“The Prince: Ideal & Real”

September 22, 1860

artist unknown

“The Prince:  Ideal & Real”

Analogies, British History; Anglo-American Relations; Journalists/Journalism; U.S. Tours by Foreign Dignitaries;

Edward, Prince of Wales;

Great Britain;

Scraps from the portfolio of a collector

In the summer and fall of 1860, 18-year-old Edward, Prince of Wales and future King Edward VII of Great Britain, toured Canada and the United States.  This cartoon contrasts the perspectives of "The Romantic young Lady's Ideal" and "The News reporter's Hard Fact"; or, "The Prince Ideal and Real."  In the center, the ideal Edward (left) is dressed in Renaissance finery, and his bright eyes look forward; the real Edward (right) wears a raincoat under his raised umbrella, as he glances dully to the side and puffs on a cigar.  The romantic tale of the prince is sung by a court musician (center left), while the factual picture is painted by a jackass (center right).

On the left, Edward appears (top to bottom) sounding an ancient horn, and being crowned with a laurel wreath of honor; having downed a giant and rescued a damsel in distress; as his predecessor, Edward the Black Prince, whose battlefield heroics led to the defeat and capture of King John II of France at Poitiers (1356); fearlessly slaying a dragon; bravely charging in a jousting contest; and as the King of Hearts.  

Those dramatic images are all paralleled on the right by mundane caricatures of Edward (top to bottom):  sleeping at a public appearance, and enduring the rain that followed him from England; receiving a lengthy address from North American VIPs; having his movements and voice controlled as a puppet; riding in privileged style on the shoulders of a servant across a stream; ineptly falling on a dance floor; and as the deuce of broken hearts.

The prince's trip, however, almost did not occur because of the adamant opposition of his mother, Queen Victoria.  The idea for a royal trip to North America originated a few years before when a Canadian regiment fought for Britain in the Crimean War (1854-1856).  Canadian officials requested of the grateful British government that the queen pay them a visit, but she let it be known in no uncertain terms that she would not undertake the ocean voyage.  The Canadians then asked that one of her sons be sent to represent the monarchy.  Victoria insisted that they were too young, but vaguely acquiesced to send Edward, the eldest, when he reached maturity.  

The queen might not have fulfilled the promise had not her husband, Prince Albert, and the British Colonial Secretary, Henry Pelham Clinton (the Duke of Newcastle), worn down her resistance by persistently pleading that it would bolster imperial bonds between Britain and her Canadian colonists.  Although Canada was bad enough, she was even more repulsed by the suggestion of adding the United States to the itinerary.  Prince Albert and the foreign secretary, Lord John Russell, finally convinced her that it would help improve relations between the two countries.  The deciding factor in her approval of the North American tour may have been her displeasure with Edward, whom she increasingly considered a ne'er-do-well.  By early 1860, Victoria wanted the boy out of her sight.  

The colonial secretary was placed in charge of arranging Edward's trip, which would begin in Canada with the dedication of the new Victoria Bridge across the St. Lawrence River at Montreal, and the laying of the cornerstone for the new parliament building in Ottawa.  On July 10, 1860, Edward and his entourage departed England for Canada.  On September 20, they boarded a ferry at Windsor and entered the United States at Detroit.  The prince was met by the mayor, Michigan governor, and 30,000 boisterous Americans, some of whom rushed onto the boat, forcing members of the royal party overboard.  So many well-wishers poured into the streets of Detroit that the royal procession had difficulty moving through the city.

In Chicago, an even larger crowd of 50,000 greeted Edward.  The continual cheering outside his window compelled him to appear on the balcony of his hotel room.  When the stress of the trip caused the prince to suffer from headaches, it was arranged for him to spend a few days hunting at a rural lodge nearby.  The journey then continued through St. Louis (where the royal carriage was trailed by an enterprising merchant advertising his store), Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, and Harrisburg, reaching the nation's capital on October 3.  Edward attended a reception at the White House, toured the Capitol and other government buildings, and visited the home of George Washington at Mount Vernon.

The only controversy of the trip arose over whether or not to visit the South.  Sectional tensions were high in that momentous election year, and Southern politicians hoped to gain positive publicity for their cause through a royal visit to model plantations.  The colonial secretary accepted an invitation to Richmond, Virginia, where Edward attended church and toured the state capital.  The prince, though, refused to visit a plantation and insisted on being driven back promptly to Washington.  From there, the royal party traveled by rail to Baltimore and Philadelphia, and then sailed for New York City.

On October 11, New Yorkers turned out in force to greet the British prince.  He was met by Mayor Fernando Wood, Alderman Francis Boole, other dignitaries, and the 12th Regiment band of the state militia, and then escorted up Broadway past a cheering crowd holding aloft banners of welcome.  (The Irish-American 69th Regiment boycotted the parade.)  Over the next several days, Edward attended numerous events, but seemed most enthralled by a 6000-man parade of the area's volunteer firemen.  From his reviewing stand at Madison Square, the prince spontaneously gushed, "This is for me, this is all for me!"  A ball was held for Edward (who loved to dance) at the Academy of Music.  The guest list was restricted to 3000, but another 2000 crashed the party, causing part of the temporary dance floor to collapse in front of the prince.  No one was hurt, the floor was repaired, and the festivity continued.

After New York, Prince Edward paid a short visit to Albany before journeying to Boston, where similar celebrations occurred and he met Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and Oliver Wendell Holmes.  On October 20, the royal party traveled by train to Portland, Maine, where they boarded a British vessel two days later to sail for England.  Bad weather slowed the voyage, which not reach Plymouth until November 15.  Edward had celebrated his 19th birthday on the high seas (November 9).  While nothing specific had been accomplished during the prince's American tour, Edward, Queen Victoria, and the British people were pleased by the warm welcome the United States had extended to the British prince.

Robert C. Kennedy

“The Prince:  Ideal & Real”
December 6, 2023

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