The first visit to Australia by a member of the British Royal Family commenced in 1867 when Prince Alfred Ernest Albert, Duke of Edinburgh, K.G., the second son of Queen Victoria, arrived in "H.M.S. Galatea" from England via the Cape of Good Hope.
He arrived at Melbourne towards the end of November 1867 and after a week of functions in the Melbourne area sailed to Geelong. A week was then spent touring the Western District before arriving at Ballarat on 9 December 1867. Here his schedule included visits to a number of gold mines. At the 'Band of Hope' mine he descended the mine shaft and tried his hand at gold mining and on returning to the surface he and his suite posed for a photograph. He returned to Melbourne by train on 12 December 1867 and rested for a few days before taking the train to Castlemaine where he stayed overnight. He then proceeded on to Bendigo where, during a torchlight procession, a model of "H.M.S. Galatea" tragically caught fire resulting in the deaths of three children and injuries to many others. The following day a hall where it had been planned to hold a ball also burnt down. The Prince returned to Melbourne on 20 December 1867 and spent most of his remaining time in the Melbourne area.
The presentation of the Loyal Address was scheduled for noon on Friday, 3 January 1868, at the Public Library in Melbourne. At twelve o'clock a good sprinkling of the old colonists had arrived, many of whom did not seem to know each other, but all were cognisant of the fact that an address was to be presented by them to the Prince. A few minutes after time His Royal Highness arrived in an open four-wheeled barouche carriage, accompanied by his Excellency the Governor (Sir J. H. T. Manners-Sutton, K.C.B.), Lord Newry and Mr. Haig. He was also accompanied by Lieutenant Rothwell, aide-de-camp to His Excellency, Mr. Manners-Sutton, and Mr. Oswald W. Brierly. He was received at the Swanston Street gate, amid the cheers of the assembled crowd, by the trustees of the Library, Sir Redmond Barry, Sir James Palmer, Sir Francis Murphy and Mr. E. C. Macarthur, also the Librarian, Mr. Augustus H. Tulk. The royal party were then escorted to the Library hall and the address from the old colonists was presented by Mr. Edward Henty, who was accompanied by the Hon. John Pascoe Fawkner, M.L.C., the Hon. John O'Shanassy, M.L.A., Francis Henty, John Charles King, Alfred Woolley, Jonathan Binns Were, John Rutherford, Messrs. Macarthur, M'Kenzie, O'Brien and many others. Some of those present were accompanied by their wives.
Mr. Edward Henty firstly read the address, then on presenting it, said it was already signed by 604 names, and that there were yet about 150 to be appended, and that as the time allowed them for preparation had been short, he hoped that while H.R.H. accepted the address now, it might be left with the old colonists for completion, and would then be forwarded to him. To this request H.R.H. signified his assent.
Mr. Fawkner then advanced and said that he would not detain them long, but he thought it right to say that the gentleman who had just presented the address was the first man settled at Portland Bay, and that he himself had first arrived at Port Phillip sixty-four years earlier - that was in the year 1803. Many changes had occurred since then; the Colony of Victoria had been established and progressed, and it would, doubtless, be within the Duke's recollection that the colony had come nobly forward upon more than one occasion, as, for instance, in the case of the Crimean war and the Indian mutiny. He added "The colonists have on several occasions shown forth their loyalty and affection for England, in addition to furnishing many millions of pounds' worth of gold for aid in the war, they contributed largely to assist the sufferers, not only in the Indian rebellion but also in the cotton famine, by sending large sums of money to aid their suffering fellow-countrymen. These, your Royal Highness were proofs of their attachment."
The Prince seemed impressed with the unusual nature of the address, and returned to it a much more than ordinarily careful and elaborate reply.
The Prince and his party were then conducted over the Library, Picture Gallery and Museum, in each of which he spent some time carefully examining the different specimens of art and science. They afterwards adjourned to the Trustees' room to receive the presents from the Library Trustees. These consisted firstly of a large handsome volume in purple binding, in the style known as moire antique, its contents being biographical charts of Italian painters of the schools of Naples, Bologna, Florence and Venice, with biographical illustrations by Mr. Noone from line and steel engravings of the best specimens by the various masters in the principal galleries of Europe. The history of each of the schools mentioned above was minutely given century by century, together with the names of the reigning kings during the periods, and the names of the pupils of the various masters, thus enabling the career of each successive great painter to be followed, and the effects of the various modes of tuition to be observed, and the changes in style necessarily resulting from the different conceptions of the artists to be seen. The book was a noble one, and was prepared by direction of the trustees, and the completeness of the charts was very much owing to the labors of Sir Redmond Barry. The photographs, done upon cream coloured leaves of various shades, were in every way worthy of the letterpress; and the binding of Mr. Ferres, the Government Printer, was in itself a work of art. The remaining volumes consisted of catalogues of the Public Library, the Museum and works of art for H.R.H. the Duke of Edinburgh; catalogues of the Library for Her Majesty the Queen, for the Princess of Wales, and for the Princess of Prussia; in all eleven volumes. Each of these was handsomely and richly bound. Shortly afterwards, the royal party, accompanied by the trustees, started for the Melbourne University where the degree of LL.D. was conferred upon Prince Albert.
The following day, the Prince departed Victoria on "H.M.S. Galatea" for Tasmania. His time here had been eventful. He attended numerous dinners, balls, sporting functions and church services. He laid foundation stones, planted trees, visited theatres, and received many loyal addresses. There were also many processions for which numerous arches had been constructed. Perhaps the most unusual being the one constructed by the inmates of the Yarra Bend Lunatic Asylum at the entrance to their grounds bearing the inscription "Welcome Alfred."
Though a similar loyal address had previously been presented to the Prince by the early colonists of South Australia, it was not until he had been in Victoria for some time that the address from the 'Old Colonists' of Victoria was commenced. The stated qualification for signing it was to be a person whose colonial residence dated back not less than twenty-five years. However the "Geelong Advertiser" remarked: "We only regret that colonists of Australia of twenty (sic) years and upwards, now resident in Victoria, should have been permitted to sign the address when proof would have been given, if indeed it can be required that all having a stake in the colony are determined to maintain loyalty to the Throne, and union with the mother country, and the integrity of a Constitution conferred by British liberality, and guaranteed by British power." The address itself was very handsomely emblazoned on vellum in variegated colours, bound in red morocco and gold.
Signatures to the address were to be received at the Mechanics' Institute buildings of Melbourne, Geelong, Ballarat, and Sandhurst, up to four p.m on Thursday, 2 January 1868. Blank sheets were also sent to the Western District for the signatures of a number of gentlemen who could not come to Melbourne. However, as the Prince had allowed extra time for it to be prepared, the opportunity was used to obtain more signatures. At the instigation of Nehemiah Guthridge who wrote to the "Gippsland Times" in Sale, supplementary lists were made available for signing by residents of Gippsland at the Hardware Company's store and at Messrs. Macarthur and Co.'s Auction Mart. These lists were to be closed at 6 o'clock on Thursday, 9 January 1868 and then posted to Melbourne. On Saturday, 11 January 1868, George Frederick Belcher of Geelong obtained from Melbourne a blank sheet, to be filled up with the signatures of old colonists. During that day no fewer than thirty persons called at his Geelong office and affixed their autographs, the earliest arrival being that of Mr. David Fisher, who arrived in 1836. The list was to be kept open till midday on Monday, 13 January 1868, when it was to be sent off to Melbourne. Returned sheets from country areas were found to contain space for about thirty additional signatures, so they were left open for signing at the Mechanics' Institute in Melbourne. In all about 839 signatures were eventually obtained.
The facsimile of the address, signatures and reply needed a few days to complete, following which the original was despatched to the Prince at Sydney. It was proposed to print a sufficient number of facsimile copies for presentation to the Public Library, the British Museum, and other depositaries of such records at home and in America, as well as a few for the use of such of the old colonists as desired to possess one. Arrangements were made with the publishers under which facsimiles, printed on superior paper and neatly bound in red morocco, could be obtained at one guinea each. Only a limited number were printed, and the lithographic stones were not to be retained. The publishers were Messrs. E. Whitehead and Co., of Collins Street East, Melbourne.
After the above article was published Wendy Graham ( PPPG Member no. 1150 ) advised that her great-grandfather, Thomas William Orr, had given her a medallion which commemorated the visit to Australia by Prince Alfred in 1867. Another reader, Kathryn Jones-Lucas sent in images of a similar medallion which she possesses.
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