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Odd Wisconsin Archive

Prince of Wales & King of the Sandwich (Islands, that is)

This week England's Prince Charles has been tourng the U.S. He and his wife Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, visited the site of the 9/11 attacks in New York, hurricane-ravaged New Orleans, and northern California near the site where their countryman Sir Francis Drake landed more than 300 years ago.

They won't be coming to Wisconsin, though. So far as we can determine, the only royalty to visit Wisconsin was David Kalakaua, King of the Sandwich Islands (now Hawaii), who came to Milwaukee in 1881. Mark Twain visited Hawaii in 1866 and found that as a prince he was "a man of fine presence, is an educated gentleman and a man of good abilities. He is approaching forty, I should judge - is thirty-five, at any rate. He is conservative, politic and calculating, makes little display, and does not talk much in the Legislature. He is a quiet, dignified, sensible man, and would do no discredit to the kingly office." A Milwaukee boy who met him 15 years later during his Wisconsin visit recalled King David as "affable, genial, a good fellow" and remembered "the pat on the head he gave some of the lads" and "his gracious way with the old folk."

One Wisconsin resident did have a brush with the Prince of Wales, however. In 1857, Elizabeth Blakey was an 18-year-old English servant when the royal family visited her employer. The then-Prince of Wales, eldest son of Queen Victoria, was a teenager and danced with her and some of the other servants. This was probably due less to democratic feelings than to a desire to get close to as many young women as he could: the Encylopedia Britannica describes him as "indulging himself in women, food, drink, gambling, sport and ... extramarital activities, which continued well into his sixties."

Elizabeth Blakey, on the other hand, came to Wisconsin as a young bride in 1860 and worked hard indoors or out every day of her life on her Rock County farm. When she was 95 she went to the Chicago World's Fair, walking all day through the exhibits and feeling sorry for the younger people being pushed in the fair's roller chairs. By then the dashing Prince of Wales, who became King Edward VII when Queen Victoria died in 1901 and gave his name to an era known for its prosperity, had long ago succumbed to the effects of his dissipation.

:: Posted in Odd Lives on November 8, 2005

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