December 14, 1861: Death of Prince Albert

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Prince Albert, husband and consort of Queen Victoria, died one hundred and fifty years ago.  Only 42, he died of typhoid fever, a mass killer in the nineteenth century in crowded cities like London.  In November of 1861 he had arisen from what would become his death-bed to tone down a British ultimatum over the seizure of two Confederate diplomats, Mason and Slidell, from a British mail steamer the Trent by the USS San Jacinto, in what has come down in history as the Trent Affair:

“The Queen … should have liked to have seen the expression of a hope [in the message to Seward] that the American captain did not act under instructions, or, if he did that he misapprehended them [and] that the United States government must be fully aware that the British Government could not allow its flag to be insulted, and the security of her mail communications to be placed in jeopardy, and [that] Her Majesty’s Government are unwilling to believe that the United States Government intended wantonly to put an insult upon this country and to add to their many distressing complications by forcing a question of dispute upon us, and that we are therefore glad to believe … that they would spontaneously offer such redress as alone could satisfy this country, viz: the restoration of the unfortunate passengers and a suitable apology.”

Of all the members of the British royal family down through the centuries, I think it is safe to say that none surpassed Prince Albert in his devotion to his duty, as signified by the long hours of hard work he put in each day in the service of his wife and his adopted home land.  His last dying act for Great Britain was to preserve the peace between his nation and the US, a signal service to both nations.

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  1. Not after his son had such a fine time in Dwight, Illinois as Baron Renfrew in 1860 Jay! The warm reception that his son received in America, the first visit of a Prince of Wales to the country, helped convince the royal family to have warmer feelings for the US. Hence Dwight helped the Union triumph in the Late Unpleasantness, in addition to the several hundred boys in blue we sent off to fight. 🙂

    “In 1860 an event occurred winch gave Dwight
    national prominence. James C. Spencer owned a
    hunting lodge and other cabins on his farm near
    the north side of Dwight. He had acquired this
    land around 1853. He would come out here from
    Chicago to hunt. In 1860 Mr. P. E. Miller lived
    on the farm. When prominent Chicago people
    heard that the Prince of Wales, traveling incog-
    nito under the name Lord Renfrew, was coming
    to this country and wanted places to hunt, these
    people asked Mr. Spencer to provide the same at
    his hunting lodge here. He did so very reluctant-
    ly for there was feeling, especially among the
    Irish, against English royalty. Finally Mr. Spen-
    cer agreed and sent his sister out here to his
    hunting lodge to get things ready for the Prince
    and his entourage. All furniture was removed
    from the hunting lodge, and new furniture put in
    its place which had been shipped ahead. On Sat-
    urday, September 22, 1860, around 6:00 p. m. the
    Prince’s group arrived on the train. There was
    no large crowd on hand to give him a royal wel-
    come. But there was a man from Pontiac on
    hand who made a short uncalled for speech which
    told the Prince to go to a place much hotter than
    Dwight. The group soon went out to the Spencer
    lodge. Here the Prince asked for his gun with
    some vehemence, and went out to shoot some-
    thing. He came back with a screech owl.

    His entourage could not all be quartered at the
    lodge so some had to stay at one of the cabins.
    In one of these lived a school teacher and his
    wife, who had not heard too much about the
    Prince’s arrival. When Spencer took the servants
    over to this cabin from the lodge, the Prince of-
    fered to go along to hold the lantern. The teacher
    and his wife began to discuss the Prince’s ar-
    rival, but they did not know that the Prince was
    even then there among them. The Prince soon
    went otside and got a big laugh out of this. On
    Sunday the group attended church services at the
    local Presbyterian Church, and he later made a
    donation of 50 pounds to this church. That week
    he was taken hunting, and as a precautionary
    measure, several of the group would walk about
    100 yards ahead and some about 100 yards be-
    hind. Spencer was constantly afraid that some-

    one might get shot, but he later remarked that
    the Prince was a remarkably good shot. He later
    presented Mr. Spencer with a tine manton gun.
    Hunting that week in Round Grove along a creek,
    they came upon a flock of mallard ducks. They
    shot into the group. It turned out that the ducks
    were tame ones belonging to a Mrs. Eunice Pratt.
    She came down to the creek and gave them a
    tongue lashing as they had never had before.

    That week the group was also entertained at
    the home of Col. Morgan which was located where
    the home of Mr. and Mrs. Oliver Wolf now stands.
    He gave the Colonel a gift of gold shirt buttons,
    sleeve buttons, and vest buttons. Also a pair of
    crystal candelabra which are now on permanent
    exhibit at the museum of the Chicago Historical
    Society. The Prince loved to be called Baron
    Renfrew and the Spencer lodge was later called
    Renfrew Lodge and the Prince of Wales farm.
    This farm was bought by David McWilliams in
    1891. The Prince later became Edward VII, King
    of England.”

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