Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Visit of Prince Alfred to Queensland 1868 (Part 3)

Prince Alfred in Uniform

Back in Brisbane, the Prince was honoured with a display organised by the German residents, eager to express their loyalty to the rulers of the British Empire.  The procession had, however, a distinctly Teutonic flavour.


The procession formed in order near the Observatory on Wickham Terrace, and lighted their torches. A considerable number of the procession, however, bore paper lanterns, this distinction being apparently accorded to those who were to take part in the serenade.

Triumphal arch in Queen Street for the visit Prince Alfred
Its appearance from a distance was attractive in the extreme; there was in fact a kind of wild, romantic beauty about it which few could see without pleasure. Seen nearer, the effect was none the less agreeable, the lurid glare thrown by the torches on the fences around, and the buildings past which the procession wound its fiery length along, being made more prominent by the comparative darkness of the night.

The procession was preceded by the Volunteer Band, and comprised also a German Band, both, of which played alternately, thus keeping up a strain of enlivening music the whole length of the march. An immense crowd, which, increased in size at every step, followed the procession to the gates of the Vice-regal grounds; but at this joint a Cerberus[2], in the uniform of a soldier of H.M. 50th Regiment, stopped the throng, only admitting the German procession.

Government House ca.1868
The trees in the grounds were hung with Chinese lanterns; and the pretty effect of these, combined with the torches and lanterns of the procession, and the gas illuminations outside Government House, produced a really magnificent and fairy-like scene.

Reaching Government House, the German congregation serenade the Prince, who does a make an appearance as he is still dining.  He finally honours the crowd with his presence when he emerges on the balcony as the English National anthem, rather incongruously, is sung in German.

On the procession arriving at Government House, it was found that the inmates were at dinner. The serenade immediately began, with the famous national song, "Was ist der Deutchen Vaterland," which was followed by "Liederfreiheit," the words of which are in praise of freedom of song. The serenaders then struck up a lively piece known as "Becker's March” and when this was completed, went on to sing the English National Anthem, translated into German. At the conclusion of the first stanza, the Prince, accompanied by His Excellency the Acting-Governor, Commodore Lambert, the Hon. the Colonial Treasurer, the Hon. the Attorney-General, and others appeared on the terrace.

Government House and Botanic Gardens

The Hon. J. C. Heussler, M.L.C., then stepped forward, and presented the following rather flowery address in German.

"His Royal Highness Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh, Duke of Saxony, Prince of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, &c, &c, &c. "May it Please Your Royal Highness, "We, the German residents of Queensland, bid your Royal Highness a heartfelt welcome with 'torch and song,' according to ancient German custom, on your safe arrival in Brisbane. "We greet your Royal Highness as son of Her Majesty the Queen, to whom we are subject in fidelity and loyalty, and under whose sceptre we enjoy protection and liberty; as son of a friend whose memory the present generation bliss, and whose noble deeds will be more and more recognised by posterity. "Your Royal Highness, as German Prince, will, at some future time, be called upon to exercise a powerful influence over the destinies of our distant Fatherland: may this influence, for the blessing of mankind, be instrumental in cementing the bonds of friendship that unite England and Germany."May the Ruler of the Universe take your Royal Highness under His omnipotent protection.

Instead of making a speech in response to this piece of fawning supplication, the Prince hands Heussler his reply.  The procession retreats and only after they leave the grounds, does Heussler read out the Prince’s reply.

His Royal Highness, who received Mr. Heussler most graciously, thanked him very cordially for the address, and intimated that he was much pleased with the demonstration. He then handed him his reply to the address.

Johann Heussler
Several rounds of hearty cheers, which were graciously acknowledged by His Royal Highness, having been given, the procession reformed, and entered the public gardens by the private gateway leading from the vice-regal grounds. On arriving near the gate leading into Alice-street, the procession halted, and Mr. Heussler read His Royal Highness' reply to their address. Several more cheers having been given for the Prince, the procession marched to the Town Hall, and spent the remainder of the evening in festivity.

After completing his public appearances, such as they were, the Prince took his departure.

The Prince left Government House shortly before 12 o'clock. The carriage was preceded by a detachment of the mounted (white) police, and followed by a detachment of black troopers. There was a very liberal display of flags flying from the houses along the route, and the arch opposite the Police Office was now inscribed with the words 'Farewell Royal Guest.”.

Immediately on his stepping on board the Kate, the royal standard was hoisted at the main, and a salute of twenty-one guns was fired from the Queen's Park battery by No. 1 Company Volunteer Artillery, assisted by a number of the Ipswich Artillery Corps. The Kate immediately left its moorings, and steamed down the river amidst the prolonged farewell cheers of the large crowd, which were responded to by the Prince.

Ships lay at anchor in the Brisbane River

The Kate was followed by a large flotilla of spectator craft.

The afternoon was beautifully fine, and the trip down the river was most enjoyable. The muddy banks and flats which disfigure the River so much at low water were covered, as it was flood-tide, so that the river looked its best. A fine strong breeze was blowing, which was very pleasant and enjoyable whilst the steamer was in the river, but which rendered the bay rather too rough for some of the lady excursionists. The Ipswich was, however, so heavily laden that she did not roll about much, but the Government steamer pitched about like a cock-boat[3]. 

The H.M.S. Challenger was gaily dressed with flags, and flew the Royal Standard at her main and the white ensign at her mizzen. Her yards were manned with seamen dressed in white, and the upper part of the vessel presented a very pretty, and to a landsman, most interesting appearance. The Challenger is not by any means a model of modern naval architectural beauty, but she was, nevertheless, a great object of interest to many people on board. As soon as the Kate dropped her anchor, several boats put off from the man-of-war and went alongside her. The Commodore's gig also put off and waited alongside until the Prince and suite were ready to embark. About 3 o'clock, the Prince having bid farewell to all on board the Kate, entered the gig and was rowed alongside the Challenger.

H.M.S. Challenger

True to form, as soon as he boards his boat, the prince disappears below deck.

As soon as he stepped on board the gangway, the guns thundered out a Royal salute, and the band played the National Anthem. H R H at once went below, and did not show himself again or acknowledge in any way the repeated cheers given by the passengers on board the steamers.

After the Prince’s departure, the back-biting and blame shifting began.

Upon the whole, His Royal Highness appears to have produced a favourable impression amongst the colonists. The fact that that impression is not general - and, however it may be regretted, there is no denying that in the country districts which he has visited, a few of the colonists think they have some reason to complain that but scant courtesy has been shown them - is not to be attributed to any intentional conduct of his own, but partly to the unfortunate circumstance that his movements have had to be so hurried, and partly to the incompetency and blundering of the hon. gentleman at the head of the Government, who was rash enough to undertake the sole direction of the reception.

A postscript arrived in the form of this newspaper report from Sydney. [4]

AFTER partaking of luncheon at the Sailors' Home Picnic, about noon to-day, the Prince was walking with the Countess Belmore and Sir W. Manning, when an unknown elderly man came behind, drew a revolver, and shot His Royal Highness through the back. He was firing a second shot, when the bystanders struck the pistol from his hand. The ball intended for the Prince went through Mr. Thornton's foot.

The shooting of Prince Alfred

The assassin has been recognised as H. J. O'Farrell, a lawyer's clerk. O'Farrell was only about two paces behind the Prince when he fired. The bullet entered about two inches from the spine, and, passing through the muscles of the back, went round by the ribs to the front of the abdomen. His Royal Highness fell immediately, exclaiming, "My back is broken."

The Capture of the Assassin O'Farrell

The miscreant was immediately seized, and would have been lynched on the spot, but the police interfered, and took him at once on board a steamer and conveyed him to Sydney.

The would-be assassin was an Irishman and as such, had little regard for the British Monarchy.  He was later hanged in Sydney.

Price Alfred made a full recovery and two months later left Sydney to continue his world tour.

© K. C. Sbeghen, 2011.

[1] The Queenslander 7.3.1868
[2] Three-headed guard dog of Greek mythology.
[3] a small boat, especially one used as a tender
[4] The Brisbane Courier 17.3.1868

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