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Gibraltar and Quebec, Part 4 to the Life & Works of
Prince Edward, Duke of Kent

As the first year progressed on "The Rock," Prince Edward became "restless and unhappy." The officers noted that his health was not all that it had been. Then a change. In January of 1791, Prince Edward wrote one of his brothers, the Duke of Clarence.
"I feel this want of resources perhaps less than any man, for I manage with the assistance of a little music, a few books, & a little small talk with four or five officers, ... Besides I have at present a young woman living with me who I wrote over to, to come from France to me, who has every qualification which an excellent share of good temper, no small degree of cleverness, & above all, a pretty face & a handsome person can give to make my hours pass away pleasantly in her company."12
And so we see, Julie St. Laurent's entrance into the historical pages, in the hand of Prince Edward. It seems that he knew her before13 he first got to Gibraltar; knew her maybe for a very short period in Geneva, just before he ran away to his family in England in January of 1790. We do not know; except as we can see that Edward wrote to her in France, at some point in the year 1790 to come to him in Gibraltar.

Prince Edward spent eighteen months this first time at Gibraltar. The events were more boring for the prince at Gibraltar then anything else. He had his Julie who attached herself completely to the prince. However, there were complaints about Edward that got themselves back to London. Chief among them being that he was keeping a French Lady under his roof. I do not know whether these complaints registered with those at Whitehall, or not. After all, Prince Edward was the better for it, -- a nice French Lady to keep him company at Gibraltar. In such a situation: there will be no excessive drinking, no whoring around and staying up late -- not for Prince Edward. No, his transfer to Quebec was because of his request; he had enough of the constraints of this almost island made of rock. He wanted a change of scenery; he himself put in for a transfer, anywhere in Europe would be OK. Why, the authorities could send him and his regiment off to Quebec, if that were to please the King. Apparently such a suggestion did register with the King. On June 24th, 1791, His Royal Highness Prince Edward set off from Gibraltar with his regiment, the 7th Royal Fusileers. On August 11th, a Fleet of His Majesty's ships, including the Ulysses and the Resolution arrived safely at Quebec.14 It was reported in The Times, on Prince Edward leaving for Quebec, that his retinue was "rather domestic than Princely; a French Lady, his own man, and a Swiss valet, composing his whole suit."15

From the summer of 1791 to January of 1794, a period of two and a third years, Prince Edward and Julie St. Laurent were residents of Quebec. This was to be an interesting period in their lives. The Quebec society because of the predominant French population, was one that was different than that which the pair had experienced at Gibraltar and different from that which they were next to experience in Halifax. In a letter to his brother dated the 8th of July, 1792, Prince Edward wrote:

"I must own that though this country [Quebec] is preferable to Gibraltar, by the liberty one enjoys of ranging about ... yet it is a sad tiresome sejour for any person who looks up to greater enjoyments than those of traineaux parties. I dread the next winter, as I am convinced that it certainly will be still more stupid & insipid than the last."16
Though it is not my intention to review the Duke of Kent's life at Quebec, there is, however, one event in Edward's military life which needs mentioning, an event which placed Prince Edward into deeper difficulty than need have been, when, in 1802, he took over the command at Gibraltar as its Governor. The difficulty that Prince Edward consistently had was a difficulty which first raised its head when he was first at Gibraltar, 1790-1. At a young age, it will be remembered, Prince Edward had been sent to Germany to learn the hard tactics of a German officer. Such might work in shaping up German soldiers and Princes of the Royal Blood, but hard tactics, as Prince Edward was to find out, did not work on British soldiers. The signs of trouble that showed at Quebec did not lead to any abatement of the treatment extended to the ordinary soldier; things got that bad that the soldiers rebelled. Prince Edward took no time or trouble to reason with them; and by late winter or the spring of 1793, he had the ringleaders behind bars. A Court Martial followed along without delay and in the result three men were found guilty, one was acquitted for lack of evidence. The sentence for two of them was 500 and 700 lashes; the third was to be shot by firing squad. The man to be shot was named John Draper. His date for execution was to be on April 2nd. On that day the two men were whipped and Draper made to march to the place where he was to meet his death. The yard in which he was to be shot was a few miles out of town and along went the grim parade. Four men carried the black coffin ahead of Draper dressed in white for the grave; in behind was the regimental band playing their dirges; and then there followed the guard and Prince Edward in his full military uniform. David Duff described the scene: "The procession halted. The firing-party lined up. Draper was led out before them." While the firing squad wanted for the command, Prince Edward went to Draper, bound and ready to be shot. Prince Edward reminded John Draper of the terrible moment at which he arrived; he then told him he was pardoned and the parade marched back to the garrison with Draper as white as when he first set out behind his coffin.17

Prince Edward's difficulty with his soldiers and the hard winters of Quebec drove him to look for another position. In December of 1793, he solicited an appointment under Sir Charles Grey, then engaged in the reduction of the French West India Islands; and, having been appointed a major general, Edward was ordered to proceed to the Islands in January, 1794. Edward left Quebec "immediately before his departure could be made public." Anderson continues: "He proceeded through the United States, intending to embark at Boston, and on crossing Lake Champlain, two of the sleds carrying his whole equipage, broke through the ice and were lost."18

Julie left Quebec, it appears together with Edward, both of them, together with a contingent of soldiers and servants; all bouncing along over the winter snows atop sleighs being drawn, we suppose, by horses and where not available, by men and dogs. Madame St. Laurent's movements are hard to trace between Quebec and Halifax. She was bound for England while the Prince was off to fight the French in the Caribbean. She likely traveled with the Prince down the Lake Champlain route and either from New York, Boston or Portland (take your choice) she went on alone to Halifax to take a ship for England, one she had to wait for. At Halifax she spent "several weeks, waiting a passage to England." She spent her time with the Wentworths, who were much impressed with Madame St. Laurent. "She is an elegant, well bred, pleasing sensible woman -- far beyond most."19

In the meantime Prince Edward was seeing action in Martinique and Guadalupe, and making a very good show of himself.20 The campaign in the French West Indies lasted but three months; it was to be the only active service that Prince Edward was ever to see. From there, in 1794, the Prince was ordered to go to Halifax and there to assume the command of His Majesty's Forces in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick with his headquarters at Halifax. Julie was not aware of Prince Edwards's progress, and, it can only be figured that she was of the view that he might be tied up in the Caribbean for more than just three months. Julie, having been "several weeks" at Halifax, boarded a packet for England on May the 10th, 1794, just a day before the naval vessel, Blanche hauled into Halifax Harbour with Prince Edward aboard, 12 days from St. Kitts.



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Peter Landry
2011 (2013)

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