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24. Chapter XXIV George V. Ascends The Throne

EDWARD VII., in his short but glorious reign, did many fine things for England. Perhaps his greatest service was the good understanding he effected with France. His Majesty had to forget a good deal before he could visit Paris after the Boer War. I cannot help thinking that the visit I allude to had a bearing upon the troubled relations and approaching war between Russia and Japan. France was Russia's ally, and Britain was the ally of Japan. If war broke out a situation might arise dragging Britain and France into the struggle on opposite sides. It therefore became of supreme importance that a better understanding should be established as a safeguard against such a catastrophe. King Edward's visit did establish that cordial relationship, and when the strain arose out of an alleged assistance to the Russian fleet by the French authorities in the Far East it was strong enough to stand it.

The grief of Queen Alexandra and King George must have been softened by the depth of the national sorrow and its spread over the whole Empire. I had seen the English people thronging streets and windows in a national rejoicing over the sixty years of Queen Victoria's reign. I now saw the English people again, with bowed head, watching the departure of


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our great King's remains to their resting-place at Windsor.

Photograph facing p.280. King George V



Thoughts strayed away sometimes to the figure of our new Sovereign, who was suddenly called to rule as King-Emperor over one-fifth of the surface and one-fifth of the inhabitants of the globe. No one could then foresee that in four swiftly flying years the serious troubles facing him in British politics would be succeeded by a world-wide agony of strife and bloodshed, in which our gigantic fabric of Empire would be tried more tragically than ever before. Those who knew him knew well that a more widely travelled, more keenly observant monarch, or one more likely to honour his obligations to his people, never grasped a sceptre.

At the funeral of King Edward the importance of the British self-governing dominions was fully recognised for the first time, and their High Commissioners formed an intimate part of a Royal Procession. This was owing to the special thought and desire of His Majesty. We were in the ninth carriage after the Chief Mourner, but still the heads were all bared, still the faces were all sad! This unaffected parade of national sorrow and sympathy touched my heart far more deeply than even the magnificent gaiety of the nation, with its lavish fringes of flags and flowers, on the day of the Diamond Jubilee.

In the morning, before the procession started, Mr. Roosevelt, who represented the United States, Lord Strathcona, who represented Canada, and I, representing Australia, happened to meet. I could not help saying to them: “We three, standing together


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here, represent nearly 10,000,000 square miles of the earth's surface.”

The best, if not the only, blessing that ever came to us “made in Germany” was Prince Albert!

Queen Victoria and the Prince Consort, King Edward and Queen Alexandra, King George and Queen Mary—the three reigns beginning in 1837—when compared or contrasted with the three previous reigns, or any three previous reigns anywhere, give us a better idea of the wonderful good fortune this nation has enjoyed in recent times.

My first dinner with the members of the Savage Club, which, as everybody knows, is, if you look for a combination of sociable effervescence and brain power, one of the liveliest and most desirable of the many clubs in London, was a function that still lingers in my memory.

In speaking to them I took an opportunity, which in other ways I often repeated, of dwelling on the importance of giving the child life of the British Isles a better chance.

The visit of Mr. Roosevelt to London after a “big game” hunt in Africa, and the visits he made to other European capitals, were notable events. So many lions of sorts are placed in the foreground of the social menagerie in London from time to time that the advent of a real live lion of the first consequence interested all classes intensely. That genuine “hero of the hour” received a rare distinction when he was made a freeman of the City of London. His speech on that occasion was delightfully natural, not only because it was full of life and happy phrases, and


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fine practical ideals, but also because he broke all the rules by a frank criticism of our policy in Egypt, which he thought committed the cardinal error of mistaking the flabbiness of amiable weakness for the sagacity of firm administration.

I was not one of those who doubted his wisdom or was amazed by his frankness. On the contrary, I rejoiced that a champion American democrat, in judging our dealings with subject races, did not attack us because our sway was tyrannical, or even arrogant, but because it erred in the other direction. There was another reason why we should highly esteem our most distinguished guest. Not once, but often, Mr. Roosevelt, when President of the United States, paid several public and memorable tributes to the humanity and efficiency of British rule, especially in the Indian Empire. He never betrayed any fear of offending hyphenated voters, even in those days!

We used to be so accustomed to American attempts to twist the tail of the British lion, that when that truly great American patted him on the head we felt doubly pleased.

On May 28th I had the happiness of receiving Lady Reid and my three children on their arrival in London.

On the 30th my wife and I gave a reception to Mr. and Mrs. Roosevelt at the Ritz Hotel.

The people who came to meet them formed a most interesting and distinguished company, all eager to do honour to the chief guest.

It was rather amusing to observe the way in which Lord Kitchener—who did not often attend such functions—endeavoured to make an unobtrusive entrance,


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by evading the man who was announcing the arrivals. He seemed to have succeeded; but shortly afterwards that personage—who, for a wonder, did not murder the King's English—saw Lord Kitchener, and rolled out all his titles with immense gusto. The object of these proclamations looked less at ease than when under fire in the Equatorial regions.

I paid an interesting visit to Paris on the invitation of the British Chamber of Commerce. This Chamber includes a number of influential men, of British birth, many of whom have carried on business there for a long time. Sir Joseph Walton was President in 1910. I was so glad to find that, under the auspices of our Ambassador, Sir Francis (now Lord) Bertie, and of Sir Austin Lee, his Commercial Attaché, the Embassy was in close touch with the Chamber of Commerce. There is no silly—I will not say snobbish—gap between Diplomacy and Commerce in France. The good results are obvious, and I found them, on various subsequent visits, to be constant and substantial. I suppose there is no more humiliating contrast than that between German methods, which interlock so wonderfully every form of patriotism, from the highest Excellency to the humblest hotel waiter, and British methods, which seem to keep every form of public service in a series of independent layers. There will be a great improvement in these matters in the course of the next hundred years—perhaps!

At Leicester I gave an address in reference to the grave possibilities of the future, in connection with the safety of the Empire.




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I had the honour of staying at Balmoral in September, when Their Majesties were in residence. The difference between Royal State and simple country life is made absolute at Balmoral Castle. I was graciously invited by His Majesty to stay on to meet the Duke of Connaught.

The King was out shooting every day except Sunday. The Queen invited some of us who did not shoot to motor out to delightful spots in the vicinity.

The night before my departure Their Majesties presented me with their photographs, graciously autographed. Thus ended a visit full of pleasant memories not at all likely to be forgotten. The photograph which is published in this book by His Majesty's gracious permission was taken by Lord Revelstoke.

The opening of the Imperial Parliament by the King in person in February, 1911, was marked by a new departure so far as the High Commissioners were concerned. We were accorded a special row of seats on the right of the Throne.

I paid a visit to Hull during the same month, and saw some wonderful developments in the shape of new docks, actual and in the course of excavation.

One of the most important and interesting ceremonies to which I was invited in 1911 was the unveiling of the memorial erected in front of Buckingham Palace in honour of Queen Victoria. This triumph of modern sculpture is surrounded by features which attest the Imperial character of the design.

Is there any contrast possible in human history greater than that between the sixty years of Geroge III. and those sixty years of Queen Victoria? What


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a happy day for the United Kingdom, the Empire, and the world that was which saw once more a maiden Queen upon the British throne.

Just as valuable as the loyalty of Queen Victoria to the Constitution, and her wisdom in council, were the overflowings of her womanly sympathy, and her visits to her poor neighbours at Balmoral. Thus were set examples of intimacy and esteem between the Sovereign and the masses which were sadly wanting in former reigns.

As the King and the German Emperor walked to the unveiling, I thought of the majestic power behind those two rulers and grandsons, and breathed an unspoken prayer that Queen Victoria's memory might keep them both side by side in future years. Alas!

A very important step was taken when invitations were sent not only to Prime Ministers, but also to oversea Parliamentary delegations to be present at His Majesty's Coronation. An Imperial Conference was also due. The Prime Minister, Mr. Andrew Fisher; the Minister for External Affairs, Mr. Batchelor; and Senator Pearce, the Minister for Defence, came to England for both events.

The delegation from Australia was chosen by Parliament from the two Parties in both Houses.

In addition to the official delegation, the following members visited England: Sir John Forrest, Sir Josiah Symon, Senator Fraser, and Mr. W. Kelly.

Of all those distinguished visitors, perhaps my closest and most reliable personal friend was Senator Fraser. That hon. gentleman was, and, although


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now 84 or 85 years of age, is, a delightful personality. He was born of Scottish parents in Canada. Emigrating to Victoria, he began as a contractor, going from one stage to another, until instead of tendering for culverts, he became the constructor of important railways. The combination of Scottish, Canadian, and Australian influences which helped to mould his views and form his character created a mental type of singular interest. When Mr. Fraser engaged in public life his good qualities and sound views became more widely known. And as he added to these a wonderful vivacity of body and mind, animated by a strange combination of boyish impetuosity and keen shrewdness, his popularity grew, until no man in Australia was more sure of election to the Senate when he became a candidate.

Although a great Orangeman, one of his most intimate friends was that able, charming, and faithful son of the Roman Catholic Church, the Hon. Nicholas Fitzgerald, M.L.C.

I paid an interesting visit to Lord Mayor Hutchinson at Liverpool to attend his annual dinner to the Press. I arrived at his house just before it was time to change into an evening suit. To my great annoyance I found that my “dress clothes” had not been sent. Of course I had to go to the banquet, and of course there was no immediate prospect of a spare suit that would contain me! In the course of my speech I accounted for my unconventional appearance in the following way:

“My Lord Mayor and Gentlemen of the Press,—Forgive my appearance in one respect—the absence


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of proper raiment. I have been the victim of undue confidence. I was assured that there was in this great city an emporium at which evening suits of all sizes could be hired. When I visited the shop I found that the whole of the dress suits had been hired out. ‘How was that?’ I asked. The shopman said, ‘It always happens here when a dinner is given by the Lord Mayor to the gentlemen of the Press!’ ”

I willingly went with our visiting Prime Minister, Mr. Fisher, to that part of Scotland where he was born—Crosshouse, in Ayrshire. The people gathered in large numbers to see him. Many of them knew the young miner who had left the place about twenty years before to return Prime Minister of Australia!

The hon. member who succeeded the Scottish miner as Prime Minister of Australia was, I believe, a miner in Staffordshire in his young days. When Mr. Fisher and Mr. Cook were in their cradles, how many millions of chances to one there must have been against such a destiny for either of them!

Not far away was “The Burn,” the home of my father's youth. When a boy my father and a young fellow named Nelson were playmates. Both became clergymen, and both emigrated to Australia. The son of one became Premier of Queensland (Sir Hugh Nelson) and the son of the other became Premier of New South Wales. Sir Hugh and myself were Premiers at the same time.

In Ireland there were two boys at school together. One of the two became Sir Frederick Darley, Chief Justice and Lieutenant-Governor of New South Wales, and the other, Mr. Higginbotham, became Chief Justice


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of Victoria. These two Judges were of that splendid type of Irishman of which more specimens seem to flourish out of Ireland than in it.

I was honoured by the King with a promotion from the rank of Knight Commander to that of Knight Grand Cross of the Order of St. Michael and St. Geroge.

There were many social festivities during the weeks prior to the Coronation.

Lady Reid and I held a reception at the Imperial Institute on the night of June 8th, in honour of the Australian Ministers and other Australians in London. That large building was full of life and light, and was the scene of a brilliant success. The following were among those assembled to do honour to the Australians:

The Prince and H.R.H. the Princess Alexander of Teck, the Duke of Argyll, the Duke of Fife, the German Ambassador, the Austro-Hungarian Ambassador, the Japanese Ambassador, the Turkish Ambassador, the Swedish Minister, the Norwegian Minister, the Chinese Minister, Princess Karadja and Princess Despina Karadja, the Duke of Somerset, the Duchess of St. Albans, the Marchioness of Salisbury, the Earl and Countess of Selborne, Earl and Countess Carrington, Earl and Countess Cadogan, Georgina Countess of Dudley, the Earl and Countess of Darnley, Earl and Countess Beauchamp, the Earl and Countess of Granard, the Earl and Countess of Harrowby, the Countess of Jersey, the Earl of Kintore, the Earl and Countess of Londesborough, the Earl and Countess of March, the Earl and Countess of Shaftesbury, the Earl and Countess of Stradbroke, the Earl and Countess of


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Warwick, Viscount and Viscountess Esher, Viscount Haldane, Viscount and Viscountess Hampden, Viscount and Viscountess Helmsley, Viscount Knutsford, Field-Marshal Viscount Kitchener, Viscount and Viscountess Maitland, Viscount and Viscountess Ridley, Viscount and Viscountess Bury, Lord and Lady Aberdare, Lord Brassey, Lord Chelmsford, Lord and Lady Den-man, Lord and Lady Farquhar, Lord and Lady Hindlip, Lord and Lady Kinnaird, Lord and Lady Lamington, Lord Lucas, the Dowager Lady Loch, Lord and Lady Pentland, Lord Strathcona, Lord and Lady Charles Beresford, Lord Richard Nevill, Admiral the Hon. Sir Edmund and Lady Fremantle, the Hon. Sidney Greville, the Hon. Alfred and Mrs. Lyttelton, the Lord Mayor and the Lady Mayoress, Admiral Sir Cyprian and Lady Bridge, Admiral Sir Lewis Beaumont, Vice-Admiral Sir Richard Poore, Lieut.-General Sir Robert Baden-Powell, Major-General Sir George and Lady French, Admiral Sir Reginald and Lady Henderson, Sir Wilfrid Laurier, Mr. and Mrs. Lewis Harcourt, the Hon. Sir William and Lady Hall-Jones, the Hon. Sir Walter and Lady Hely-Hutchinson, Sir Rufus and Lady Isaacs, Sir Gilbert and Lady Parker, the Dean of Canterbury and Mrs. Wace.

It was always tremendously difficult in ordinary years to secure a really representative social gathering in which Colonial visitors and the people of the Home circles could assemble together on a large scale. The above occasion and a similar gathering in the same building under the auspices of Lord and Lady Strathcona were especially interesting as exceptions to the general rule.




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On the eve of a Royal Jubilee or a Coronation, London contains the most imposing assemblage of people on the face of the globe. The great ones all come out of their obscurity, and so do those of humbler origin. Enormous sums of money are circulating, and an enormous population with little to spend is making desperate efforts to get the worth of its money.

For many days before “The Day” all ages and classes of the native born, and all ages and classes of the Colonial and foreign visitors are inspired with a common purpose—how best to see the best that can be seen. There is, of course, some vanity, and much curiosity in it all; but a good, healthy soul predominates, full of loyalty and that best sort of cheerfulness which comes from a great occasion and a holiday honestly earned.

First impressions concerning the world's greatest city are disappointing. None of the approaches to London are impressive. The railway terminals are large, but they are very ugly. There is seldom an appearance of comfort or cleanliness. Some of the stations in New York and Washington are the last word in magnificence, brightness, and cleanliness. The difference between London and other great capitals to my mind is this: In the latter you get your best impressions soon, and then the curve of interest is downward. The charm and the greatness of London have to fight their way through first impressions. When they do they seem to increase their sway as the weeks and the months pass by.

Manifold were the troubles and anxieties of those who had to make the Abbey on that Coronation Day


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hold three times its proper number, and yet leave ample room for the pomp and ceremony of the central scene; yet those were simple tasks compared with that of arranging the invitations. The Duke of Norfolk—whose recent death is so widely deplored— superintended this invidious task wonderfully well.

I had only a small number to look after. Still, I made a serious blunder. Two of the people I should have thought of first I overlooked, owing to their late arrival in London. The mistake was discovered at the last moment. In frantic haste I appealed to the leading official in the Colonial Office who had charge of that part of the invitation list. There were, as I feared, no seats left. I was in despair. He then quietly said, “I have two places. I will give them up to your friends.” I shrank from such a sacrifice, but he insisted. I ought to have stood firm, but I gave way, and the situation was saved for me by that act of generosity.

Westminster Abbey never contained a fuller representation of the public men of the Dominions and of the princes of the Empire of India and of foreign nations than that which filled it to witness the enthronement of King George and Queen Mary. The wonderfully elaborate ritual and the ancient ceremonies were a glorious puzzle to Colonial eyes. What an auspicious Coronation this, when for the first time in the history of the world a newly crowned Emperor and his Empress had visited all parts of an Empire which marches with the sun.

A reminiscent thought of the 1911 Imperial Conference invites comparisons; the Imperial Conferences


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held in 1897 and 1902 were much like those of previous years. But those of 1907 and 1911 marked new departures of real importance. The Prime Minister presided at the openings in 1907 and 1911, and the holder of that office will be ex officio President of every future gathering. The members of the Conference of 1911 were admitted to the inner councils of the Cabinet—including those of the Foreign Office, the Admiralty, and the War Office—a concession never before thought of. I do not for a moment suppose that all the hidden mysteries were revealed, but many were. It is from developments such as these that we must proceed to larger schemes of union and co-operation. The difficulties in the way of a real Imperial federation are enormous, but that ideal is at once so necessary and so grand that every step that marks a sound advance should be hailed with delight. Not every one, perhaps, reflects, that three great stepping-stones were well and truly laid when Canada, and Australia, and South Africa federated. Our Empire is so vast that Imperial federation means a federation of federations.

In 1897 I considered my distinguished friend, Sir Wilfrid Laurier, the most interesting of the Colonial Premiers. The wonderful events since then have made General Botha the most interesting of all the later Prime Ministers. He was so stanch an enemy and so soon became so stanch a friend. There were many fine speeches at the Conference of 1907; but General Botha's excelled them all because of the massive, manly terms in which he voiced the sincerity of his new allegiance to his former enemies. We now know


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it by deeds of valour and constancy which will shine out as long as the Dutch and the British races last.

A few weeks after the Coronation festivities were over I was down at Ramsgate with my wife and daughter, on a visit to my younger son, Clive, who was then at a preparatory school at Broadstairs. My daughter and I had motored over on Sunday to bring Clive to luncheon after the morning service. On our way back to the hotel, at a cross-road, another car ran into ours, dashing it against an iron tram standard, which saved us from perhaps a worse fate. My right arm was broken, and my daughter was very badly shaken. Clive had only a slight shock. Fortunately, my wife had not come with us.

When such painful accidents as that which injured me occur there is generally a “silver lining” in the shape of friendly sympathy. I forgot my misfortune in the multitude of cables and telegrams and letters which came to me in the nursing home at Broadstairs. The King was travelling from Ireland to Edinburgh at the time, but sent two gracious messages of inquiry. Queen Alexandra also telegraphed a most gracious personal message.

I was laid up for a long time, and at last had to get the ends of the two broken bones cut and rejoined with two silver plates. Dr. Rock Carling did his work well. I have never felt a pain there since the eight screws were put in! I had only one regret—I forgot to have my name and address engraved on the plates!

It was a long time before I was able to resume active life. The most important event in the latter


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part of 1911 was the launching of the first battle cruiser built for the new Australian Navy. This took place at Clydebank, Glasgow, on October 25th. Lady Reid performed the ceremony, christening the cruiser the Australia, and adding, “May the old flag and the new flag ever fly together in peace and war.”

A great assemblage crowded all the available space. When the chocks were hammered out, and the vast hull trembled with her first movement, then slowly and silently began, and then swiftly and with a vast disturbance of water, ended her descent to the river, the spectacle seemed to link the present loyalty of Australia with her future greatness on the oceans of the world. The dominant hope and prayer, as the two ensigns fluttered in the breeze, were well expressed, I think, in my wife's words.

At the invitation of the Royal Scottish Geographical Society I delivered an address on February 22nd, in Edinburgh, repeating it, as is usual, in Glasgow the following night. I had no leaning towards geographical subjects, and I felt rather puzzled in thinking of a subject when honoured with the invitation. By a more or less ingenious play upon words, I got to a subject in which I did take an intense interest— the character and education of the human mind. This was the title of my address: “The Two Geographies—that of Matter and that of Mind.”

In April I paid a visit to Bath as the guest of the Chamber of Commerce. Ancient history has quite a number of visible landmarks there, showing the firm hold the Romans had of that part of England. The Roman occupation has been a more lasting source


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of profit to the city than the once fashionable assemblies of the eighteenth century.

Lord Alexander Thynne proposed my health in such flattering terms that my prospects for the next world seemed to be of the brightest. These eulogies reminded me of an opinion of a very different sort, which, when interjected at a great political demonstration in Victoria, some years before, left me, for the very first time, I believe, at a public meeting, quite destitute of any gift of “repartee.”

As a rule, my friends used to enjoy, and my opponents used to dislike, a way I had, both in the House and at outside meetings, of amusing my audiences. There was a method in this. Most, probably all of my leading opponents, were men whose speeches, however able, were conceived in a serious vein. An average Australian audience is very keen generally, but dearly loves a joke, especially one of a satirical kind. My natural disposition, quite as much as my desire to please, led me to give a merry—I fear too often a frivolous—turn to the current of my thoughts, as I expressed them in public. This exposed me to various offensive epithets, such as “clown” and “buffoon.” I did not resent these insults; indeed, they seemed a gratifying proof that I had attained at least one of my two real objects, which were to amuse those whom I wanted to convince, and to upset those whom I wanted to defeat.

I don't care where you “belong,” you will open more doors to the understanding and interest of those you address by humorous fancies than by any other means. When his audience is smiling, a speaker's


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best opportunity for impressing and persuading has been won. Of course, the humour must be genuine and well aimed. Nothing could be more ineffective than attempts to make people laugh with you that make them laugh at you! Those who “joke with difficulty” had better not joke at all.

Photograph facing p.296. On board R.A.N. battle-cruiser Australia before her departure for Australia, June 30, 1913 King George V, The Prince of Wales, and Sir George Reid in Second Row



At the meeting to which I have referred I developed a gloomy view of things in general, and of my own chances in particular. I expressed a belief that my public career was nearing its close; “in fact,” I added, “I feel that I am approaching that ‘bourne from which no traveller returns.’ ” A man at the back of the hall at once chipped in, and addressing me without a trace of personal hostility, exclaimed, “By Jove, George! won't the fat be in the fire then!” I laughed as heartily as the audience did. What else could one do?

In the course of my speech at Bath the fact that the first Australian Governor, Captain Phillip, was born in that city, suggested thoughts as to the obligation the Anglo-Saxon race owes to the pioneers of our Empire.

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