Happy Victoria Day! The history of Victoria Day & how PEI got its name.

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    May 22, 2011 1:37 PM GMT
    Thanks for day off Queen Victoria

    Published on May 20, 2011

    by Dave Stewart, The Guardian

    P.E.I. has a number of strong connections to the former queen. For most Islanders, this coming holiday weekend signifies the unofficial start of summer.

    But Victoria Day on Monday carries with it special meaning for Prince Edward Island and what better time for such a history lesson than the month after the big royal wedding and less than two months before Prince William and Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge, visit the province.


    Victoria Day is named in honour of Queen Victoria, who just happened to be the daughter of Prince Edward, for whom Prince Edward Island was named after.


    UPEI history professor Ed MacDonald says P.E.I. considered itself a proud member of the British Empire in the 19th century and that is reflected in the naming of four communities in the province.

    They are Victoria Cross, just outside Montague (not named after the medal); Victoria, outside of Crapaud; Victoria Harbour, in the village of Victoria; and Victoria West, approximately 11 kilometres west of Tyne Valley in Lot 13.

    Prince Edward was one of George III’s many sons. He served in the British army and was commanding British troops in Halifax in the late 1790s when the Assembly on P.E.I. learned that he had shown interest in P.E.I. Of course, it wasn’t known as P.E.I. at the time.

    “He had recommended the defences in the (Charlottetown) harbour here be improved and so they were casting about for a new name for P.E.I. anyway because they had been using a translation of the French name which was Ile St. Jean,’’ MacDonald said.

    “St. John’s, however, was a popular name in the British Empire and a popular name in the region and it was leading to confusion in trying to recruit immigrants. When they found out the prince had shown such interest in the colony they introduced an act to name the colony after him.’’

    The act received approval in 1799 but a bit of a scandal stood in the way of what would eventually become Victoria Day.

    Prince Edward at that point was not connected to Victoria because he was living quite happy with his mistress, a French Canadian lady (and) a Catholic.’’

    It’s against British law for a member of the Royal Family to marry a Catholic.

    This story continues with Prince Regent, who eventually became George IV. He was crowned king in 1820. He had been unhappily married and had a daughter so the succession from George III was assured through his eldest son.

    Sadly, though, the daughter died.

    “The government noticed that of all George III’s sons, none of them had a legitimate offspring so succession to the British throne was at risk,” said MacDonald.

    “The sons were basically given marching orders to start producing lawful offspring. Prince Edward set aside the mistress of many years, married into the royalty of Europe, produced an offspring and promptly died.’’

    Victoria was born in 1820 and ascended to the throne in 1837.

    “We’d like to think we’re connected to Victoria because both of us are, in a way, offspring of her father.”

    Queen Victoria was the longest-reigning monarch in British history, 1837-1901, and presided over the greatest period of supremacy for the British empire.

    “The British empire reached its limits of power as well as size during her reign. She became closely identified with the greatness of Britain even though, truth be told, she didn’t do that much,’’ said MacDonald.

    By that time, the monarch had limited power. It had influence but little power. Britain was essentially run by parliament although Victoria became the focal point for the loyalty of members of the empire around the world.

    The Royal Family’s connections to P.E.I. go even further.

    Alberton was named after Victoria’s son, Albert Edward. He eventually became Edward VII. His son was George V and his son was George VI, father of Queen Elizabeth II. Alexandra, a community near Pownal, was named after Albert Edward’s wife.

    Edward VII actually visited P.E.I. in 1860, causing quite a sensation, MacDonald said.

    “It was the first time a member of the British Royal Family had made an official tour or visit and P.E.I. went gaga over him so we have a long history of romantic attachment to members of the British Royal Family.’’

    Following Victoria’s death in 1901, May 24 was by imperial decree made Empire Day throughout the British Empire.

    In Canada, it became known as Victoria Day, a date to remember the late Queen, who was deemed the Mother of Confederation.

    P.E.I.’s fascination with royalty will come again when William and Kate drop by in early July.

  • metatextual

    Posts: 774

    May 22, 2011 4:06 PM GMT
    happy may 2-4icon_razz.gif

    history triva: my hometown is named after Prince Albert [later Edward VII], Queen Victoria's son
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    May 22, 2011 5:07 PM GMT
    She could be a bit of a miserable cow and seemed to obsess over trivia (complained of medals clinking too loudly and created utterly confusing ranks and insignia in the Household Division), as well as achieving the longest mournathon in English history, which almost brought the monarchy to its knees.

    On the other hand, she had a very healthy sexual appetite, loved curries, displayed very little racial discrimination (in an age where such discrimination was common) and her (allegedly scandalous) diaries had to be expurgated by her daughter.
  • conquer

    Posts: 305

    May 22, 2011 5:27 PM GMT
    i live in victoria lol