Coronation Of King Edward VII
( Originally Published 1924 )
ON JANUARY 22nd, 1901, the great Queen Victoria died, greatly beloved and respected throughout the Empire and the world; and her eldest son, Albert Edward, Prince of Wales, ascended the throne under the style and title of Edward VII. In accordance with precedent, a considerable time was allowed to elapse between Ills Majesty's accession and his coronation'. June 26th, 1902, was appointed for that ceremony. As there had not been a coronation in England for more than sixty years great preparations were made for the event. Among other arrangements, representative detachments of troops were requested to be sent from the Dominions and Crown Colonies as at the time of the Diamond Jubilee. I applied for a position on the contingent, but was refused, although I was the senior medical officer of the militia and next in seniority to the Director-General. Nothing daunted, I crossed to England, accompanied by my son George, and through the influence of friends in the War Office, I was attached for duty to the Dominion and Colonial troops quartered at the Alexandra Palace (show grounds). I was detailed to the medical charge of the New Zealanders and was comfortably established in a tent in the grounds. Most of my charges were Maoris, great husky fellows, who, however, developed a good deal of illness, so I had my hands full.
When the time came for the Coronation, King Edward was attacked by typhlitis. I was lunching at a military club, to which overseas officers had been admitted, when the news of the postponement was received. For a few moments there was complete silence, when, to the surprise and disgust of all present, a man, presumably an officer, stood up and called out, " I bet five to one that the King does not recover. " There was silence for a moment, so great was the surprise, then there was a chorus of protests. The individual left the room and I hope the committee removed his name from the list of members.
London was a seething mass of people, many of whom had come up from the country. The feeling of sorrow and regret was very deep and general.
London was very tastefully and gaily decorated along the route to Westminster Abbey with wreaths and garlands of artificial flowers, pillars with gay pennons and flags innumerable.
In a few hours the crowds had melted away and London, with true British sang-froid, went about its business as usual. / remained on for three weeks longer at the camp, but as the date of the Coronation was exceedingly indefinite, I resigned my appointment and came home. Two months later, when the Coronation really took place, I received an invitation to attend the ceremony in the Abbey, but I did not feel able to make a second trip across the Atlantic in the same summer, and regretfully declined the invitation so graciously extended.
King Edward's reign was all too short for the good of the Empire and the world. Hn the opinion of those best able to judge he was a first-class diplomatist and after having vainly attempted to make the Kaiser a friend of England, was largely instrumental in bringing about the entente with France. H cannot help thinking that had he lived the Great War would either have been long postponed or averted.
I had the honor of being presented to the King, when he was Prince of Wales and representative of Queen Victoria, at a levee at St. James' Palace.
It was a beautiful spectacle. Officers in full uniform, belonging to all branches of the army, navy and Colonial forces, foreign officers, diplomats, Cabinet ministers, princes and court officials in levee dress were present. Not the least impressive were the Yeomen of the Guard, wearing quaint Elizabethan uniforms, and the Gentlemen at Arms, dressed in scarlet cut-away tunics, with epaulettes in the style of the early part of the 19th century, and brass helmets with plumes.
Those to be presented were carefully scanned by a court official to see that they were dressed in accordance with the regulations and were then gathered in a series of rooms, at the door of which was a silken rope, guarded by a Gentleman at Arms.
We advanced in single file, removed the right glove (it is not etiquette to shake hands with the royalty with a glove on) and passed before the throne. Court chamberlains announced one's rank and name; on presenting a card, one bowed and passed on. It is required that one should grasp the sword by the scabbard with left hand and hold it well forward, indicating one's readiness to serve.
The Prince, who was rather below medium height and stout, stood on a dais, in front of the throne, supported by members of the Royal Family, behind whom stood high court officials. Among the former were H.R.H. the Duke of Cambridge, a stout old man with a red face, an enormous head and a cross expression. He was commander-in-chief of the army for thirty-nine years and, if report is to be believed, was the greatest opponent of reform and improvement in the army England ever possessed.
A striking figure was Colonel . . , afterwards a General in the South African War, where he lost his life. He was dressed in the full uniform of a Highland regiment, his breast glittering with medals. His head and face were entirely devoid of hair, his body slender and his hands and feet were small and as delicately formed as a woman's, yet he was one of the bravest officers in the army —so deceptive are a man's externals.