The Intimate Life Story of King George V
Recording “a tour of the Empire" which introduced the future King and Queen to the Dominions Beyond the Seas
THE Duke of York looked forward to his Australian tour in H. M. S. Ophir with much pleasure. He knew that he would see again many of the places he had visited on the Bacchante when a boy, but with what a difference! Now he had his wife by his side, and he longed to be able to show her all the sights that he had enjoyed in boyhood.
Such a trip as had been arranged for the Duke and Duchess could only be carried out successfully, if there were absolute sympathy and understanding between the two chief members. It was because King Edward knew how perfectly happy the married life of the young couple was that he allowed them to undertake the trip. “Mary is so understanding,” I heard the Duke remark one day, and it was because both of them worked in perfect co-operation that this Australian tour was one of the most successful ever planned or carried out.
The Ophir sailed March 16, 1901, and was escorted from Portsmouth to Gibraltar by two first-class cruisers, and directly she got out to sea the crew of the yacht settled down to the routine of a man-of-war. The ship was officered and manned by the Royal Navy, with the exception of the engineers, who were engaged from the Orient Company. The Duke and Duchess soon became acquainted with most of the ship’s company. The Duke was the most popular man aboard for his cheeriness and good temper. The quiet, shy young Duchess, with her gentle smile, was also loved by everybody. At the beginning of the voyage, even the ordinary sailor could see that she was missing her children sorely; and everyone from the lowest to the highest did his best to cheer her up. The first day at sea was Sunday, and service was conducted on deck by the chaplain, Mr. Wood, assisted by Canon Dalton. When the chaplain prayed for “All at home,” the Duchess turned her head away to hide her tears.
By the time the Ophir had passed Cape St. Vincent, she met with a heavy gale which was the worst she encountered during the outward voyage. The Duke and Duchess, however, proved good sailors. When the Ophir steamed into Gibraltar, the sun was shining, and the Governor’s little daughter, Mary, on shyly presenting a bouquet was warmly kissed by the Duchess, who said “We must be friends, Mary, because we both have the same name.”
An amusing scene occurred when the party was driving down Main Street, which had been decorated gaily by the garrison. At the last moment, some of the bunting came down, and the soldier who was responsible, hearing the ovation but not realizing the Royal carriage was so near, called out, “Hi, hold ’em back a minute! My bunting’s broken loose.” The Duke and Duchess, who heard every word, laughed heartily, and the man, drawing himself up hastily and saluting, grinned too.
The voyage down the Gulf of Suez was delightful, for the heat was tempered by a breeze. I was very amused to hear the Duke and Duchess having an argument about a mountain they saw in the distance. The Duke declared that it was Mount Sinai, but the Duchess insisted that it was not. Much Bible geography was discussed, and the laurels eventually rested with the Duchess, for the mountain seen was not the one mentioned in the Bible.
At Aden, they visited the famous tanks, which were at one time the only resource of this waterless land. A very touching incident occurred when the Duke and Duchess were about to re-embark after their visit. Two bouquets were presented to them, and the Duchess exclaimed at their beauty, remarking that she had not thought they could grow such flowers in that part of the world. It transpired afterward that the bouquets had been sent all the way from Bombay, at a cost of 100 rupees each. “I do wish I had known,” said the Duchess.
The 2,130 miles between Aden and Colombo was accomplished in a week in the most terrific heat. Everyone was glad to reach Ceylon. Colombo’s tropical sunshine, magnificent vegetation, flowering trees, and dazzling white buildings, made it an ideal stopping-place. But the heat was so insufferable that the Royal party were glad to get up to Kandy to witness a torchlight procession of elephants—a traditional ceremony handed dowTn for generations—and visited the tomb where yellow-robed priests showed them Buddha’s tooth enshrined in jewels.
A little incident, which I must mention here, shows what real lovers of animals the Royal tourists were. Commodore Winsloe, who was in charge of the Ophir, had a dog named “Bobs,” which was his great companion. When he was appointed to take charge of the
imperial tour, he left “Bobs” in his own ship, the St. George. The dog w'as most disconsolate and forlorn, and, by a happy chance, a photo was taken of him looking extremely miserable, and this eventually appeared in The Sketch. When this issue of The Sketch was seen at Colombo by the Duchess she noticed “Bobs’s” picture. As a result, Bobs disappeared from the St, George, and by the time the Ophir reached Singapore had joined his beloved master. The Duchess herself saw that a kennel was prepared for his reception outside his master’s cabin. “Bobs” soon became a great favorite with the Royal couple, and made the complete trip with them.
Arriving on April 21 at Singapore, they found the streets were roofed with silk, and everywhere one saw charming festoons of silk, flowers, and Chinese lanterns. A noticeable part of the demonstrations at Singapore was that made by the children. Five thousand youngsters assembled one day to meet their future King and Queen: Europeans, Eurasians, Chinese, and Malays.
At Singapore the Duchess held a private reception for the Sultan’s wives, an act that was appreciated by the native community.
Crossing The Line
ON APRIL 23, the Ophir sailed from Singapore on its 2,500mile voyage to Australia. Soon after the ship was on its way, the festivities of “crossing the line” were in full swing. Although the Duke had crossed the equator before, he entered thoroughly into the spirit of the frolic, and was duly placed in the barber’s chair, lathered with a huge shaving brush— the lather being a compound of soap, whitening, and oatmeal and then “shaved” with a scrap of old iron. During all this, the Royal victim was plied with questions which he did not answer: he was too old a hand at the game, and knew that those who agreed to the suggestion of being given refreshment had to swallow a liberal portion of vinegar and water. The last ordeal to which the Duke had to succumb was that of being shot backward from the ducking-stool into the tank. He emerged from this, breathless and laughing, and vigorously helped to initiate his suite in the same manner.
The ladies of the party had a less trying ordeal, for they were only christened by Father Neptune with water from a silver bowl. When it came to the Duchess’s turn to be christened, however, Father Neptune grew timid, and held out the bowl nervously to the Duke. “Oh, do it yourself,” said the Duke, and Father Neptune, still extremely embarrassed, dipped his fingers into the bowl and touched the forehead of the future Queen, thus christening her “a woman of the sea.”
Opening The Australian Parliament
ON APRIL 30, the Australian coast was sighted, and on May 5 the Ophir arrived at Melbourne. Four days later the Commonwealth Parliament was opened in Melbourne in great state by the Duke and Duchess. This was the raison d’être of the voyage, and Australia gave the Royal pair a wonderful welcome. State banquets and levees followed one another with lightning rapidity. One morning the Duke had to shake hands with 4,000 people, and twice I saw him pause to stretch his numbed fingers. He would not give up, however, and gallantly saw it through.
The Duke and Duchess opened Parliament in the Exhibition building, the beautiful building where two shy little midshipmen, Prince Eddy and Prince George, had been welcomed years ago. After the Duke’s impressive speech the Duchess touched a golden button on the table before her, and the news that the Federated Parliament wa.s opened flashed round the world. It was a historic scene which will never be forgotten by those who saw it.
In Melbourne the Duke and Duchess had to bear with what became known as the “camera fiend.” Cameras were levelled at them wherever they went, and the constant clicking must have got on their nerves, although
they took it in very good part. Once an enthusiastic photographer tried to get a snap of the Duke when he was shooting. Just at the critical moment, a fieldmouse ran up the photographer’s trouser leg! The Royal party could not help showing their mirth, but the Duke posed specially for the man afterwards, because, as he said, "a fieldmouse was a rotten bit of hard luck.”
For the Duke of York, Melbourne had some sad memories, for he and Prince Eddy greatly enjoyed their visit there when on the Bacchante. Recollections of his brother came to his mind during every hour of the stay. When later the Royal couple visited Ballarat, the Duke stood for a long time before the two trees that he and Prince Eddy had planted during their last visit. King George has never talked much about his brother, but I know how dear his memory was, and still is. Sometimes on that second tour, when I saw his face grow sad, I knew that he was thinking of his brother.
An incident which occurred at the cattle show at Brisbane is one of many similar incidents showing the Duke and Duchess’s kindness and thought for others.
A great crowd was watching the high-jumping trials and a small black boy on a big horse. Suddenly, the horse tripped, and the boy lay on the ground. Immediately, two messengers were seen approaching, one from the Duke’s and one from the Duchess’s pavilion. They were the Duke’s own medical attendant and another member of the suite. They found that the little boy was not seriously hurt, and returned to tell their Royal Highnesses so. But the quick solicitude of the Royal visitors for a little negro boy was not lost upon the crowds.
During the visit to Sydney, where the Royal couple received a tremendous welcome, one touching little incident stands out in one’s memory—it was that of the
Duke presenting to Lieutenant Dufreyer the “Queen’s Scarf” in khaki color for Distinguished Service in South Africa. The scarf was one of four knitted by Queen Victoria, when her eysight was getting dim. She had wanted one to go to the English, and the remaining three to be divided among the Scottish, Irish and Colonial troops.
AT LAST it was time for the Duke and Duchess to leave Australia and go on to New Zealand. Here they visited, on June 13, the famous Rotorua, the land of geysers, where 6,000 Maoris assembled to greet them. Wellington and Christchurch were en fêle. The visit was crowded with festivities, but was over all too soon, and the Royal party went on to Dunedin. On the way there, the Duke stopped the train opposite the house of Mr. Mackenzie, ex-Minister of Lands, who had been too ill to come to Wellington to receive the K. C. M. G., and conferred the honor on the dying statesman in his own home.
'"TASMANIA gave the Duke and Duchess a novel welcome. A triumphal arch entirely composed of apples had been erected, with the inscription: “Welcome to Appleland.” As the Royal couple passed under this, a thousand pigeons were liberated simultaneously.
Tasmania was left behind and the Ophir steamed to Adelaide, the capital of South Australia, arriving on July 8. The Duke, most unfortunately, on the voyage had a severe attack of toothache and had some teeth extracted. But this did not prevent him from landing at Adelaide as fresh and trim and interested in everything as ever.
At Adelaide the degree of LL. D. was bestowed upon the Duke, and a statue of Lord Tennyson, son of the poet and a former Governor, was unveiled. The University undergraduates gave the Duke und Duchess an uproarious welcome. They sang several songs of their own composition, one of which is perhaps amusing enough to be quoted here:
“The good young Duke of York
Has brought the Duchess fair;
And all who see will say, ‘How well
The Duke and Duchess pair.’
This very new degree—gree — gree
Is not his first, say I,
For when he left old England’s shore
He took his ‘M-A-Y’!”
lFTER leaving Australia, the Ophir settled down to the 3,000 miles journey to Mauritius, where the party spent five days. Sad news reached them while they were on the island, for a cablegram announced that the Duke s aunt, the Empress Frederick of Germany, was dead. A message was received almost at the same time from King Edward, saying that no change was to be made in the tour because of this event. So the Royal tour continued, as arranged, to South Africa.
For the last few weeks there had been a hope— although it grew vaguer and vaguer as time went on that, on their arrival in South Africa, their Royal Highnesses would be able to set their seal, as it were, on peace. This hope was not to be realized, however; the Boer War still dragged on. Many misgivings had been felt by the people responsible for the tour as to whether this visit to South Africa by the Duke and Duchess was discreet. The Royal couple never for one moment thought of omitting South Africa from the tour in spite of the war. “Why,” said the Duke once, “I expect they have got up some sort of a welcome for us. I wouldn t disappoint them for worlds, and anyhow I don t want to lose the welcome!”
The Onhir anchored in Durb an harbor on August 13.
A monsoon was raging, but even that failed to damp the enthusiasm of the people. Their Royal Highnesses went ashore in a small steamer, preceded by the Thrush, a gunboat, once commanded by the Duke. He was delighted to see her again, and that evening a privileged few listened to the Duke “yarning.” The sight of the Thrush had sent his memory back over the years, and, in that amusing way of his, he told anecdotes and stories until it was time to go to bed and prepare for the next day’s festivities. After lunch the next day, the Royal party left for Pietermaritzburg, where the Duke was met by Lord Kitchener, who had arrived by special train from Pretoria. I noticed what a firm handshake passed between the two, and how closely they talked. Lord Kitchener was not always an easy man to get: on with, but he had a genuine regard for King George, even as far back as these days, and the admiration and regard they had for each other stood the test of time. When Lord Kitchener went down in the Hampshire during the Great War, King George was most terribly grieved.
During this meeting at Pietermaritzburg, Lord Kitchener told the Duke about the progress of the war, and then left again hurriedly by special train, with a “God speed” from the Duke and Duchess. On returning to Durban Their Royal Highnesses inspected Princess Christian’s Hospital train, which had just brought in sick and wounded from Pretoria. It was a sad sight, and I saw the Duke and Duchess were moved profoundly by it. They did everything they could to cheer up the men, however, and the Duchess’s eyes filled with tears when the men who were not too badly wounded managed to raise a little cheer as they left. After reviewing troops, presenting medals—including at least one Victoria Cross and making innumerable speeches, their Royal Highnesses and their party went on to Cape Town. On the way there, the Ophir dropped anchor in Simon’s Bay, and a thousand bluejackets formed a guard of honor, lining the route to the station. Sailors drew the Royal carriage from the harbor to the station.
At Cape Town
AT CAPE TOWN the Duke spoke with great feeling, especially with regard to the War. He had been using notes for his speech, but, when he mentioned the War, he put them down on the table before him, and spoke spontaneously from his heart . “I greatly deplore,” he said, “the continuance of the lamentable struggle which has so long prevailed in South Africa, and for the speedy termination of which the whole Empire fervently prays. During this time you have had to make grievous sacrifices. Numbers have patiently suffered trials and privations, while many of the flower of your manhood have fallen in the service of their King and country. To all who have been bereft of dear ones by the War, we offer our heartfelt sympathy and condolence. May time, the great healer, bring them consolation and soften the bitterness of their losses.”
A very impressive scene took place during the visit to Cape Town. In the grounds of Government House, a hundred native chiefs, who had come from all parts of South Africa, came to express their loyalty. Touching, indeed, were some of the speeches made by these simple men, especially that made by King Khama of Bechuanaland. There was so much poetry and dignity in them. “I come,” said one, “with salutations from my whole people. We rejoice to meet him face to face on this great day, which we shall never forget. We mourn the loss of our Great White Mother, but we have great hopes in our future under the rule of your father, and later under your rule.”
On August 23, the Royal party rejoined the Ophir in Simon’s Bay. The route was crowded with people to see them depart, and a remarkable incident at Simon’s Town was that a number of well-behaved Boer prisoners, who were allowed to watch the scene, waved and cheered enthusiastically with the rest. These prisoners were again present at Admiralty House on the day when the Duke and Duchess left South Africa. Many of them desired to present an address to the Duke, and brought with them some little presents napkin rings, a shieldshaped brooch for the Duchess, and carved toys for the Duehess’s children, made by themselves. The Duke accepted these little presents with genial words of thanks.
The (¡ape to Quebec
nPHE voyage to Canada took eleven days. In the original itinerary Canada had not been included, but Sir Wilfrid Laurier had written to Queen Victoria, saying that he hoped Canada would be favored with a visit, and the Queen’s consent had been given readily “as a mark of her warm interest and goodwill toward her people in Canada.”
Quebec was en fêle to welcome the Duke and Duchess. Of course, the Heights of Abraham and the citadel stormed by Wolfe were visited. Here it may be mentioned that the tour of Canada was one of the most enjoyable events of the eight months sightseeing. We
lived on a train for a month. Some of the Royal party had dreaded this experience, but it was really very comfortable, and Their Royal Highnesses said they were most sorry when it came to an end. The scenery was marvellous and the Duke obtained some wonderful photographs, developing and printing them himself in a special dark room that had been fitted up on the train.
This train was 730 feet in length, and the two end coaches, “Cornwall” and “York,” in which the Duke and Duchess travelled were decorated beautifully. In the “Cornwall” was an observation platform, a reception room, boudoir, dining room and kitchen. The reception room contained a pianoforte. The dining room was upholstered in green velvet and had a large table in the centre. In the “York” were the Royal sleeping apartments and bathrooms. The Duke’s bedroom was upholstered in red silk, and the Duchess’s in blue moire. There was also a dispensary on the train under the supervision of Dr. - now Sir Alan Manby, the Duke’s physician.
At the train’s first stop, Montreal, where the Duke and Duchess opened the new Medical Buildings, the Duchess was given the degree of LL. D. I shall never forget how charming she looked in her crimson robes— very shy, but very pleased. The Duke looked proud of her, as well he might, and the cheering was tremendous. Two Iroquois chiefs and their squaws were among those who welcomed the Royal visitors in Montreal. The Duke delighted the sisters of the convent by replying to their speech both in English and French. The nun’s speech was the shortest, and perhaps the most beautiful I have ever heard. It consisted of nine words: “The Lord preserve thy going out, and thy coming in.”
Ottawa was visited on September 20, and a statue of Queen Victoria was unveiled, and an investiture held by the Duke. Their Royal Highnesses enjoyed the novel experience of taking a midday meal in a lumberman’s shanty. The menu provided pea soup with pork and beans, apple sauce and tea. It was a most informal affair, and the Duke and Duchess were in high spirits, the Duke asking for a second helping of pea soup and the Duchess remarking that apple sauce had always been a favorite relish ever since childhood days. It was a day free from official ceremonies, and therefore “a real holiday.” Their Royal Highnesses went for a trip down the lumber slides, made an excursion on the river in a birch-bark Indian canoe manned by Indians, and saw woodmen plying their craft.
After being paddled to the Ottawa Canoe Club by lumbermen, who wore red shirts and sang Canadian boat songs, the Duke and Duchess watched a race between seven canoes. Then they returned to the train to continue a long overland journey which, when they reached Schreiber, had covered a distance of 1,000 miles. Here a little girl of six entered the Royal saloon and presented a bouquet. I think the Duchess must have known beforehand of the gift, for, as she kissed the child, she put into her hands a large box of chocolates.
Across the Plains
r"PHE night before the Royal train reached Winnipeg, on September 26, a tremendous storm arose and nobody could sleep because of the noise. However, the sun came out very early, and when the train stopped to allow an hour for dressing, practically everyone got out and walked about. I could not help being amused at the Duke. We were all looking tired and haggard, but he looked as fresh as a daisy, and confessed that he had slept all night and heard nothing of the storm.
At Winnipeg snow was seen for the first time, and at Calgary the Royal party obtained their first view of the Rockies. Here a great Indian pow-wow had been arranged, and speeches were made by chiefs with such names as “White Pup.” “Running Rabbit,” “Iron Shield of the Blackfeet Tribe,” “Crop-ear Wolf of the Bloods,” and “Jacob Bear’s Paw of the Stonies.” Then the train started, this time across the Rockies. The day was beautifully fine, and the Duke and Duchess spent the whole of it on the observation platform, watching the wonderful scenery. The pure white of the mountains, interspersed with strips of pine forest, was very lovely, and the deep chasms and splendid glaciers were magnificent. Only a six-hours stay was made at Vancouver, the next stopping-place, but those hours were fully filled with sightseeing, presentations and speeches.
On October 1, the end of the western progress was accomplished, and the Em press of India took the Royal party from Vancouver to Victoria, British Columbia. When the boat steamed into the sunlit harbor, the Duchess exclaimed: “Oh, what a very beautiful place this is!” A great many people heard the remark, and cheering began before the Duke and Duchess came ashore. Their Royal Highnesses much enjoyed their visit to Victoria, where, by the way, they met many Americans. One American told an amusing story.
“I know a better one than that,” said the Duke.
Amid much laughter he told the story which follows: Lambeth Palace, the residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury, looks rather like a fortress to the unaccustomed eye. Once a man of the household was standng at one of the old barred windows, when an American tourist called out sympathetically from the river: “Say, how long are you in for?”
Returning in the Empress of India to Vancouver, the homeward journey was resumed. Everyone used to try and sit on the “cowcatcher,” which was in the very front of the train, and to which seats had been attached. The Duke was often to be seen there with his camera, for he had become an enthusiastic photographer, and he secured some specially interesting photographs from this vantage point. It had been arranged that the Duchess should spend a little time at Banff, while the Duke went duck shooting with Lord Minto. The Duke had good sport, and the Duchess and the other ladies with the remainder of the suite had two days walking and riding amid the unrivalled scenery of Banff.
Ontario and Toronto gave the Royal party a tremendous welcome, in which children played an important part. At Toronto the Duke received the degree of Doctor of Laws. The girl graduates of the University turned up in great force, and lined the stairways and corridors, and cheered themselves hoarse. I was amused when the Duke said afterward that the afternoon had been the most embarrassing he had ever spent. “I am not a bit used to girl graduates,” he remarked, smiling, “and they rather overawed me.”
A Sunday spent at Niagara made an unforgettable impression on all. The effect of sunshine on the great falls was exquisite.
Brief visits to Kingston, Saint John, and Halifax, were made before Their Royal Highnesses said good-by to Canada. There was real regret in the Duke’s voice, as he uttered the words: “Our pleasure in coming among you is tinged with regret that we are on the eve of departure from the great country, where during the five weeks of our stay we have received so generous and so hearty a hospitality and have found so many kind friends.” Canada was left amid the cheers of thousands of people and the thunder of guns.
AFTER touching at Newfoundland, the Ophir started homeward on October 25. The Duke and Duchess were tired, but how magnificently worth while all their exertions had been. The weather was cloudy and grey, but nobody minded that very much. We were going home again, and home meant a great deal to everyone on board, especially to the Duke and Duchess. The Duchess had kept secretly a little calendar, which was afterwards found in her cabin, on which every day of the homeward journey had been crossed out carefully as it arrived.
They had both done splendid work for the Empire, but now they wanted to shed the position of “Duke and Duchess of York” and become “Father and Mother” again. Eagerly they wondered whether their children would recognize them; whether they had grown very much, and whether they had altered. They could hardly restrain their impatience, now that the journey was nearly accomplished. They had been so far, seen so much, and had, in the name of the King, bound together so much of the Empire with the bands of friendship, that they felt eager to reach again the shore of old England.
The Ophir encountered a gale and an iceberg in the Atlantic. When the ship met the Channel Squadron, a message was sent by wireless to King Edward saying: “All well.” The Ophir steamed right through the line of battleships of the Channel Squadron, which gave a salute of guns to the homeward voyagers, and passed with them up the Channel. When the Lizard was sighted the Royal pair knew at last they were really home.
Soon afterward, King Edward and Queen Alexandra, with the Duke’s children, came alongside in the new Royal yacht, Victoria and Albert, and met the Squadron. Such a high sea was running that they could not board the Ophir. It must have been most tantalizing for the Duke and Duchess to see their children so near, and yet not be able to take them in their arms. The children waved frantically, and King Edward had to hold Prince David to prevent his trying to climb over the rails. The next day the Ophir landed at Portsmouth, and the King and Queen, with Princess Victoria, Princess Charles of Denmark, and the children were at last really able to greet the travellers. The children had the run of the Ophir, and a most charming photograph was taken by the Duke, showing Prince David and Princess Mary peeping out of a porthole.
The Duchess’s joy over her children was a very real
and beautiful thing. She could not bear to take her
eyes off them for a minute. As she said to King Edward:
“I have enjoyed every bit of it, but I am very, very
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happy to be home again. ” In one of the Duchess’s letters to her eldest son she had mentioned that she was bringing him a big Newfoundland dog, which had been given to Their Royal Highnesses as a present. “David’s” first question after hugging his mother was: “Where’s my dog?” He was extremely disappointed when he heard that it had to be kept in quarantine.
“Wake Up, England!”
TMIRECTLY the travellers reached London, the titles of Prince and Princess of Wales were conferred on the Duke and Duchess by King Edward. At a banquet in the Guildhall, the Prince of Wales put into his speech what really were his whole reflections concerning his tour: “The old country must wake up if she intends to maintain her position of pre-eminence in her colonial trade against foreign competitors.” This forward policy was greeted with cheers, and “Wake up, England!” became a slogan in commerce.
Lord Rosebery made one of his finest speeches at the luncheon, prophesying that we should one day have the Empire federated, united, held together in a
bond, “not more material but more cementing than that which now exists.” Other speakers were the Marquess of Salisbury and Mr. Joseph Chamberlain.
The Poet Laureate, Mr. Alfred Austin, was inspired to write a poem of welcome, concluding:
“Round you today a People stand arrayed,
That fain with Peace two wedded worlds would dower,
Therefore rejoicing mightier hath been made Imperial Power.”
So ended the tour. It had been a wonderful success in every way, and had been carried out by all concerned without hitch or accident. The Empire had seen its future King, and the future King had viewed his Empire, and much mutual sympathy and understanding had been the result.
How many thousands of men who, as children, had seen the Duke and Duchess at the outposts of Empire, must have had their memories stirred, when they hastened to rally round the King and Queen in 1914 !
To be Continued