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“Let Me Hear No More of These Odious Distinctions…”

Prince Edward, Duke of Kent and Strathearn (17...

Prince Edward, Duke of Kent and Strathearn (1767-1820) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A number of members of the British Royal Family have been closely connected with Canada.  Edward, Duke of Kent, was commander of the garrisons at Quebec and Halifax.  King William IV was noted for his escapades in Halifax and other Canadian ports when he was  a member of the Royal Navy.  King Edward VII, as Prince of Wales, toured Canada in 1860 and laid the cornerstone for the first Parliament Buildings.  Edward, Prince of Wales, later the Duke of Windsor, served with Canadian forces in World War I; he laid the cornerstone of the present Parliament Buildings and owned a ranch in Alberta.  King George VI and Queen Elizabeth paid a memorable visit to Canada beginning on this day in 1939.  Since then, the present Queen and Prince Philip have made several visits to Canada.

On May 17, 1799, Edward, Duke of Kent, was made Commander-in-Chief of British forces in North America, with headquarters in Halifax.  He tried to make the old port into a fortress as a powerful as Gibraltar.  He also tried to set up a signal system from mountain top to mountain top all the way to Quebec, a route now used by microwave telephone.  The visual signal system was never completed, because fog often obliterated the signals between Nova Scotia and New Brunswick!

The most romantic part of Edward’s stay in Canada was when he was commander of the garrison at Quebec in 1791.  He fell in love with Alphonsine Thérèse Julie de Montgenet de St. Laurent Baronne de Fortisson whom he called “Julie” for short.  As he was a king’s son and could not marry a commoner, they lived as man and wife for a many years.  Through “Julie,” Edward made lasting friendships with many leading French-Canadian families.  He quelled a racial riot in Quebec by shouting in his military voice: “Let me hear no more of these odious distinctions of French and English.  You are all His Britannic Majesty’s beloved Canadian subjects.”

When the time came for him to give up “Julie” so that he could marry someone of Royal blood and give an heir to the throne, “Julie” retired into a convent in Belgium.  The heir Edward produced was Queen Victoria.

I am pretty sure you would like to read more about this love affair, so I have found a few special pages for you to experience.  A great place to start you off is at the Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online to read about Julie, and then the Duke of Kent at the Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online. Then there’s Canada’s Constitutional Monarchy Online Resource for a fun read. Finally, there is a fantastic article at the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.

 

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The Day Louisiana Was Sold To The U.S.

Napoleon Crossing the Alps

Napoleon Crossing the Alps (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One story that isn’t well-known is that Napoleon planned to recapture Canada for France.  He made himself dictator of France in 1799, on the pretext of “saving the Revolution,” but then went on to conquer most of Europe.

Napoleon’s plan to recapture Canada was inspired by Sir Alexander Mackenzie, who in 1793 became the first man to cross the continent from the Atlantic to the Pacific.  Mackenzie wrote a book about his trip which Napoleon had translated into French to help him plan his campaign.

His first step was to regain Louisiana.  France had owned the Mississippi Valley all the way to the Gulf of Mexico, but had handed over this territory to Spain before signing the Treaty of Paris in 1763 so that Britain would not acquire it.

In 1800, Napoleon regained Louisiana from Spain as part of the secret treaty of San Ildefonso.  He planned to move his troops up the Mississippi from the Gulf of Mexico.  In order to do this, he sent a large navy and army to recapture the former French colony of Haiti, which had been lost in a rebellion led by a mighty black warrior, Toussaint L’Ouverture.

Français : Le général Toussaint Louverture.

Le général Toussaint Louverture. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This was to be the base for the attack up the Mississippi, led by Napoleon’s favourite general, Count Bernadotte. His campaign was defeated by the same elements that beat the Scotsmen who wanted to set up a colony in Panama and make it New Scotland.  The natives and the mosquitoes were too fierce.    They killed 60,000 French troops in two years!

In the meantime, the British fleet had moved powerful units to the West Indies, and Napoleon knew that it would be too risky to try to move an army to the mouth of the Mississippi.  He abandoned the plan to recapture Canada, and sold Louisiana on April 30, 1803, to the United States for $27 million between the Mississippi and the Rocky Mountains. Spain still retained claims on the Pacific coast as far north as Oregon, which had an important bearing on the future development of British Columbia.

Want to read more about what became known as the Louisiana Purchase? I suggest National Archives & Records Administration for the transcripts, and a site I just found is Booknotes.org that you just have to check out! Oh, and don’t forget Wikipedia

 

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