HISTORY: Royal visit to Howick by second son of Queen Victoria

Prince Alfred, 1869.

As Howick and districts count down to the 175th anniversary in 2022, the Times continues its series by Alan La Roche giving readers a glimpse of life as it used to be. The countdown began at the 170th in 2017

The first Royal visitor to New Zealand, 25-year-old Prince Alfred, the Duke of Edinburgh and second son of Queen Victoria, came to Howick in May 1869 to shoot pheasants on the Bleak House farm.

He was captain of the HMS Galatea steamship, with sails, the largest ship to enter Auckland Harbour principally to meet Maori after the Waikato War arrived on May 8. Many waka taua (war canoes) escorted him ashore where about 600 Maori performed a haka on the Queen’s Wharf.

After official welcomes, he drove up to Government House where 3000 children sang God Save The Queen. The children were all given oranges and cake.

The Grand Citizen’s Ball was held on Thursday May 13 in Britomart Barracks where men paid two guineas and women a half guinea to attend. After dark, bonfires were lit on the volcanic cones assisted by free kauri gum from the Government. The Prince arrived at 10pm greeted by 800 guests. He danced the first dance with Lady Bowen, the Governor’s wife.

He then retired to the promenade outside after the sumptuous supper with a part-Maori actress Miss Cleveland who was the leading lady in the melodrama “Satan in Paris” at the Prince of Wales Theatre.

Many women felt slighted and ignored. Eventually they reappeared and her husband marched across the floor and a fracas ensured giving the Prince a bleeding nose.

He was to visit Howick the next day which had to be cancelled as the Prince had “official business” with his old friend Sir George Grey at Kawau Island.

Panmure was festooned with flags and bunting, with a triumphal arch in the village and another at the entrance to the new Tamaki River Bridge and the disappointed Howick and Panmure Cavalry had to retire.

Eleven days later the Prince visited Howick and Pakuranga. He bagged 22 pairs of pheasants before being supplied with refreshment restoratives and a “feast of every delicacy of the season” in Butley Manor’s large barn by the MacLean brothers. A large gathering of settlers gave the Prince and his party a hearty cheer when he left.

On a separate private visit in December 1870, Prince Alfred was given a six-foot-tall elephant in Ceylon (now called Sri Lanka) which was paraded around the Auckland hotels.

While the Prince was visiting Bleak House again, the elephant was tethered outside the Methodist Church in Pakuranga Road, which is now in the Howick Historical Village. The teacher at Pakuranga School was told of the elephant so school closed for the day for pupils to see the elephant. Later the elephant was given to Regents Park Zoo in London.

Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh, succeeded his father’s brother’s title of Duke of Saxe-Coberg and Gotha, denounced his British citizenship and married the eldest daughter of the Tsar of Russia in 1876. The British public were not pleased with this marriage, remembering the Crimean War with Russia in 1853-1856.

His visit to Howick was remembered by the early settlers.

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