely fa­mil­iar, gave them di­rec­tions; it was only af­ter they had moved on that the New­found­lan­ders sud­denly re­al­ized they had been talk­ing to the Prince of Wales.”

As has of­ten been said, it’s a small world.

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