From John Hennessy:
Tomorrow night we give a reprise of “Footfalls of the Presidents” at the Fredericksburg Area Museum. We’ll reference most of the 25 presidents (sitting, past, or future) who have visited Fredericksburg, but will not reference the lone king–and so I offer that up here.
In the fall of 1860, the Prince of Wales, Albert Edward–the future King Edward VII (1901-1910) of the United Kingdom–undertook a high-profile tour of the United States on behalf of his mother, Queen Victoria. To New York and Washington the 19-year-old went, and along the way he made a brief stop in Fredericksburg just after noon on Saturday October 6. “A great crowd of people were assembled at the depot, cheering and shouting,” reported the New York Herald. As the prince emerged from his car, someone in the audience threw a bouquet of flowers that struck him in the chest. The impact “frightened him for a moment, as he did not expect to be ‘pelted with roses,'” reported the Fredericksburg News. “He picked it up and bowed his thanks.” The Prince was, the News concluded, “a Very Pretty Boy.”
Someone accompanying the prince told him that Fredericksburg was the home of Washington and “the only finished city in the United States.” This latter point irked the locals, for it implied stagnancy, and indeed the smirking remark would be remembered bitterly in the local press for years. The interloping tour guide spoke of Washington’s boyhood here, his membership in the Masons, and the home of his mother marry. The prince was “deeply interested.”
Mayor Montgomery Slaughter was at the depot to greet the Prince. A band played “God Save the Queen.” The News recorded that local African-Americans seemed especially excited, “bowing and courtseying to the ground, praying ‘God Bless Massa.'” The Herald noted, “The Prince came out and bowed, curiously inspecting the slaves, as if he expected to see some badge upon them.”
The News explained the appearance of slaves at the depot thus: “It is said the negroes believed the Prince of Wales was coming here to set them free. We think the negroes have more sense. They are freer now than most Northern poor people” (a popular refrain in 1860 Virginia).