The Royal Tour 1860 by Ellen Thomas Stratford-Perth Archives

Book Plate: Stratford-Perth Archives

The first royal tour of Canada and the United States took place in the summer and fall of 1860. Albert Edward, Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII, visited Stratford as part of his tour of Canada. He was born at Buckingham Palace on Nov. 9, 1841, and hadn’t yet turned 19 when his mother, Queen Victoria, sent him on a goodwill mission to Canada and the United States in July of 1860.

Two books in the collection of the Stratford-Perth Archives give firsthand accounts of the visit, one of which describes the stop in Stratford. Titled the Tour of H.R.H. The Prince of Wales, the 1860-penned book by author Henry J. Morgan describes several stops on the way to London from Toronto.

“Every village and town vying with each other to do the Heir Apparent honour; each place turning out its whole population to shew their loyalty, by loud and continuous cheering, and by dressing out their places in holiday attire. At every station, two or more neat arches were to be seen; flags and evergreens abounded in great abundance…

“At Stratford, an Address was also presented, and replied to. The Volunteer Rifles turned out as Guard of Honour; the Fire Brigade also made a fine display. Every manifestation of joy was shown.”

On Aug. 31, Stratford began to prepare for the visit with a meeting of the officers of the 1st Battalion Perth Militia. The meeting took place at the home of Col. Daly (see Daly Avenue)“for the purpose of devising the best means for giving a suitable reception to the Prince of Wales.” At the meeting, they, as did many towns and villages, elected to erect an ornamental arch.

On Sept. 12, the royal train stopped in Stratford and, on Sept. 14, the headline in the Stratford Weekly Beacon proclaimed: "The Prince of Wales in Stratford."

“A change having been made in the programmed of the Prince’s journey through the Province, he was induced to stop at Stratford, but by some oversight this decision was not communicated to the authorities here until a few hours before the visit took place … (steps were taken) in conjunction with Col. Daly and some of the officers of the 1st Bat. Perth Militia, to erect a double arch across the Railway track at the Station. When it was known for a fact that the Prince would stop, the Mayor issued a few stray placards proclaiming the day a holiday.

“The Rifle Company and the fireman formed a segment of a circle around a hastily built platform. A crowd of about 3,000, from all over the County, stood on each side ‘by an unsightly board fence.’ What object this fence was no one could divine, but several parties agreed that the individual who possessed the rare ingenuity to erect it should have been kicked or knighted on the spot, or some other indignity done to him.”

On the platform were stationed the mayor, reeve, deputy reeve and county officials. Daly had loaned his chair so the prince could sit. Not everyone was able to contain their nerves. “Just when everybody’s ears were open to the slightest sound from the east, the low rumbling of a train was heard in the distance, when the Corporation become restive and uneasy, and one of them, not in uniform, rushed to one of the corners of the platform, and drew a bottle of something resembling Paddy’s Eyewater, and actually drank about a tumbler full in the presence of the crowd, and handed it to a chum who did likewise, to the great amusement of the yawing multitude.”

It turns out it was only a pilot engine sent to clear the way for the prince. When the prince did arrive, it seems he wasn’t as expected.

“In an instant a modest, gentle-looking youth, wearing a drab shooting-coat and drab beaver, followed by a gentleman, almost similarly attired, stepped forward gracefully towards the centre of the platform with a very pleasing smile on his countenance, he modestly and gently bowed to the audience.”

It seemed he then had to endure yet another speech from yet another mayor, as the paper reported: “the Prince bore the infliction with the patience characteristic of royalty.”

When the train left the station, to the cheers of the crowd, the band began to play as the people headed homeward. Although it was said “this was a day Stratford would never forget,” one has to wonder how many today are aware that Stratford was on the route of the very first royal tour?

Just three years later, on March 10, 1863, the prince married Alexandra, eldest daughter of Prince Christian of Denmark, as seen in this beautiful bookplate, another treasure of the Stratford-Perth Archive S0urce: Beacon Herald Reflections