Our Mr Wales: 1881

Edward VII, Prince of Wales

Edward VII, Prince of Wales

BRITANNIA’S “BAGMAN.”

The sphere of the duties of the Prince of Wales is expanding so rapidly that it threatens to become conterminous with the whole visible universe. He is a patriot; but he is also a true citizen of the world. He is cosmopolitan in his capacities, and ubiquitous in his movements. Laying foundation stones, taking the chair at charitable banquets, distributing prizes at industrial schools, freeing the metropolitan bridges, attending scientific lectures—listening to profoundly interesting but absolutely incomprehensible papers on the death of the Lake Nyanza, the origin of the Congo River, and the fauna and flora of the Blue Mountains; these tasks have been long recognised as forming a not less essential part of his duties than the visit to Epsom on Derby-day, or the residence of some spot in the Ascot country—Windsor always excepted—a fortnight later.

Latterly, too, it has become generally understood that the labours of the Prince of Wales are not restricted by the Straits of Dover. It would be impossible to over-estimate the influence which his Royal Highness has exercised in modifying the conventional French estimate of English character. The Prince of Wales has, during some years, been one of the most popular of exalted personages in Paris; he has reconciled its people to the memory of Waterloo; he has, by his own example, corrected some of the most deeply cherished of French delusions on the subject of the British race.

Within a comparatively brief period the international functions of the Prince of Wales have enormously increased. It is no longer the occasion of a great exhibition in Paris or Vienna which alone summons him abroad. He is as liable to be ordered off on remote foreign duty as any Queen’s messenger in her Majesty’s Service. Eighty hours travelling on end are to his Royal Highness as an insignificant item in the annual programme. At the present moment he is a wanderer upon the face of the earth. He may be back with us once more in one or two weeks, or one or two days. Who will venture to predict when he may be ordered off again?

The Prince of Wales is not only the greatest traveller of his time; he is perpetually condemned to travel on commission. When he goes to Vienna or St. Petersburg, it is as the representative of the great firm at home. He is literally stuffed with trade samples. He appears before the world, not in its capacity as the future monarch of an empire on which the sun never sets, but as Britannia’s bagman. All persons have heard of travellers in American “notions;” the Prince of Wales is a traveller in English notions. Now he travels in smiles and now in tears. One week he sets forth to the Russian capital to prove to its inhabitants how fine a stock of sympathetic mourning is kept always on hand in these islands; the next he starts off for the gay metropolis of Austria with a choice selection of jocund sayings and a countenance expressive of radiant happiness. Between the fulfilment of these two commissions he has executed several little jobs of an analogous character at home. He has paid his tribute to the departed greatness in an English churchyard, and a day or two later has produced his best specimens of beamingly sympathetic gladness on the occasion of a nuptial ceremony in an ancient shrine.

But his business and its associations have systematically accompanied him; and whenever he has shown himself he has been forcibly reminded by facts that, whatever he may be in the future, he is at the present the travelling agent of the great house of Hanover and Guelph.

New Zealand Herald 30 July 1881: p. 7

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  The Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII, was well-known for his bonhomous nature and his charm. He understood, as his august Mother did not, that a jolly word in season uttered at a Parisian theatre or restaurant warmed the hearts of the French as no diplomatic talks could have done. His horses were cheered by his future subjects when they ran in the Derby; his peccadillos, of which there were many, were usually winked at by his friends and serenely ignored by his wife. He had the gift of enjoying life while making himself agreeable to persons of all political views and classes. He was one of the most popular of England’s kings.

In some newspapers, we find, appended to the article above, this additional fillip:

When one thinks of the locomotive powers which his Royal Highness is compelled to display, an adaptation of some lines from a popular comic opera, which are now on everyone’s lips, [“I’m a Waterloo House Young Man” from Gilbert & Sullivan’s Patience] irresistibly suggests itself. Of the Prince of Wales it may truly be said that, instead of being

“A Marlborough House young man,

A Pall Mall and Park young man,”

He is, by hard fate, compelled to be

“A car and saloon young man,

A cabin and deck young man;

A Calais and Dover-y

All the world over-y

Steamboat and train young man!”

One might say that the duties of the travelling royals have not changed at all in the 135 years since this was printed, although one has heard whispers about some dubious business “deals” brokered by a certain “royal bagman” Prince, who shall remain nameless.

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.

 

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