Stories and meanings behind the names of towns amuse me.
On a recent visit to the Karoo town of Prince Albert we stopped to have lunch at Prince Albert Country Store. Behind the shop front is an outdoor eatery. Sitting at a rustic trestle table, I could have been a character in Frances Hodgson Burnett’s novel “The Secret Garden.” Framed by pergolas, water features, flowers and a vegetable garden, it provided a nostalgic mise en scène for an afternoon of al fresco dining.
Between waiting for lunch and taking photographs we discovered the communal book table. A book entitled “Prince Albert – Kweekvallei”, published by the Prince Albert Writer’s Guild, provided a replete account of the town’s history along with an evocative narrative of its namesake.
But who was Prince Albert? An extract from the book reads:
He was Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, a German Prince, first cousin to Queen Victoria. Albert was quite a lad – well educated, of an artistic bent, he studied architecture at the University of Bonn and had a passion for music.
Some interesting facts about him:
- He married Queen Victoria
- He had a knack with matters of finance and improved the financial situation at Windsor. However, a visitor found it appalling that newspaper supplanted the use of toilet paper.
- He had 9 children with Queen Victoria
- The children learned to cook, bake and grow flowers and vegetables. Prince Albert purchased their yield at market related prices.
- He introduced the custom of Christmas tree decorating and the opening of gifts together – a tradition still practised by the Royal family today
A further paragraph from the book states:
The Prince had a well-developed social conscience and spoke out against child labour and slavery. An advocate of scientific research and technology, a designer, gardener, humanitarian and patron of the arts, Albert nurtured progress in areas from architecture to industry and social welfare to education.
He once commented: “To me, a long, closely-connected train of reasoning is like a beautiful strain of music. You can hardly imagine my delight in it.”
Albert was unobtrusively influential in the Queen’s life. Without usurping her rank he wrote her speeches and advised her.
So how does this equate to the little Karoo town?
In 1845 residents of Kweekvalley received permission to re-name the village in honour of the Prince.
Queen Victoria and Prince Albert were married for 21 years. After his death, due to typhoid, the Queen withdrew from public life for some years. Subsequent to his passing, Prince Albert’s speeches were published as a tribute to his character. The Queen sent a copy to the little Karoo village of Prince Albert, with a personal inscription on the title page.
The book ends off with this paragraph:
As a boy Albert had written in his diary: “I intend to train myself to be a good and useful man.”
Not a bad aim for anyone and it is fitting that his memory should live on in this village – Prince Albert, a far flung outpost of his Queen’s Empire.
PRINCE ALBERT – Kweekvallei
Published by: Prince Albert Writers’ Guild
- All information was obtained from the book Prince Albert – Kweekvallei
- Words in italics are verbatim extracts from the book
- For the rest of this post I have paraphrased the story using the information written in the book
- Please see links to Prince Albert Writer’s Guild here
- Photographs taken by barryjbrady.com