From Our Archives: A full and detailed account from the December 1970 issue of The Bermudian of every moment of the Royal Visit of HRH the Prince of Wales in October that year.
Man and Nature worked beautifully together on those three happy days of October last, when this tiny island was honoured with the visit of His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales. His coming coincided with the 350th Anniversary of the opening of Bermuda’s first parliament, and it was sunshine and smiles all the way.
Tuesday, Oct 20: At the Civil Airport, where we awaited the arrival of Prince Charles, the local and foreign press jostled each other good-naturedly for prime positions, and set up complicated equipment. Photographers squinted sourly at the westering sun which their cameras would be facing. The honour guard from the Bermuda Regiment, dressed in gleaming whites, with brass polished so highly it almost hurt the eyes, stood with the commanding officer, Lt. Col. Michael Darling, waiting quietly at ease, while behind them the Regiment’s band played martial airs. Cars bearing dignitaries, who were to be presented to the Royal visitor, were driven onto the tarmac, deposited their passengers and were quickly taken away. Airport employees seemed to be hanging from every window in the terminal, while children from the St. George’s and St. David’s primary schools sat on bleachers facing the runway, fidgeting and chatting in excited whispers, eyes wide with anticipation.
When the sleek R.AF. V.C. -10 made its circling pass above the airport, all eyes turned skyward, and presently the big plane taxied slowly into its appointed position. His Excellency the Governor, Lord Martonmere, in his full summer regalia of the Queen’s personal representative, greeted Prince Charles, who was accompanied by his his private secretary, Squadron Leader David Checketts, a private detective, two valets and two female secretaries. The Prince wore the uniform Colonel-in-Chief of the Royal Welsh Regiment. His face was smoothly tanned from his recent visit to the Fiji islands, and he stood very straight, slim and serious as he took the salute. After reviewing the Honour Guard, some presentations took place, H.R.H. meeting: the Hon. Sir Henry Tucker, Government meeting: Leader; the Rt. Rev. Eric Trapp, Bishop of Bermuda; Bernard James Murphy, Roman Catholic Bishop of Bermuda; the Hon. Sir Myles Abbott, Chief Justice, and Lady Abbott; Mr J. W. Sykes, Chief Secretary, and Mrs Sykes; the Hon. George O. Ratteray, President of the Legislative Council; Lt. Col. the Hon. J.C. Astwood. Speaker of the House of Assembly, and Mrs Astwood; Commodore David G. Roome, S.NO.W.I., and Mrs Roome; the Hon. Sir Edward T. Richards, Deputy Government Leader, and Lady Richards; the Hon. James E. Pearman, member of the Executive Council: Mr Charles N. Manning, American Consul General, and Mrs Manning; Lt. Col. Michael Darling, Commanding Officer Bermuda Regiment; Captain Scott Herrick, Officer, U.S. Naval Air Station, and Mrs Herrick; Sir Captain Sir Robert Green-Price, A.D.C. to His Excellency the Governor, Lord Martonmere; the Rev. Dr Frank S. Morley and Mrs Morley; the Rev. Cyril Butterfield and Mrs Butterfield.
After the presentations, the Prince and the Governor stepped into the open Plymouth convertible (especially flown here for this occasion) and slowly drove off, preceded by the Bermuda Police motorcycle escort. Thereupon the press made a mad dash for the bus which was to follow the Prince for the remainder of the Royal visit.
As we entered Hamilton, the crowds thickened. Flags of the Commonwealth fluttered on high, and voices were raised in unified welcome. At City Hall, the procession halted, and Prince Charles was greeted by the Mayor of Hamilton, the Rt. Wor. the Hon. Gilbert A. Cooper, who escorted the Royal party to the East Exhibition Room. Many hours of careful planning and an untold amount of research had been put into this display which marked the founding of Bermuda’s parliament and its various historical milestones. Prince Charles chatted with Dr Marjorie Bean, Sir John Cox and Mr Bernard Wells, three members of the committee which had helped put together this fine display. Other members included: Messrs Owen Darrell and Norman Gates, and Sister Jean de Chantal Kennedy.
After viewing this exhibition, Prince Charles was ushered into the Mayor’s chambers where the following members of the Corporation of Hamilton were presented: Aldermen E. Graham Gibbons and J. Henry Masters; and Common Councillors R.A. Ferguson, W.F Hayward, C.E. Rance and W.A.G. Boyle. Outside, the police escort team sat at the ready, their big motorcycle engines purring throatily, and flanking the red-carpeted steps leading into City Hall stood the smartly uniformed members of the Bermuda Fire Brigade. It was so quiet that you could even hear the gentle flapping of the Royal Standard and Union Jack which had been placed on the bonnet of the convertible. The driver of the Royal car, 28-year-old Police Officer Roger Sherratt, performed his job skilfully. Later, he received a personally signed photograph of Charles directly from the Royal hands.
Happy cheers greeted H.R.H. when he reappeared. After a short chat with a few of the Fire Brigade members, a big smile and wave at the applauding public, and a gentle admonition to an over-enthusiastic photographer, the Prince stepped into the waiting car, accompanied by the Governor, and the procession began its last lap of that day’s journey to Government House. That evening the young Prince was a guest of Lord and Lady Martonmere for dinner, following which a small reception took place.
Leaving City Hall I saw a man seated in a mini auto, banging, pounding and pushing at its caved-in roof. In their eagerness to get a glimpse of the Royal visitor, people had swarmed on the top of his car, and their combined weight had acted like a rock crusher. I gave him a sympathetic shake of my head, and noticed that even he was smiling, though a bit ruefully.
Wednesday, Oct 21: Once again, I raced up Church Street to catch the press bus which awaited us at the General Post Office. Our driver Mr Cleveland Beane, smiled a good-morning, and off we started for Government House where we again joined the motorcade heading for St. George’s and the ceremonial opening of parliament. All the way to Flatt’s Bridge via the North Shore Road, people seemed to know the very minute the Prince would be passing. Here and there, assembled in large or small groups, they waved and cheered. Never have I seen such an occasion which evoked so many broad smiles and happy faces. At Flatts the procession slowed down as the children from nearby schools greeted H.R.H. with applause, welcome signs and waving union jacks. At Tiger Bay in St. George’s, Prince Charles and the Lord Martonmere boarded the Governor’s yacht, Romay, for passage to King’s Square.
Mr. Beane cleverly managed to get us to the square, before the Romay had actually docked. Here a sea of faces awaited Prince Charles. The guard of honour stood at ease, this time wearing their dress blues. A thundering 21-gun salute heralded the arrival of Romay. The band struck up God Save the Queen, after which H.R.H. inspected the guard of honour, this time commanded by Major Craig Curtis. The Royal party then proceeded on foot to the Town Hall, where the Prince received members of the Corporation of St. George’s. Those presented included: the Wor. the Hon. Norman Roberts, Mayor of St. George’s, and Mrs Roberts; Mr and Mrs Frederick G. Roberts; Mr and Mrs Felix L.A. Richardson; Mr and Mrs W. Eugene Meyer; Mr and Mrs James L. Richardson; Miss Lois M.R. Perinchief; Mr and Mrs J. Henry Hayward; and Messrs Clinton Hall, Ernest W.T. Robinson and R. James Pitcher.
Inside Prince Charles signed a special page of the visitors book, and was then presented with a Bermuda souvenir – a beautifully polished cedar tray, inlaid with a map of the island on which St. George’s was marked in silver. Then to the State House where he was met by Mr Ian Stewart, Master of the St. George Lodge no. 200. H.R.H. unveiled a plaque, and signed the Lodge members most prized possession, a very old and beautiful Bible, which had been signed by Her Majesty the Queen and the Prince Consort on their memorable visit here in 1953.
Outside St. Peter’s, Black Rod was requested by the Governor to summon the Members of Parliament.
Seated high in the gallery of the ancient little church, we looked down on distinguished former legislators, government officials, Members of Parliament, and invited guests. Visiting dignitaries from aboard included: From the U.K., the Speaker of the House of Commons: the Rt. Hon. Dr Horace King and Mrs King; Mr Robin V. Vanderfelt, Secretary General, and Mrs Vanderfelt; the Rt. Hon. Lord Gardiner, King’s Counsel, and Lady Gardiner. From Barbados: the Hon. Sir Stanley Robinson, President of the Senate, and Lady Robinson; the Hon. Sir Theodore Brancker, Speaker, House Assembly, and Lady Brancker. From the Bahamas: the Hon. L.J. Knowles, President of the Senate, and Mrs Knowles; the Hon. A.R. Braynen, Speaker, the House of Assembly, and Mrs Braynen. From the State of Virginia, USA.: the Hon John Warren Cooke, Speaker of the House of Delegates, and Mrs Cooke; Mr Park Rouse, jr., Executive Director of the Jamestown Foundation, and Mrs Rouse; Mr Lewis McMurran, jr., chairman of the Jamestown Foundation and Mrs McMurran.
In the dimmed light scarlet-robed, bewigged figures below seemed utterly natural, and even the slightly musty, old-world scent of carefully oiled cedar, and the rubbed-smooth surfaces of the benches all echoed of long ago. I could have quite happily listened to those beautifully modulated tones, which softly reverberated throughout the old church, for the rest of the day. The young Prince stood there, bare-headed and gracefully relaxed, obeying the Queen’s command that her son read the Speech from the Throne. It was a deeply moving experience.
As we scrambled down the stairs to catch the press bus a gentleman, wearing the impressive wig and robes of Justice suddenly whipped out a movie camera, cleverly hidden under his voluminous apparel, which he put to his eye and proceeded to sweep the entire scene, knees slightly bent, and bearing a remarkable resemblance to the Sun Dance Kid.
During the motorcade’s passage along Kindley Road, it was halted by the red stop light. As the big silver jet screamed directly over the waiting limousine, His Excellency’s plumed helmet seemed to be leaving his head. However, the Governor quickly raised his hand and held the helmet firmly. A headline flashed through my mind. “Eastern Airlines stops Royal procession.”
As we neared Castle Harbour Hotel, where a reception was to be held for Prince Charles, visiting golfers and their caddies waved eagerly at the passing limousine.
At the hotel, members of the press were ushered into a handsome suite equipped with typewriters and telephones. Looking out the window, I could see a rich, green closely-cut carpet of grass, on which stood strategically-placed tables laden with succulent hors d’oeuvres. Immaculately uniformed waiters moved unobtrusively amongst the chatting guests offering trays of ice-chilled drinks. It was a lovely setting, enhanced by the inviting green-blue by inviting waters of the pool in the background, and fountains shedding diamond-like droplets at the water’s edge.
An ironic little incident had occurred at the hotel. It seems that Mr and Mrs “X” had been visiting Bermuda on an annual basis for a number of years. Each time they had requested a room in the hotel that faced the sea, but for one reason or another, they found themselves on the inside section overlooking a very attractive courtyard and pool. Their visit this year had coincided with that of Prince Charles, and the hotel, in a supreme effort to please, had finally managed to place them in the desired room facing the sea. The upshot being that the reception was held in the above courtyard, and of course, the visitors. Eager to see H.R.H., instead found themselves with a superb view of the Atlantic Ocean.
After the reception, the Royal party drove to Tom Moore’s Tavern, and enjoyed a luncheon of pheasant consommé, fresh Bermuda lobster, a tossed salad and a banana sundae generously laced with black rum. Later the Royal party set out for the Botanical Gardens.
Once more, it was astonishing how the local population seemed to know the very minute Prince Charles would pass.
Entire households appeared totally prepared, with lawn chairs placed carefully near the roadside so that elderly people could wait in comfort. As in those 19th century daguerreotypes, families gathered with the head of the household and his wife seated in sober elegance, and behind them stood their grown offspring with children playing about their knees. This scene repeated itself time and time again throughout the journey westward.
As we neared the gates of the Botanical Gardens the crowds became denser, and it was here that Prince Charles was welcomed by the Bermuda Cambrian Society with a rendition of the Welsh song “God Bless the Prince of Wales.” Dressed now in a smart brown suit, the Prince talked with warmth and genuine interest to the Society’s president, the Rev. Clive Southerton, and his wife Marion, and it was their tiny 4-year-old daughter Kathryn, charmingly dressed in a Welsh costume, who presented him with a locally-carved cedar plaque bearing the three feathers, emblem of the Prince of Wales. A backdrop for the welcoming committee showed Caernarvon Castle in miniature. Beneath this, in Welsh, was the Cambrian Society’s motto: “Welcome to Bermuda – our adopted home.’
At one point the Prince asked the owner of two Welsh Corgies if her dogs would bite, and when she answered, “No,” he said, “Well, they’re not like ours then,” referring to his family’s pets who occasionally nip at the palace guards.
From the Gardens the procession continued along Middle Road to Warwick Academy, and again school children lined the road to greet him. At Warwick Secondary, the limousine turned into the school grounds, while we in the press bus continued on to Gibb’s Hill lighthouse which was the next scheduled stop.
Prince Charles surprised everyone here by climbing the 185 steps to the top to see the magnificent panoramic view, thus upsetting the timetable by about 15 minutes. To many, the young Prince doing the unexpected, recalled a similar proclivity in his father.
The tour proceeded via the South Shore Road to Somerset, slowing down where school children and gathered to see him. At Cavello Bay, H.R.H, and the Governor boarded the Romay, and enjoyed a pleasant passage back to Albuoy’s Point in Hamilton. After inspecting a proud group of Bermuda Sea Cadets, Prince Charles continued to Government House where he planted a Royal Poinciana tree. That evening, he attended the annual Speaker’s dinner at the Princess Hotel where, before the after-dinner speeches, guests were welcomed by their host, Lt. Col. J.C. Astwood, who said: “Bermuda, and the vast majority of Bermudians, have always been, and I think will be for a long time to come, ardent admirers of, and jealously loyal to, our wonderful Royal family.”
The principal speaker was His Royal Highness who, as reported in The Royal Gazette, said it was the first time he had opened a parliament: “I feel very proud that it should have been Bermuda’s Parliament on its 350th anniversary. I only hope you all realize just how lucky you are, bearing in mind the fact that I am the first Charles to have anything to do with a parliament for 320 years. I might have turned nasty and dissolved you. . . .
“A 350th anniversary is a great occasion. The British type of democracy is not an easily understandable system, and I suspect it has confused and will continue to confuse successive generations of rather puzzled people.”
Not having a written constitution, the British system has simply evolved through numerous trials and, I am afraid to say, several of my ancestors’ errors.
“For centuries parlimentarians have followed their consciences and interpreted their rights and privileges as they thought they should. The unwritten rules that govern this intricate system require a peculiar sense of humour and tolerance, and an instinct as to when to acknowledge the defeat.
The Duke of Wellington achieved this when he saw it was fruitless to destroy the House of Lords over the 1832 Reform Bill. I learned these sort of things at Cambridge. I have a feeling some people today rather wish he had not acknowledged defeat and saved everyone the trouble.
“What I am getting at is that it is a wonderful achievement for a system of democratic government, based on the British form, to have flourished and progressed so far from Britain. It no doubt helps that Bermuda has been a colony, but these are well-founded reasons for celebrations nonetheless.
“I hardly dare to mention it amongst such a gathering of distinguished •parliamentarians and notable democrats (in the general sense of the word), but I hope that the Bermudians who live under the aegis of this Parliament also have cause to celebrate this anniversary. Let me explain what I mean. One hears so much nowadays about the freedom and the rights of the individual – how it is becoming so impossible to make oneself heard to the soulless monolith that we call government. While I was at Cambridge I heard this all the time, and having undergone an education which was designed t make a person an individual within a team, I entirely agree with this feeling for individualism.
“But, the problem is that no-one can be individual and “to hell with everyone else” – certainly not in a modern society which has become so extended and impersonal. No government can afford to sit up and seriously pay attention to every protest and suggestion made by an individual. Instead the “experts” are called upon to perform this function. This in turn inevitably frustrates the person who is supposed to be a working member of a democracy and feels he should have his say.
“This, as far as I can see, is perfectly justifiable in a small society with a strong community sense. I have witnessed it recently when I was in the Gilbert and Ellice Islands in mid-Pacific. A vast society, though, is different and I think I can understand why an element of anarchy is currently popular.
“Communism, too, holds all sorts of tempting possibilities as an alternative to an “oppressive,'” as some people have called it, democratic system. But the truth is that ever since man began to organize himself into political societies people have become disappointed and have expended vast sources of energy on trying to find the perfect system of government.
“Always the revolutionary idea seduces but as often as not it is constant adaption to a working system which can prove to be best. This is no way implies that I am a devoted adherent to the principles of Burke, but is rather the best means that I can see at the moment of reaching essential compromise between all various sorts of extremism that we are witnessing in various forms today.
“We are celebrating 350 years of an exercise in compromise, but the celebrations ought perhaps to be a good reason to ensure, to the best of people’s ability, at any rate, that parliamentarians continue to ‘serve and regard the public’, as Nathaniel Butler said in 1620.
“Well, I apologize for treating you to such a lecture, which is totally unnecessary after dinner, particularly at the age of 21, which is an age of discretion or reason, or something, and anyway I feel rather like a novice parson preaching at a convention of bishops. What I should really have said was how much I have been looking forward to this visit to Bermuda. I know several people who have been here and enjoyed themselves enormously, and having read one or two tourist brochures in the aircraft on the way here, I know that such pleasures await me as a departure tax to the value of $2.40, and that I am not permitted to wear very short shorts or abbreviated costumes in the street. . . .”
The Prince concluded by saying he had been “very impressed” by the ceremony in St. George’s on Wednesday morning, and St. Peter’s Church. “And I do hope the problems facing Bermuda will overcome now and in the future. You seem well equipped to do so.”
The Prince of Wales was introduced by His Excellency the Governor, Lord Martonmere, who described the Queen’s son as “a young man devoting his whole life to public service.”
The Governor said he hoped the Prince would tell the Queen “how happy we are over our 350th anniversary of Parliament.”
In lighter vein, the Governor revealed that during his tour of the islands His Royal Highness had stopped and spoken to a pretty young girl. “I don’t think he knew she was here on her honeymoon. Later her husband had asked her what the Prince said. The young bride replied ‘I don’t remember a word he said, but it was the most wonderful thing that has ever happened to me in my life.’” The Governor added, “The bridegroom was a little abashed.”
After his own reply to the Prince’s speech, the Hon. Sir Henry Tucker, presented the Prince with a gift from the Bermuda Government, a scale model of a Bermuda fitted dinghy in silver and mounted on a block of clear rock crystal, the work of Mr Terence Waldron of Astwood-Dickinson Ltd. Thanking Sir Henry for the gift, the Prince held it up for all to see and quipped, “You see, this is what you have to pay for.” He recalled being presented with a gift in Fiji. It was customary there to reciprocate. “Unfortunately, I had left it behind, and all I had was talcum powder and sweets.”
Thursday, Oct 22: Shortly after dawn, Mr D. Colin Selley, Director of Public Information, who was largely responsible for the smooth handling of the press and other exacting chores, received a Royal summons to Government House, where he was thanked by the Prince and presented with a personally signed photograph of H.R.H. Later Prince Charles was driven to Prospect and visited the Academic Sixth Form Centre where he chatted with the headmaster, Mr D.J. Williams, members of the staff, and students. Then to the Technical Institute and the Bermuda Hotel and Catering College. Finally, to Albuoy’s Point, where the Prince boarded the Governor’s yacht for a well-earned leisurely cruise, during which he did some water-skiing. After lunch on board the yacht, the Royal party proceeded to the air terminal, where the Prince of Wales waved farewell as he boarded the huge R.A.F. jet, and the Royal visit was history – and a happy memory.