FOR BRANT NEWS
This year, the year of Queen Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee, represents an opportunity to celebrate the ties of culture and history that bind us together and reflect on the role of the Crown in Canada.
Here in Brant, this Jubilee year is also an opportunity to reflect on our own unique historical connection to the monarchy. Many might not be aware of how frequent visits from British royalty, including our current Queen, Elizabeth II, have inspired unmatched celebrations and outbursts of pride and engagement in our community.
In the latter years of the 19th century, Brantford was a charming, growing industrial city that was attracting workers from the United States and Britain in droves. Author Charlotte Gray describes it as a city where “loyalty to the mother country combined with Yankee know-how and capital.”
Brantford and Six Nations quickly emerged as an essential destination on the itinerary for any Canadian royal tour and visiting royals were always greeted by thousands of well-wishers excited to show off their distinct culture and extraordinary civic pride.
To say that news of an impending royal visit was a “big deal” locally would be a tremendous understatement.
In advising Brant County council of Brant’s first royal visit by Albert Edward, the Prince of Wales, in 1860, Warden Thomas Conboy wrote that “it will be an important occasion and any demonstration that may be decided on should be worthy of the county and it.”
And worthy it was.
Brantford, in the days preceding his visit, was a constant scene of activity, excitement and bustle. When Prince Edward arrived in a royal blue railway sleeper car built here in Brantford, he was greeted by a crowd of about 10,000 joyous people eager to welcome their future king at the train station.
Union Jacks and patriotic mottoes were displayed at churches, on public buildings and in nearly every window. Cannons were placed on Terrace Hill to fire a timely salute when the royal train first appeared in sight. The city was out in its gala dress and the streets filled with joy and enthusiasm.
The prince was treated to a 60 dish luncheon at the historic Kirby House Hotel, the largest hotel in Upper Canada. He made no quarrels in conceding that never before had he seen such an enormous feast.
Before leaving, the prince signed the Queen Anne Bible, first given in 1712 to the Mohawk Chapel upon its completion. The signing of that Bible would become a tradition for all visiting royalty.
The whole encounter set the bar high as the first of three visits by direct heirs to the British throne.
In 1869, Brantford was visited by Prince Arthur, the son of Queen Victoria and later the Duke of Connaught, again to great fanfare.
He was met by the mayor and other dignitaries before travelling to Mohawk Chapel, where he signed the Queen Ann Bible and visited Joseph Brant’s tomb before being named a chief and being given the name Kar-a-kon-dye, The Sun Flying, by the Six Nations.
Prince Arthur visited Brantford and Six Nations again in 1913 and in 1914 with his daughter, Princess Patricia. They visited the Bell Homestead, the Mohawk Chapel and enjoyed a baseball game at Agricultural Park – one of the earliest accounts of a baseball game being played at present-day Arnold Anderson Stadium.
Brantford was also visited by King George V and Queen Mary in 1901 during a cross-Canada tour.
In 1919, Edward, the Prince of Wales and soon King Edward VII, visited on the day of an Ontario election, but the heat of politics did not take away from giving the heir to the British throne a memorable reception. He visited the local armouries and paid tribute to those who fought in the First World War, visited the Bell Memorial and was hosted by Six Nations at Victoria Park in front of the largest crowd of the day. The prince was made a Chief of Six Nations and given the name Da-yon-hem-se-ia, Dawn of the Day.
He became only the second non-native man to ever sign the council roll as chief after his uncle, Prince Arthur.
But perhaps no member of the royal family has ever developed a stronger connection with our community than Queen Elizabeth II, who’s Diamond Jubilee we celebrate this year.
Then-Princess Elizabeth visited Brantford for the first time in 1939 with King George VI. Greeted by thousands of people waiting to catch a glimpse of the royals, as well as Mayor R.J. Waterous and Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King, this visit caused the most excitement of any royal visit to Brantford. It was the first time that a reigning monarch had visited Canada.
It was the first of her many visits to our great city.
She visited again in 1951, 1959 and 1973 to experience local culture, visit historic sites and meet with veterans, school children, dignitaries and other citizens. She returned in 1984 to unveil the plaque at the Mohawk Chapel recognizing Upper Canada’s first Protestant church and the oldest surviving church in Ontario as a National Historic Site and most recently in 1997 to unveil a new plaque giving the Bell Homestead the same designation.
Always greeted by tremendous fanfare and great celebration, Brantford shares a warm and storied history with Queen Elizabeth II.
As Canadians celebrate this Diamond Jubilee year and her Her Majesty’s extraordinary dedication and service to Canada, let us not forget to celebrate our own deep connection to Her Majesty and our many successes and achievements as a community under her reign.
Phil McColeman is MP for Brant.