1775, and was an early part of the American Revolutionary War – the
long and acrimonious divorce of the United States of America from
Great Britain. It’s not a war we ever get taught about in history
lessons over here, though most of us have heard of some of the key
events in the leadup – like the Boston Tea Party in 1773, which was not a
genteel gathering with hot drinks and neatly cut finger sandwiches
but a protest in which men dressed as Native Americans (thus aligning
themselves with the country of their residence and not the one of
their ancestry) dumped 342 chests of tea in Boston harbour as a
statement against the import laws and tax on tea. We probably know
about this event because of the shocking waste of tea but I didn’t know anything about its root causes, which were the
increasing tensions between the two nations (mostly because of taxes imposed by Britain and massively over-regulated trade rules – if you’ll pardon the
over generalisation), which resulted in outright war breaking out in April
1775, between both old and New England.
they had a militia – also known as the Minutemen. According to that ever-reliable
source, Wikipedia, the British had about 4,000 men stationed in
Massachusetts – well-trained and well-equipped redcoats. When the
Battle of Bunker Hill kicked off in June 1775, approximately 3,000
British soldiers fought 2,400 colonial troops and, despite the odds
being stacked against them, and the eventual outcome being declared a
loss for the American side, the British Army lost far more men. The
battle’s outcome gave the Patriots (as they are referred to over in
the States) the confidence to go and take the redcoats on again and
they would eventually triumph and win their complete independence
from us (obviously!).
the Battle of Bunker Hill of course, and you may be wondering what it
has to do with King Edward? Let me fill you in.
Battle, in the autumn of 1860, 18-year-old Prince Albert Edward of
England set off for an official tour of North America. The Royal
Family had been invited over a few years earlier by Canadian officials
(who had fought for Britain in the Crimean War), but Queen Victoria
had declined to go on the long transatlantic voyage and all her
children were too young to go in her place. According to the New York
Time, It was Prince Albert who persuaded her to send Albert Edward
not only to Canada but to America too. Thinking about it, given that
the war of independence happened less than 100 years earlier, I’m not
too surprised at her reluctance to send her eldest son halfway across
the world to meet with the revolutionary nation. However, as I have
mentioned on here before, Bertie was quite the naughty young man and
didn’t get on at all well with his mother… even before she blamed
him for the death of Prince Albert a year later. So perhaps if anyone was to be
reluctantly sent over there, it was him!
next bit of the trip was interesting. Here’s a quote from the New
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.
offers no reason for the prince’s refusal but since his father,
Prince Albert was a noted abolitionist, it’s fair to assume that he
was also strongly anti-slavery. Yet another reason to appreciate his
Majesty for being a thoroughly decent bloke!
adventures including parades, a lavish ball for 3,000 people, which
was gatecrashed by a further 2,000, causing part of the temporary
dance floor to collapse (luckily not with the prince on it) and other
adventures. But since this story is meant to be about Boston and
Bunker Hill, we will have to move onto this part of the trip before
it becomes a novel!
October, the party set off for Boston on a specially upgraded train.
It’s described in ‘The New England tour of His Royal Highness, the
Prince of Wales’ published the same year, as the
‘handsomest travelling car to ever run on rails’, with velvet sofas
and carpet, a solid silver ‘ornamental waiter’, gold goblets and even
an elegant office, complete with writing desk. Arriving to Boston at 4pm, the Prince and his
entourage then passed through various streets in the city, cheered on
by thousands of cheering men and women.
royal party stayed in Revere House, a fancy hotel which sadly burned
down in 1912. Rooms were upgraded for the Prince’s stay, of course.
It was reported while staying there that, ‘The Prince is a hearty eater but drinks very moderately’ – the 18-year-old had much
to learn, it seems.
next morning, the 18th
October, the Prince met with the last remaining veteran of the Battle
of Bunker Hill, Ralph Farnham. Described as a ‘reluctant
celebrity‘, Mr Farnham was 104 when he was invited to Boston for
a celebration of his life. He was also put up at Revere House, where
he had a fifteen minute reception with Bertie. He wanted to pay his
respects and prove that the animosity of the past was forgotten, though he was quoted as joking, “I hear so much in praise of the Prince of
Wales that I fear the people will all turn Royalists.”
busy day continued with a visit to the Capitol and Boston Common
(where a crowd waited for the Prince), a concert and finally, a Ball.
While this contemporary report doesn’t describe the Prince’s attire
for the evening, it does describe many of the ladies’ outfits in a
lot of excessive detail! The first outfit described the wife of Governer Banks who was ‘attired
in a rich heavy purple silk figured in gold which produced quite a
brilliant effect. The dress was worn with short sleeves trimmed with
point lace and partially covered with a point lace bertha with gold
trimmings. Diamond earrings and a headdress of white feathers with a
heavy purple velvet ribbon at the back added much to the effect of
her toilet.’ Sounds lovely. You can read about all the ladies’ outfits, should you want to know them in incredible detail here.
Ball had to have a special police presence and the decoration costs
outstripped the receipts from selling tickets. But since the Prince
reportedly danced until 4am, it seems it was worth it!
following day, the Prince visited the college, and Mt. Auburn
Cemetery (which I tried to see myself but couldn’t get there) before
heading to the Bunker Hill Monument, just as I did.
I got a lift there with the friend I stayed in Boston with, the
Prince was ‘conveyed hence at a speed highly complimentary to the
skill of the reinsman and the muscle of the steeds.’ And I was
disappointed to learn that he only ‘passed round the base of the
Monument admiring its lofty proportions and visited the statue of
Warren’, and didn’t, in fact, climb the 294 steps to the top (which
felt like a lot more) and pause to admire the view.
the proof that I climbed the monument and survived the jelly legs that ensued. And also that I visited Dr Warren!