Saturday, 23 January 2016

33 The Prince's Fountain

33. The Prince’s Fountain (photos: Prince’s Fountain, King Edward Road) – 23 January 2016

In Mumbles on 10th March 1863 the foundation stone was laid for the Prince’s Fountain, at the foot of Western Lane and Myrtle Terrace, near the present Kinsale (formerly the William Hancock and the Waterloo Hotel).  The Prince’s Fountain commemorates the marriage that day in St George’s Chapel, Windsor, of 21-year-old Edward, Prince of Wales, eldest son of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, to 18-year-old Princess Alexandra, daughter of the heir to the Danish throne.

A year later the work in Mumbles was completed, with the occasion being celebrated by a meal for 200 elderly persons, and entertainment for several hundred children on the open fields then opposite the White Rose.  The stone drinking fountain was erected on land donated by the Duke of Beaufort, and supplemented the public water pumps near the Antelope Hotel and the George Hotel.  It was particularly needed at a time when cholera and other water-borne diseases frequently threatened public health.

At Windsor the Royal Wedding celebrations were somewhat muted, as the Queen was still in mourning for her consort Prince Albert, who had died of typhoid fifteen months earlier.  At the service ladies were restricted to wearing grey, lilac or mauve.  The Queen watched from a special box high in the chapel, and did not attend the wedding breakfast. 

The groom had been created Prince of Wales when just three months old, and was known by that title for all but the final decade of his life.  He was daring – as an 18- year-old during his 1860 tour of North America he agreed to be carried by Blondin on a tightrope 160 feet above the Niagara Gorge, before Prince Edward’s horrified aides intervened and dissuaded him.  Blondin made the quarter-of-a-mile crossing with his reluctant agent on his back.

It was 38 years after his marriage that Prince Edward became King, but during this time he was not permitted to exercise any royal power of any consequence.  By contrast the present Prince of Wales has initiated and headed the Prince’s Trust for forty years, along with undertaking numerous royal duties. 

‘The devil makes work for idle hands’, and without regular responsibilities Prince Edward’s activities, lavish lifestyle and choice of companions alarmed the Queen.  When in 1871 Sir Charles Mordaunt sought to divorce his 21-year-old wife, it emerged that the Prince of Wales had been visiting her in the afternoons while her husband was at the House of Commons.  An accusation of cheating at the French card game baccarat revealed that the heir to the throne was among those used to betting extravagant sums of money on cards.  Consequently the Scottish Free Church removed his name from those for whom they prayed each week.  But there was sympathy for the Prince in December 1871 when, like his father, Edward nearly died of typhoid. 

Prince Edward became King Edward VII on the death of Queen Victoria in 1901.  Notwithstanding his lack of experience in carrying out royal duties, Edward VII was an effective King during a reign of nearly a decade, and popular after the austerity of his mother’s time.  As Prince he had visited Swansea in 1881 to open the Prince of Wales Dock - though it was another eight months before it actually opened to shipping - and the new boulevard through an area cleared of slums was named Alexandra Road.  He returned as King in 1904 with Queen Alexandra to perform the ceremony of ‘cutting the first sod’ of the King’s Dock, which opened five years later, and King Edward Road in Brynmill was named in his honour.  Parkmill School was among schools closed for the occasion, as the royal couple passed through the village in the evening to Penrice Castle.
With the coming of mains water the Prince’s Fountain fell into disuse, but to mark his great-granddaughter’s Silver Jubilee, in 1978 it was restored by the Mumbles and District Conservation Society. 

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