Queen Victoria’s second son, Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh, chose a career in the Royal Navy and was captain of the frigate H.M.S. Galatea when it arrived at Auckland, New Zealand, on 8th May 1869. Although this wasn’t an official royal visit, a prince is still a prince, and he caused quite a stir in colonial society. The Reverend Vicesimus Lush from the Thames goldfields recorded some of the excitement in his journal.
On the 8th inst. the Galatea sailed into the [Waitemata] Harbour and upwards of 2000 of the inhabitants of Shortland and Grahamstown* left [for Auckland] on the 8th and the 9th. The steamers were each trip dangerously crowded. I went up on Monday in the Royal Alfred**; we started a little before 8. The Prince landed at 11; we reached the wharf at half past 12. So all the Reception was over and the multitudes having flocked after the “procession”, the wharf was very clear of people when we landed.
Rev. Lush went on to Government House where he was…. just in time to join the rest of the Clergy in attending the Prince’s Levee. I had a good view of him and thought the Photographs I had seen were very like him. Then I went home.
On the very next day I took Charlie, Anne, Edith and Edward for a walk and we went up the Khyber Pass road and there we were so very fortunate as to meet the Prince, driving a dog cart – four greys in hand. So the Children had another excellent view of him.
After his conveyance there was a long drag – or American waggon – drawn by four greys and containing the Governor and some 7 or 8 gentlemen. The cortege was preceded by two servants (armed) and followed by two, also armed. The whole turn out was very pretty and the children were delighted.
18 May. …… In my rambles heard a piece of – scandal, shall I call it – or gossip – about the Prince. On dit [they say] that at the Citizens Ball, after dancing with Lady Bowen, he retired to the promenade where he walked about with Miss Cleveland – the actress – rather a slight on the Ladies of Auckland assembled in the adjoining Ballroom. And that further on in the evening, in what particular locality I did not hear (I suppose not in such a public or crowded one as the Ballroom or its Corridors) Miss? Cleveland’s husband was so offended that a slight fracas ensued and the Prince somehow or other left with his nose bleeding – they say through a blow! The next morning the papers announced he would not go to the Tamaki for a day’s shooting!
On 28th May, Rev Lush escorted his wife Blanche and 25 year old daughter Blannie to the Queen’s Birthday Ball at Government House – 800 invitations had been sent out. …….. At last the Prince came, attended by a posse of officers and, after a few words with the Governor, offered his arm to Lady Bowen and the whole party moved off to the Ballroom. But so great was the crowd and so slowly did we move on account chiefly of the long trains of the ladies’ dresses, that the National Anthem had been played and the dancing commenced before Blanche and I could get in……
The rooms were very crowded. Dancing was dancing under great difficulties – but it was incessant; Blannie managed to get 7 dances. The Prince’s piper came in, in the course of the evening, and marched up and down the room for a short time. The Supper itself was a frightful scramble and we were fortunate to get anything. Our carriage had been ordered for half past one, but, it not coming, at almost half past two we started homeward on foot. This was the only unfortunate circumstance in the evening for we were not prepared for a tramp, Blannie having nothing but thin white satin shoes on. I told Blanche this should be the very last Ball; nothing but the wish of letting her and Blannie see the Prince would have induced me to go this time.
The Thames Journals of Vicesimus Lush 1868-82. Ed. Alison Drummond. Pegasus. 1975.
* Shortland and Grahamstown were the foundation settlements of the town now known as Thames.
** Paddle steamer Royal Alfred, 1868, Auckland Steam Packet Co.