This Week in History, 1890: Vancouver Makes Its First Royal Visit

The Duke of Connaught was the seventh of Queen Victoria’s nine children.

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Queen Victoria never reached Vancouver during her 64-year reign. But her son made the first visit to the city by a member of the British Royal Family on May 22, 1890.

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It was short and lasted less than a day. But the masses were excited and eager to catch a glimpse of royalty.

Really nervous.

“Due to the overzealousness or stupidity of some individuals, the gate on the south side of the (yard) was closed, apparently with the intention of keeping the crowds out,” the Daily News advertiser reported on May 23.

“However, the crowd hated the attempt to lock them out and smash into the gate while they were standing on the pier.”

Prince Arthur was popularly known by his title, the Duke of Connaught. He arrived with his wife, daughter and entourage after sailing across the Pacific Ocean from Yokohama, Japan, aboard the Canadian Pacific steamship, the SS Abyssinia.

The Royals spent May 21 in Victoria and sailed to Vancouver early the next morning. The SS Abyssinia rounded Brockton Point around 9:45 AM and docked at the CP wharf, where a band set down God Save The Queen.

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Mayor David Oppenheimer gave a speech on how Vancouverites “remain the most loyal and obedient servants of Your Royal Highnesses”. The Duke replied with his own speech, noting how he was “perfectly surprised to see the size of the buildings” in such a young city.

“He hoped that all prosperity would rest with the city of Vancouver, and the large province of which it was one of the most important cities,” the news advertiser reported.

Then the duke and co. went for lunch, rest and dinner at Hotel Vancouver. They slept aboard a special CPR train that left the next morning for a journey across Canada, on its way back to England.

Duke of Connaught, circa 1912. Downey/Vancouver Archive AM1376-: CVA 130-6
Duke of Connaught, circa 1912. Downey/Vancouver Archive AM1376-: CVA 130-6 jpg

There were two passenger cars on the train, the Saskatchewan and the Matapedia, along with a baggage car. Two members of the press had arrived from the east to write about Connaught’s journey across the Dominion, but were told by Connaught’s aide Sir John McNeill that it was “the Queen’s train” and that “no one, unless absolutely necessary , would be allowed to work with it.”

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So the press had to wait for the regular CPR passenger train and catch up. The Vancouver World had poured out over the royal visit, but sarcastically noted on May 23 that “the Queen’s train, as Sir John called it, is terribly exclusive, and you can’t travel on it, you know.”

Prince Arthur was the seventh of Victoria’s nine children. He was born in Buckingham Palace on May 1, 1950 and spent many years in the British Army, much of which was in India.

He first came to Canada in 1869-70, when he served as a military officer in Montreal and helped suppress one of the Phoenician raids on Canada by sympathizers of the Irish Republic in the United States.

He made a second trip to Vancouver in March 1906 and was appointed Governor General of Canada in 1911.

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In September 1912, he made a third trip to Vancouver, a three-day affair where thousands greeted him at the new Vancouver Court House (now the Vancouver Art Gallery) and at the opening of the Cambie Bridge, which was renamed the Connaught Bridge, in September 1912. his honor.

Several arches were erected in the city to greet him, including one from a forestry group that erected the original Lumbermen’s Arch on Pender Street near Hamilton. After his visit, it was moved to Stanley Park, where it stood until it rotted and burned in 1947. The current arch was placed in 1952.

The Duke of Connaught was Governor-General until 1916, when he returned to England. His name lives on in local events such as Connaught Park and the British Columbia Regiment (Duke of Connaught’s Own), the military unit associated with downtown Beatty Street Armory.

Another Canadian regiment, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, is named after his daughter.

The Duke was married to Princess Louise Margaret of Prussia and the couple had three children. But according to Wikipedia, he also had a long-term “relationship” with Leonie, Lady Leslie, the sister of Jennie, the mother of Winston Churchill. He died on January 16, 1942, at the age of 91.

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Prince Arthur of Connaught, September 1912. Stuart Thomson/Vancouver Archive AM1535-: CVA 99-295
Prince Arthur of Connaught, September 1912. Stuart Thomson/Vancouver Archive AM1535-: CVA 99-295 Photo by Stuart Thomsonjpg
Reception for HRH The Duke of Connaught in front of Vancouver Court House, Georgia Street, September 12, 1912. Vancouver Archives AM1376-: CVA 189-1
Reception for HRH The Duke of Connaught in front of Vancouver Court House, Georgia Street, September 12, 1912. Vancouver Archives AM1376-: CVA 189-1 jpg
Illuminated Arches on Hastings Street for Visit of Governor General the Duke of Connaught, September 19, 1912. Vancouver Archives AM54-S4-: LGN 1018
Illuminated Arches on Hastings Street for Visit of Governor General the Duke of Connaught, September 19, 1912. Vancouver Archives AM54-S4-: LGN 1018 jpg
Vancouver Court House illuminated at night for the Governor General's visit in September 1912. Stuart Thomson/Vancouver Archives AM1535-: CVA 99-293
Vancouver Court House illuminated at night for the Governor General’s visit in September 1912. Stuart Thomson/Vancouver Archives AM1535-: CVA 99-293 Photo by Stuart Thomsonjpg
HRH Duke of Connaught inspects guard of honor at courthouse, 18.9.12.  Stuart Thomson/Vancouver Archive AM1535-: CVA 99-310
HRH Duke of Connaught inspects guard of honor at courthouse, 18.9.12. Stuart Thomson/Vancouver Archive AM1535-: CVA 99-310 jpg
Canadian Pacific train station at the foot of Granville arranged for a visit by the Duke of Connaught.  The Vancouver Archives entry says 1900, but this is probably from the Duke's visit in 1906, or even 1912: a banner reads 'God Save The King', but in 1900 Queen Victoria was still alive and would say 'God Save The King'. King' have read.  Queen.
Canadian Pacific train station at the foot of Granville arranged for a visit by the Duke of Connaught. The Vancouver Archives entry says 1900, but this is probably from the Duke’s visit in 1906, or even 1912: a banner reads ‘God Save The King’, but in 1900 Queen Victoria was still alive and would say ‘God Save The King’. King’ have read. Queen.” British Columbia Sugar Refining Company, Limited/Vancouver Archives AM1592-1-S2-F05-: 2011-092.0295 jpg
Her Majesty Queen Victoria, circa 1887-1888.  Vancouver Archive AM54-S4-2-: CVA 371-695
Her Majesty Queen Victoria, circa 1887-1888. Vancouver Archive AM54-S4-2-: CVA 371-695 jpg
CPR Station and Dock, Vancouver, 1889 or 1890. Bailey and Neelands/Vancouver Archive AM1376-: CVA 1376-375.17
CPR Station and Dock, Vancouver, 1889 or 1890. Bailey and Neelands/Vancouver Archive AM1376-: CVA 1376-375.17
The front page of the Vancouver World of September 18, 1912, welcoming the Duke of Connaught to the city.  The duke was then governor general.
The front page of the Vancouver World of September 18, 1912, welcoming the Duke of Connaught to the city. The duke was then governor general.

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