Tuesday 6 March 2012

June Events

June seems to have been an important month for the British Royal House, which ruled Trinidad and Tobago from 1797 to 1962, quite a long time!
King George V of Great Britain, after whom the park in Port of Spain was named,  was born on the 3rd June, 1865, at Marlborough House. His birthday was a public holiday in the British Empire for a long time. In 1893, he married Princess Victoria Mary of Teck, who was a modern woman and became very much a personality in her own right in the eyes of the public.
George was coronated at Westminster Abbey on the 21st June, 1910, when he succeeded his father, Edward VII. During his reign, the British Empire was the largest it ever had been, but a tendency towards breaking away from the monarchy increasingly manifested itself. There was a Sinn Fein rebellion in 1916, an Irish Free State settlement in 1922, and the first Labour governments in 1924 and 1929.
The economic crises of the late 20s and early 30s, and the invention of a new medium, the radio, led King George to increasingly communicate with his subjects; he inaugurated the famous Christmas broadcasts to the nation in 1932.
His son, the Prince of Wales, Edward VIII, was born in on the 22nd June, 1894. He was the successor to the throne. However, only eleven months after his coronation in  January '36, Edward abdicated because he got married to a divorced American lady which was not acceptable for a British king.
His brother, the Duke of York, "took the job" and became George VI, who reigned from ascended the throne in 1936. This George is the father of the present Queen Elizabeth II. Edward and his wife in fact came to the Caribbean from 1940 to 1945 as Duke and Duchess of Windsor, when Edward was posted in the Bahamas as governor.
A century before, on the 28th June, 1838, Queen Victoria was crowned. Incidentally, it was the year that the former slaves in the British empire were given full freedom.
Nobody then would have probably anticipated that she would live to see her Golden Jubilee 50 years later as the ruler of the British Empire. Albeit the fact that the "Victorian" age might seem stuffy and prudish to us today, Victoria had the good fortune to have made a love marriage, in that she married her German cousin and sweetheart Albert of Saxe-Coburg.
A naturally intelligent woman, she ruled over a growing British Empire, and in particular her standing as Empress of India brought her much fame and respect. With growing age and experience, she became a savvy and politically shrewd ruler.
She had a definite partiality for all things German and as such would have been mortified when her grandson, Wilhelm II of Prussia, the son of her first child Victoria, declared the most terrible war the world had ever seen and fought the country of his grandmother. However, by that time Victoria was long dead; she died in 1901.
It is probably hard to imagine nowadays how much people in the colonies, Trinidadians and Tobagonians as well, cherished that queen!
Looking back even further, there is another June event which was by extension important for Trinidad and Tobago in colonial times. On June 18th, 1815, England's Duke of Wellington and the Prussian army under Baron von Blücher  defeated French Emperor Napoleon at Waterloo.
Officially, this was commemorated by the British administration. But for Trinidadians in those days, most of whom were French-speaking and hailing from the French Antilles (including St. Lucia and Grenada), Napoleon's defeat was probably also a specific Caribbean satisfaction, since in 1809 he had divorced Joséphine, a French woman from Martinique - an unthinkable thing for the catholic French, even from an emperor!
Josephine had never had children for him, and when Napoleon died in his prison in St. Helena, his heir from his second wife didn't even grant the poor widow a pension...
Going back several months of June, another world-famous military man, Lord Horatio Nelson, came to our shores, or almost. He visited the Gulf of Paria on the 7th June, 1805 with his flotilla, but shunning the anchorage in Port of Spain, he only turned around and left again.
Unthinkable what would have become of the world had he been shipwrecked in the treacherous "remous" of the Bocas. After all, Nelson was the one who defeated the French in the naval battle of Trafalgar later that year. It was to be his last June - he was mortally wounded and buried in St. Paul's cathedral in London.
June also seems to have been the month of changing of governors. Sir Ralph Woodford was installed on the 24th June, 1813; Sir George F. Hill on the 9th June, 1833; J.R. Longden on the 25th June, 1870; Sir A. Havelock on the same day in 1898.
Other events of the month of June were for example:
June 15th, 1914: 1st Company of Girl Guides was started. This year they are celebrating their 85th anniversary, and some of the girl members are probably in the fourth generation. On June 17th, 1837, soldiers mutinied in St. Joseph. And if all this wasn't enough, Trinidadians and Tobagonians who were in alive in 1911 forever lost 6 minutes of their lives: at midnight June 30th, 1911, clocks were advanced 6 minutes for reasons of uniformity of the West Indies and the British Guyana. As such, they had only 23 hours and 54 minutes to pay their Cart Licenses and Wheel Taxes, which were due on the 1st ...

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