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Letter from HMS GALATEA crew to HRH the Duke of Edinburgh

Date: 1868
Overall (Frame): 266 x 195 x 17 mm
Sheet: 176 x 112 mm
Medium: Paper
Credit Line: ANMM Collection
Object Name: Letter
Object No: 00046217

User Terms

    Handwritten letter from the crew of HMS GALATEA to HRH the Duke of Edinburgh after the attempted assassination of the Duke at Clontarf Beach, Sydney on 12 March 1868 expressing their well wishes for his health.
    SignificanceThis letter reveals the depth of emotion felt by the Duke's crew for his well-being after an attack on Australian soil.
    HistoryThe second son of Queen Victoria, Prince Alfred Ernest Albert (1844-1900), Duke of Edinburgh visited Clontarf in 12 March 1868 where he was shot in the back by an Irishman, Henry James O'Farrell who was later hanged for his trouble.

    The Prince entered the Royal Navy in August 1858 and travelled widely as a midshipman in the frigate EURYALUS. He was promoted lieutenant in 1863 and in 1866 became both a naval captain and Duke of Edinburgh. He commissioned his first command, HMS GALATEA, in January 1867, left for the Mediterranean in February and sailed for South America on 12 June for a state visit to the emperor of Brazil. After two months at the Cape, the GALATEA reached Adelaide on 31 October 1867 to commence the first royal tour of Australia.

    After three uneventful weeks in South Australia, the Duke moved on to Melbourne where a shooting incident between Orange and Catholic factions and a riot due to inept handling of a free public banquet marred the generally enthusiastic atmosphere. He then visited Tasmania and arrived in Sydney on 21 January 1868. After a month of festivities he spent a week in Brisbane and returned to Sydney.
    Despite rumours of sectarian strife, he attended a picnic at Clontarf on 12 March where an Irishman, Henry James O'Farrell, succeeded in wounding him seriously. In a frenzy of outraged patriotism the New South Wales government sought unsuccessfully to uncover a conspiracy and, overruling the Duke's eminently sensible proposal to refer the sentence on O'Farrell to the Queen, refused to recommend clemency. O'Farrell was hanged on 21 April and the Duke, who had recovered completely by 26 March, left for England on 26 June. The events were fully covered in the newspapers of the day, the Illustrated Sydney News providing graphic illustrations. An attempt to stir up anti-Irish feeling on the back of the event was short-lived. A Norfolk Island pine, planted to mark the place where the Duke was shot, still exists in Holmes Avenue.

    He visited Australia again informally, arriving in Fremantle on 28 January 1869 and leaving Sydney on 3 April. In both Sydney (Royal Prince Alfred Hospital) and Melbourne he dedicated hospitals commemorating his escape from death. In 1870 the Duke made a final visit to dock the GALATEA. He arrived at Sydney on 15 September, visited Melbourne for the Cup from 22 October to 19 November, and sailed early in 1871 without any ceremonies.

    The letter was written on behalf of the ship's complement to express their well wishes to the Duke and reads as follows:

    To Captain H.R.H. The Duke of Edinburgh,
    May it please your Royal Highness,
    We the undersigned Petty and non-comm-
    isioned Officers of H.M.Ship Galatea
    on behalf of the entire ships company
    do desire to express to your Royal Highness
    our beloved Captain our heart-felt
    sympathy with you in your sufferings
    consequent upon the wound recently
    inflicted by the Hand of an assassin
    and we also desire to express our deep felt
    thankfulness for your Providential
    escape from the assassin's deadly intent.
    We pray that the same good providence
    may soon restore you to perfect health
    and strength that your Royal Highness
    may in Gods good time be enabled to
    resume the joyful command of your most
    Obedient Servants

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