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Royal Visit - HRH Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh in HMS GALATEA

The second son of Queen Victoria, Alfred Ernest Albert, Duke of Edinburgh was born on 6 August 1844 at Windsor, England. He entered the Royal Navy in 1858 and travelled widely as a midshipman in the frigate HMS EURYALUS. He was promoted Lieutenant in 1863 and in 1866 became both a naval captain and Duke of Edinburgh. He commissioned his first command, HMS GALATEA, in January 1867, and left for a world tour via the Mediterranean. GALATEA sailed for South America on 12 June for a state visit to the emperor of Brazil. After two months at the Cape of Good Hope, the GALATEA reached Adelaide on 31 October 1867 to commence the first royal tour of Australia.

The Australian leg of the world tour was to last for six months, visiting Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, and Tasmania. After three uneventful weeks in South Australia, the Duke moved on to Melbourne where a shooting incident between Orange and Catholic factions resulted in the death of a small boy, three more boys died in Bendigo when a mockup of GALATEA caught fire, a sailor had his hand blown apart during a cannon firing demonstration in Melbourne, and a riot due to inept handling of a free public banquet marred the generally enthusiastic atmosphere. He then visited peaceful Tasmania and arrived in Sydney on 21 January 1868. After a month of festivities he spent a week in Brisbane before returning to Sydney.

In Queensland the Duke was taken to Jondaryan to open the new extension to the railway line; the visit was a disaster right from the start. The royal train was very late, the evening meal was not until 10 pm, over-zealous officials kept making speeches, and the Prince had to overnight in uncomfortable lodgings.

Despite rumours of sectarian strife, Prince Alfred attended a picnic at Clontarf in Sydney's Middle Harbour on 12 March where an Irishman, Henry James O'Farrell, succeeded in wounding him seriously, with a revolver shot to the back, just to the right of his spine. O'Farrell first claimed that he had acted on instructions from a band of Melbourne Fenians, but later retracted and stated that "From continually thinking and talking of the wrongs of Ireland, I became excited and filled with enthusiasm for the subject, and it was then under the influence of those feelings that I attempted to perpetrate the deed for which I am now justly called upon to suffer." In a frenzy of outraged patriotism the NSW government sought unsuccessfully to uncover a conspiracy and, overruling the Duke's proposal to refer the sentence on O'Farrell to the Queen, refused to recommend clemency. O'Farrell was hanged on 21 April and buried in the Catholic section of Rookwood cemetery.

The Duke, who had recovered completely by 26 March, left for England on 26 June. He visited Australia again, informally, arriving in Fremantle on 28 January 1869 and leaving Sydney on 3 April. In both Sydney and Melbourne he dedicated hospitals commemorating his previous escape from death. In 1870 the Duke made a final visit to dock the GALATEA. He arrived at Sydney on 15 September, visited Melbourne for the Cup from 22 October to 19 November, and sailed early in 1871 without any ceremonies.

He is reported to have said to Queen Victoria, "In New South Wales they shot at me, in Victoria they mobbed me, but in Queensland they sent me to Jondaryan and inflicted me with over zealous officials."

In 1867 The Mosquito Yachting Club in Sydney voted to change its name to the Prince Alfred Yacht Club to commemorate the Duke's visit; permission was given in 1911 for them to use the prefix Royal.

Here is a typical newspaper report detailing the excitement and organisation the Prince's visit generated; The Perth Gazette & West Australian Times, 23 August 1867:
VISIT OF THE DUKE OF EDINBURGH
(From the Government Gazette.)
PROGRAMME OF THE COMMITTEE.
"So soon as the arrival of H.M.S. Galatea is known in Perth, His Excellency the Governor will go on board, and welcome His Royal Highness, and offer him the hospitality of Government House, during his stay in this Colony.

His Excellency proposes that the Chairman and the Secretary of the Committee should accompany him, and should ascertain whether the Duke will be pleased, on his landing at Fremantle, to accept an address from the inhabitants of the Colony.
A Triumphal Arch will be erected on the Jetty at Fremantle, under which His Excel- lency and the Members of the Committee will receive His Royal Highness, when he lands, and where the address will be read. A Guard of Honor will be in attendance, and arrangements will be made for the inhabitants of Fremantle to witness the ceremony. The Streets of Fremantle will be decorated with flags and streamers, and a second triumphal arch will be erected, near Mrs. Higham's house. Small arches will also be erected at either end of the Fremantle Bridge and flags will be hoisted at intervals, along both sides of the bridge.

Carriages will be provided for His Royal Highness and Suite and for the Members of the Committee to proceed to Perth; a Military Escort will accompany the Carriages. After the presentation of the address, His Royal Highness will be requested by His Excellency to enter the carriage provided for him, and will be driven at foot pace through the Streets of Fremantle, so as to afford the numbers that will doubtless assemble on the occasion, an opportunity of warmly welcoming His Royal Highness. The Carriages will then proceed to Perth, where the Streets will be decorated as in Fremantle; a large triumphal arch will be erected at the junction of Barrack Street with St. George's Terrace. His Royal Highness will enter Perth by Mill Street, and will be driven slowly through Adelaide and St. George's Terraces to Government House.

At one point there will be an assembly of as many of the Aborigines as can be collected, and near the triumphal arch will be drawn up a large body of children from the various Schools, who will sing the National Anthem. It is the intention of His Excellency to ask His Royal Highness to be present at a Ball at Government House, at which there will be a large assembly invited to attend. The pleasure of His Royal Highness will also be taken as to holding a levee.

His Excellency further proposes to request His Royal Highness to inaugurate the New Bridges at Perth and Guildford, which will be decorated with flags for the occasion, and whereon triumphal arches will be erected. A luncheon will be provided for His Royal Highness at Guildford, the Streets of which will be decorated in much the same manner as those of Perth and Fremantle. It is proposed by the Committee to request the attendance of His Royal Highness, should his stay in the Colony permit, at a Ball which will probably be given at Government House, His Excellency having very kindly placed at the disposal of the Committee, the reception rooms for such purpose.

In order to render the stay of the Galatea at Fremantle pleasant to the Officers and Crew, it is proposed that they be asked to join in playing a Cricket Match with the Perth and Fremantle Cricket Clubs, and in a Shooting Match with the Perth and Fremantle Rifle Volunteers.

Various other suggestions are under the consideration of the Committee, but nothing definite regarding them can be decided till the arrival of His Royal Highness, and information be obtained as to the probable length of his sojourn in the Colony."


General sources: H. J. Gibbney: adbonline.anu.edu.au; John Eggleston, Jondaryan Woolshed Historical Museum