Friday, September 9, 2011

The Visit of Prince Alfred to Queensland 1868 (Part 1)



The Less Than Amiable Prince Alfred
Prince Alfred was the second son of Queen Victoria and her German husband Prince Albert.  In 1868, he made a much anticipated visit to the Colony of Queensland.  Committees had been formed to plan the celebrations.

The visit would not quite what they expected.

As well as holding the titles of Duke of Edinburgh, Earl of Kent and Earl of Ulster, Alfred was also (courtesy of his father) the Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha.  As such visit caused much excitement amongst the German community in Queensland.

The Brisbane Courier reported:[1]

A meeting of the German residents of Brisbane was held last evening, at the Town Hall, to arrange the part to be taken by them in the reception of H.R.H. the Prince on his visit to the colony.

After some discussion, it was unanimously resolved that a torchlight procession should be hold in honour of the Prince on his arrival in the colony. It was anticipated that upwards of 200 or 300 Germans would take part in the procession. It was also resolved that the Prince should be serenaded on the same evening.

The German residents of Toowoomba were also keen to provide a suitable welcome to the prince.  They were not pleased that the government had not planned a royal reception in their town.

The German Club in Toowoomba

Toowoomba and Drayton, and the residents of the neighbourhood, are quite as loyal to the Crown as the inhabitants of any other part of Australia. Amongst us there are many Germans, whose feelings towards the Prince may be warmer, because in the natural course of events, he will cease to be an Englishman, and become the reigning Duke of a German principality.[2]

A meeting was duly called.

German Wagon
The German population of Toowoomba met last night, and agreed to get up a grand demonstration during the visit to the Downs of the Duke of Edinburgh.  The residents in the outside districts are very enthusiastic with respect to the visit of the Prince.

The Germans of Gotha Coburg are organising a demonstration, and have erected an arch near the Railway Station. It is hoped that the Prince will alight there, as the programme allows of a delay of twenty minutes before starting for Jondaryan.

The prince’s stopover in Toowoomba was to be brief.

The Prince arrived from Ipswich at a quarter to 7 last night; about two thousand persons were present. As soon as His Royal Highness entered the station he was greeted with enthusiastic cheers. The Prince smiled at this demonstration of the popular feeling—the first of the kind that he has witnessed in Australia. His Royal Highness did not leave his carriage, and no addresses were presented. The train staid twenty minutes, after which it proceeded to Jondaryan.  On leaving the station hearty cheers were given for the Prince.

Lutheran Church Committee, Toowoomba
After the departure of His Royal Highness a large public meeting was held, at which great dissatisfaction was expressed at the proceedings of the Government with respect to the Prince's visit. It was arranged last night that the Prince, on his return from Jondaryan today, should stay for an hour at Toowoomba, and receive an address from the Germans, under the triumphal arch.

The return visit was not much better.

His Royal Highness arrived at a quarter to 10 o'clock this morning, and alighted amidst great cheering. Mr. James Taylor's carriage was in attendance. The Prince entered, and drove from the station up Ruthven Street and back to the station, when he took his seat in the railway carriage, and the train started at once. The whole visit only lasted twenty minutes. On the Prince leaving, he was again cheered heartily. About five hundred persons were present.

The German reception procession was still on its way to the station.

German Wedding Party
About five minutes after the train had started, the Germans arrived in procession, headed with the national banner and twelve young girls dressed in white, with blue ribbons, each with a basket of flowers, intended to have been strewn in the Prince's path.

Their whole arrangements were very creditable. The German address was a poetical one, and was very good. Their disappointment, at finding that the Royal visitor had departed, was very great.
The Germans have agreed to send their address to His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh, to meet him on his arrival in Sydney.

The Germans were in no doubt whom were to blame for the insult.

About three thousand persons of all classes attended the burning in effigy of Messrs. Mackenzie and Palmer. A mock trial took place at the School of Arts, after which the effigies were carried in procession through the streets. Unanimity of action was very general, the Germans being very bitter in their expressions.

The proceedings were closed by singing "Old John Brown." The Prince was most enthusiastically cheered, whilst loud groans and hisses fell to the share of the Ministry.

The whole affair reveals the undercurrent of feeling by the establishment in Queensland, that the Germans were not considered as true British citizens, which in reality most of them had become through the process of “naturalisation”.  More of this anon!

© K. C. Sbeghen, 2011.

[1] The Brisbane Courier 17.1.1868
[2] The Brisbane Courier 28.2.1868

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