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Departure From Halifax, Part 8 to the Life & Works of
Prince Edward, Duke of Kent

In August of 1797, the Duke wrote to his friend at Quebec, de Salaberry, commenting that he had been at Halifax for three years, "... next spring I shall be permitted to return to my country after an absence of thirteen years." In October, he put a qualifier on this statement" if peace is established, it is to be presumed that I will be recalled next spring; but if the war continues I fear no change for me is to be hoped for."46

Well, Edward was not recalled as he thought he might in 1798. He did, however, leave Halifax that year for England. He had not planned to do so. He took a bad tumble with his horse on a Halifax street on the 8th of August. The whole weight of his moving horse pressed his leg against the hard street. He did not break any of his bones but he suffered from serious contusions. The Prince kept to his regular schedule for weeks thereafter but his leg continued to bother him. He consulted his doctors, one of whom had come from Quebec; and only after they had concurred that he should seek medical help in England did the Prince make plans to go there.47 He determined to document things carefully, as he remembered, well, his father's reaction to him arriving in England from Geneva without his leave. Finally, on Sunday morning, October 21st, Prince Edward went aboard H.M.S. Topaz (Captain Church), "with his suite," Julie included. The Topaz reached Portsmouth on the 13th of November. The royal family at Windsor were happy to see the son who had been so long away from home. It was not likely that Julie attended with Edward when he went up to Windsor; "though the prince's brothers were enchanted by her sparkle at private diner parties."48

The Duke of Kent was motivated to return to England because of his health. Another concern of his was his long standing financial problems, ones that might be resolved by him personally setting out his case for additional funds. To maintain his "royal presence," Prince Edward spent as freely as the money lenders at London would allow. He was very fond of fine furniture, musical boxes, and ornate clocks; he liked horses; he liked carriages made in London and had them shipped to him; he liked, as befitted a high ranking military officer and a Prince of the Realm, all the accoutrements of dress and arms of a soldier.49

Prince Edward spent the winter of 1798/99 in England making the rounds. In May of 1799, then 32 years of age, he was gazetted a General and within a week of that appointed Commander in Chief of the Forces in British North America. He sailed from England that summer on the Arethusa, Captain Wooley, and arrived at Halifax on September 6th. He was greeted with royal salutes fired from the batteries and from the ships of war which had bunting streaming from the mastheads and sailors on the yardarms.50 Julie, of course, was with Edward, and, so too, was Lady Francis Wentworth.51

The Duke of Kent was to spend one more year at Halifax. He and his lady reoccupied Wentworth's lodge on Bedford Basin, and, we imagine, they followed much the same routine as had been established through the years 1794-98. I am not sure who or why the decision was made to bring Prince Edward back home to England. He was undoubtedly happy to return, especially after his taste of the royal life in England the winter before. Certainly the great events of the Napoleonic wars were unfolding spectacularly. In 1799, Nelson's victory at the Battle of the Nile re-established Britain's hold on the Mediterranean and locked Bonaparte up in Egypt; and because of this the timid princes of Europe were encouraged to form the "Second Coalition": England, Austria, and Russia. The Russians drove the French out of northern Italy; Nelson aided the counter-revolutionaries in the south. It was thought, I suppose, that given these events, that there were any number of positions available for Prince Edward and which would put him closer to the royal hearth; though it was not clear as to what exactly he would be doing once back in England.52

It was in August of 1800 that the Duke left Halifax for England for the last time: proceeding from Government House, "accompanied by the Lieutenant Governor, council, navel, military and civil officers, &c., and reached the ship under salutes from the citadel, artillery corps, and men-of-war, whose yards were manned. The people were on tops of houses and at windows to evince their interest. On Monday, August 4th, the 50 gun ship, Assistance sailed for England, receiving salutes from the batteries as she passed, and the Prince arrived at Portsmouth August 31st."53

A couple of days after Prince Edward departed, there was to be a sorry scene on the Halifax Common, a scene that the Duke of Kent probably was most anxious to avoid:

"On the 7 August [1800] a melancholy proceeding took place at Halifax. Eleven soldiers sentenced to death for acts of mutiny and desertion, were escorted with all solemnity behind the citadel by all the troops in garrison, viz., the Royal Newfoundland regiment, the Royal Nova Scotia regiment, 26th, 24th, 7th, and Royal artillery. The convicts were dressed in white, their coffins painted black, drawn on a cart before them. Two clergymen - Wright, (protestant), and Burke, (catholic) - attending them, a band playing some dirge. On the place of execution, eight were reprieved, and three who belonged to the Newfoundland regiment, were hanged at twenty minutes before 7, a.m."54


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Peter Landry
2011 (2013)

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