The Prince Comes to Town (9-21-1860)

The Mayor of Chicago was introducing the Prince of Wales to a crowded saloon.  “Boys, this here is the Prince!” he shouted.  “Prince, these are the boys!”

The Prince

That is the legend, and it may not be fact.  But on this date, Albert Edward, Prince of Wales, did become the first royal personage to visit Chicago.  His host was Mayor John Wentworth.  And that’s the kind of thing that Long John would have said.

The 19-year-old prince was on a tour of Canada when Wentworth met him in Montreal, and invited him to see Chicago.  The prince liked the idea.  He said he would come, but only unofficially, as “Baron Renfrew.”

Nobody was fooled by that dodge.  When the prince’s train chugged into the city, he was greeted by a crowd of nearly 5,000, many of them wearing special medallions or waving banners.  Then he was whisked away to his hotel.

Rising late the next morning, the prince received formal greetings from Wentworth and a committee of distinguished Chicagoans.  Then he was taken on a tour of the city.  Though the prince wanted to keep his visit low-key, his itinerary had gotten into the papers, and over 50,000 people lined the streets to watch him pass.  That was about half the population of the city.

The Mayor

He saw the Courthouse, the water works, the historical society, and all the other points of interest that might have been found in an 1860 guide book.  The party made a special detour so that the prince could inspect one of grain elevators on the outskirts of town.  The royal visitor appeared suitably impressed, and made appropriate comments.

Then he was gone as quickly as he had come, off to a country estate to do some hunting.  There was no formal ball.  Chicago society matrons, who had hoped to parade their marriageable daughters before the bachelor prince, were deeply disappointed.

The Prince of Wales became King Edward VII of Great Britain in 1901.  Long John was dead by then, but he would have taken the news in stride.  A reporter once asked Wentworth how it felt to sit next to a future king.  “I didn’t sit next to the prince,” Long John said.  “The prince sat next to me.”



6 Responses to “The Prince Comes to Town (9-21-1860)”

  1. 1 Beth Johnson September 21, 2018 at 11:18 am

    I enjoyed this glimpse into 1860’s Chicago life.

  2. 3 Garry September 21, 2018 at 11:54 am

    I go past Wentworth’s tall obelisk in the NE corner of Rosehill Cemetery all the time.
    He told his family not to put his name on it, so people would have to ask whose it was, but the family ignored him.

  3. 5 dave September 26, 2018 at 12:15 pm

    He apparently went hunting for prairie chickens near Dwight, Illinois. They named a park for him, I imagine this is the “country estate” mentioned in your article.

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