Sunday, 23 May 2010

It's Victoria Day !

Happy Victoria Day !

"Victoria Day" celebrates Victoria's birthday on May 24, 1819 and has been a holiday in Canada since 1845. We are the only Commonwealth country to celebrate the occasion with a national holiday.  

Queen Victoria's reign spanned from 1837 to 1901, a moderately happy and somewhat glorious 63 years. Her rule began when 'Canada', for white folk anyway, was a mostly unexplored land. It followed us through our development from a couple of warring provinces into a country that stretched from coast to coast to coast.

When Victoria signed the BNA Act in 1867 she became our first head of state. That still didn't make her a Canadian, though, as there was no such thing as Canadian citizenship until 1947.

Victoria never visited this country but had a number of family connections to it.

Her father, Prince Edward, lived in Canada and was Commander of British North American troops from 1791-1798 and again from 1799-1800. 

Son, Albert, lived here in the 1860's and another son, Prince Arthur Duke of Connaught, was our Governor-General from 1911 - 1916.

Daughter Princess Louise (above) was the first female Royal to visit the Territories and lived here with her husband John Campbell the Marquess of Lorne. They were Governor General and Chatelaine from 1878 to 1883.

Lorne took a particular interest in the West.

In 1881, he visited Winnipeg while Louise stayed home in Ottawa convalescing from injuries from a sleigh ride accident. While here, Lorne dedicated Winnipeg's Louise Bridge in his wife's honour and proceeded on a three-month long journey through Manitoba and the Territories.

In October 1881, he returned to Winnipeg to address the Manitoba Club with a memoir of his trip and revealed what would be a life long fascination with the West. He said "
For a Canadian official a knowledge of the Northwest is indispensable. To be ignorant of the North-west is to be ignorant of the greater portion of our country." (For the full text of his address).

One biographer said that Canada, and especially the West, stayed with Lorne. Lorne's sister would write that “His heart is always in Canada.

As it was Victoria who signed the Manitoba Act in 1870 there are a number of monuments to her around the province.

Familiar to most is the above statue that sits in front of the Manitoba Legislature. There was a bust of Victoria in front of the old city hall which is now in Assiniboine Park.

Brandon has streets named for Lorne, Louise and Victoria while Portage la Prairie has Victoria Avenue.

The Empress of India, one of Manitoba's first locomotives, was named for her, as is the community of Victoria Beach.

Morning Telegram Jan 23, 1901

Victoria and Albert had a tumultuous personal life, yet when he died in 1861, likely from typhoid, she spent a year in complete seclusion and for most of the following decade was rarely seen.

From the time of his death until hers she remained in mourning creating the image most people have of her as a sad, dour woman dressed in black.

Seeing as it's her birthday, even Queen Victoria is allowed a little smile today !

Happy Victoria Day everyone !

Victoria Day Special West End Dumplings - The Radio Edition
Another side to Victoria? SkyNews (video)

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