Dublin's Private Garden

Thursday, 19 April 1900 - Dublin, Ireland

Quiet day for Her Majesty as she recovers from the last few days. I took the opportunity to visit another Guinness landmark--Iveagh House (pronounced “eye-vee.”) Since it’s now a private residence, I just visited the outside of the house.

Iveagh House
Iveagh House is in fact two buildings built in the 1730s. Those were very prosperous years for Dublin and several Georgian townhouses were built in this section of the city. In 1862 Sir Benjamin Lee Guinness, 1st Baronet and grandson of the founder of the Guinness Brewery, bought Numbers 80 and 81 on St. Stephen’s Green and combined the two houses, putting a Portland stone facade on the front to make it seamless. The home has since passed to his son, Edward.

As beautiful as Iveagh House is, the real gem is what lies behind it-- a garden covering several acres hidden by stone walls. I couldn’t help but peer through the gates at it. I didn’t see the distinguished-looking middle-aged gentlemen slip up beside me. “Would you like a look?” he asked.

I apologized for my rudeness but assured him I would like nothing better. “Do you know the owner?”

Lord Iveagh
“Quite intimately. It belongs to Lord Iveagh and I am he.”

“You are Edward Guinness, the Earl of Iveagh?”

He frowned. “No, the Baron of Iveagh.”

Oops, nearly blew that one. That won’t be for another nineteen years. They will keep heaping titles on Edward and it wasn’t for his hobnobbing with influential people. He is well remembered for all his many philanthropic works. One project was clearing out the slums and replacing it with decent but affordable housing for the poor. “Yes, of course. My name is Dr. Wendell Howe and I am very honored to meet you.”

“Medical man?”

“Historian. I understand these gardens goes back nearly a hundred years.”

“Actually they are older. The gardens originally belonged to John Scott, the 1st Earl of Clonmell, and Lord Chief Justice of the King's Bench for Ireland back in the 1780s. I’m not sure if who named them the Saxe-Coburg Gardens.”

“Yes, after the current Royal Family. Very patriotic.”

Lord Iveagh nodded. “I’m afraid the gardens had fallen into a terrible state when my father, Sir Benjamin, bought them in 1863 to go with his new house. Father hired a garden designer named Ninian Niven. Did an excellent job. Would you like a tour?”

Would I! I of course took him up on his offer. I know we must have strolled through it for at least a couple of hours as he showed me all the details. The garden has grottoes, rose gardens, a maze, woodlands, meadows, sculptures, fountains and even a waterfall all in eight and a half acres. “This absolutely amazing!” I assured him. “It’s hard to believe a private garden like this exists in the middle of Dublin.”

Iveagh Gardens
“Yes, it makes me feel a bit guilty. From my front window I can look across the street at St. Stephens Green, the park my brother, Lord Ardilaun, gave Dublin. I’ve toyed with the idea of giving away my garden.”

“Excellent idea,” I agreed. I nearly bit my tongue, then shrugged. I know Lord Iveagh will give his garden to the University College Dublin in 1908. I doubt if I had anything to do with that decision. The University will rename the gift Iveagh Gardens in his honor. And it will get more visitors than the mountain named for him. (It’s in the Antarctic. He helped finance the 1907 British Antarctic Expedition.)

I thanked Lord Iveagh for the tour. He has many good years ahead of him, twenty-seven in fact. His son Rupert will give Iveagh House to the Irish State in 1939. They will use it as the Department of Foreign Affairs building.

As for the garden, it will eventually fall to the Office of Public Works. In 1995 it will be restored to Niven’s original design, complete with a garden of pre-1860s roses. Still the wall will tuck it away, making those who come across it believe they discovered a “secret garden.” Most Dubliners will feel that Lord Iveagh’s private garden will be their own private garden.

Iveagh Gardens


The People’s Princess

Monday, 9 April 1900 - Dublin, Ireland

Day Five of Queen Victoria’s visit to Dublin. Her Majesty rode through central Dublin, careful to avoid the slums on the north side. However another royal, Princess Christian of Schleswig-Holstein, was in another part of town laying a foundation stone for the new Nurses Home for the City of Dublin Hospital. The hospital, originally built in 1832, has been in the process of being rebuilt and expanded these last ten years.

Future Nurses Home for Royal City of Dublin Hospital
Princess Christian also announced that she had received permission from Queen Victoria to bestow the title of Royal upon the hospital, making it the Royal City of Dublin Hospital. The Board of Governors were so touched by the honor, they requested that the Croly Female Ward be renamed the Helena Female Ward (a suggestion seconded by Senior Surgeon Dr. Croley himself.) Princess Christian was quite pleased, for Helena is her real name.

Princess Christian of  Schleswig-Holstein
Princess Helena of the United Kingdom
Princess Helena is the middle child of the nine children of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. The fact that she and not Victoria was here to lay the stone wasn’t questioned, for Helena is the President of the Royal British Nurses' Association. More than just a figurehead, Helena is very interested in nursing and is actively involved in the organization.

Helena was a bit of a problem child in the fact that Victoria didn’t know what to do with her. She was not the oldest, the prettiest or the most talented of her daughters. After Prince Albert died, Victoria decided to keep Helena as her secretary, but Helena was even more distraught by Albert death than her devastated mother. So the job went to next in line, Princess Louise. After her artist daughter married, the job fell to the youngest daughter, Beatrice.

Still Victoria wanted to keep her middle daughter near as an auxiliary. After it was discovered Helena had been flirting with the librarian--a mere servant--it became evident Helena would not stay a spinster. The girl had always been headstrong. As a child any brother that picked on her got socked in the nose!

Victoria found the perfect man--a Prince of Royal Blood! Christian’s father lost Schleswig-Holstein when he tried to break away from Denmark because the population was mostly German. This meant Christian was now homeless which meant he wouldn’t mind living near his mother-in-law.

Victoria had not taken into account, family politics. The Princess of Wales, Alexandria, was also a Princess of Denmark. How dare Christian call himself Prince of lands that belonged to her dad? Never mind Prussia had since took them away. (And I’m sure the fact that Christian actually had more Danish blood than Alexandria didn’t help.) The future queen never forgave Victoria or Helena for this perceived slight.

Helena and Christian
As for Helena, she was not at all adverse to the match. She liked Christian even if he was older and the fact that he bore some likeness to her beloved late father didn’t hurt. He might have no real power but he was amiable, doted on her and she would never have to punch him in the nose. And so the twenty-year-old Helena married the thirty-five-year-old Christian.

While Prince Christian might be happy puttering with his pigeons or hunting, Helena was her father’s daughter. Like Albert she liked science, industry and was a champion of social change. Instead of telling the unemployed in Windsor to just get jobs, she fed them so they could get back on their feet. Over 3000 meals were served over the harsh winter of 1886. This was just one of her many charitable works. And this was before royals were expected to do public service. (I think Helena helped push the trend.)

She also promotes the lost art of needlework becoming the first president of the Royal School of Art Needlework. In her spare time she translates German books into English for publication. She even campaigns for women’s rights, despite Victoria’s disapproval. Her main job though is official duties for the crown. All this despite bouts of poor health. Prince Christian frets over Helena when she is sick and lets her do as she pleases when she is well.

The couple now have four adult children, the oldest, Christian Victor, is Victoria’s favorite grandson and is now fighting in the Boer War. (He will die of malaria in July.) Helena and Christian will celebrate their Fiftieth Wedding Anniversary in 1916. Helena may not have married a powerful man like her sisters, but her marriage is much happier.

As for Helena, she will continue her charitable work. In World War I she will serve as a nurse (despite being 70.) Many describe her as dowdy, placid and too business-like, but ask the people she has helped and they will tell you just how beautiful she is. Prince Christian thinks so, too.

a short slide show on Princess Helena


Dublin's Catholic Cathdral

Sunday, 8 April 1900 - Dublin, Ireland

Today I attended Dublin’s Catholic Cathedral...more or less. If you ask the Pope what is the Roman Catholic Cathedral of Dublin, he will tell you it is the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity, more commonly called Christ Church. However if you go to Christ Church you will not find any Catholics, just Protestants. It is now the Cathedral of the Church of Ireland, too--and they are not sharing.

Christ Church, Dublin
How did this come about? Remember when the Pope refused to give Henry the 8th a divorce on the grounds that he was tired of his old wife and wanted a new one? King Henry thumbed his nose at Rome and started his own Church of England and made himself the head. He outlawed Catholics and seized church property as his own.

England was ruling Ireland at the time (more or less) so Henry seized churches in Ireland, too, and created the Church of Ireland. If suddenly being forced to switch religions had been unpopular with the people of England, it was far worse in Ireland. Even if Pope Adrian had given Ireland to England, the Irish were still loyal to their Catholic faith. No amount of oppression would stop them.

Ring or Thumb Rosary
Despite being the majority religion, Catholics had to worship in secret. Any priest found giving a mass would be imprisoned or executed. Even rosaries were outlawed. The crafty Irish carried small easily hidden ring rosaries in their pockets and continued to pray with them.

Having to worship in secret, no Catholic churches were allowed until the 19th century when the laws were slowly abolished. Dublin could now have a Catholic Cathedral--except they already had a Cathedral they never officially let go of, but was now occupied by protestants who had worshipped there for generations and were not about to let go either.

And so St. Mary’s Church was built in 1825. From the very beginning the Irish called it a pro-Cathedral. In 1886 the Pope granted them the title of pro-Cathedral officially. So what is a pro-Cathedral, you ask? It is a church that acts as a temporary cathedral until an official one can be built. Dublin has been dragging it’s feet about building a real cathedral, never agreeing where to put it or perhaps hoping the Church of Ireland will give them their old one back. Besides, St. Mary’s was built grand enough to serve the purpose.

Inside St. Mary's Pro-Cathedral
By the way, St. Mary’s Church should not be confused with the other St. Mary’s Church, which is Church of Ireland. The Catholics after being forced out of their original medieval churches, refused to give up the old names and would bestow it upon their new churches. And when the Protestants build a new church to replace a crumbling one, they also keep the original name. So any time you ask the whereabouts of a particular church, you must add the denomination or you will be sent on a wild goose chase.

Is it any wonder the new Celtic Church was formed 100 years later to replace the two churches who had betrayed the Irish at one time or another? It was a revival of the original Christian Church that had been created on this island. It was a faith where there were no Protestants or Catholics and therefore no axe to grind. It eventually caught on.

The Orange and the Green
I think this song sums up the deboggle of Protestants and Catholics.


Queen Victoria's Visit to Dublin

Wednesday, 4th April 1900 - Dublin, Ireland

Last month Dublin got quite a shock when Queen Victoria announced she would visit in three weeks time. Having the Queen pop by is no small affair in this day and age. The city was also taken aback since this is her first visit to Ireland in 39 years.

The announcement was a surprise to her staff as well, since the elderly lady usually spends spring in the Riviera for her health. She has become quite frail and they know she isn’t long for this world. Victoria will join her late husband Albert next January.

Beatrice and Mum
The Queen does not come alone. Besides an entourage of servants, she came with her daughter, Princess Beatrice. Beatrice is the youngest of Victoria’s children, and was widowed herself four years ago. The Queen’s Indian secretary, Abdul Karim, also came. He and Beatrice are now the Queen’s most constant companions. There are whispers about the Queen’s apparent affection for Karim. I think she just likes having a strong man she can trust near her. His exotic good looks probably don’t hurt, either.

Dublin has been scurrying about making preparations for the visit. Victoria is the leader of the largest Empire the world has ever seen, and must be treated as such. The British Empire covers nearly one quarter of the earth and one fifth of the global population! The welcome must be worthy of the symbol of this Global Power. So three weeks is certainly not enough time to prepare!

A pier had to be built for Her Majesty to disembark upon. Carpenters have worked around the clock to get it built in time. An arch was also built for Her Majesty to pass through as she entered the city from the bay. It is created like a Gothic castle and looks very regal. Never mind it’s made of wood and canvas. A stone one in such short order was out of the question. Buildings everywhere sport Union Jacks, and buntings crisscross the streets as old Dublin is dressed up for the party.

Welcoming Arch (not bad for wood and canvas, eh?)
Yesterday at 2:15 in the afternoon, the Royal Yacht, the Victoria and Albert II, dropped anchor in Dublin Bay. Her Majesty spent the night aboard. Dozens of tourists rowed boats out to get a closer peek, but only got a better look at the ship, not the Queen herself. No incidence of violence, although 100 cannons were fired over the Bay as a salute when she arrived. Last night there was a huge fireworks display which must have kept Her Majesty awake.

Priests told their flocks to boycott the welcoming ceremonies. Indeed the reception committee of city dignitaries was missing over 20 men. Although Catholics have been given back most civil rights, they are still treated as second class citizens. The Queen is the head of the Protestant Church of Ireland, so she represents both religious oppression, as well as the Head of the Empire that holds Ireland in chains. Throngs have snubbed the whole visit on both political and religious grounds.

This morning Her Majesty stepped out on the new pier and was whisked away in an open carriage. The red clad soldiers and brass bands made a fine parade. The streets were lined with cheering crowds. You would never know there was any kind of boycott. Even so I’m not sure how many showed up as an act of support and how many just came for the spectacle. I think the latter made up most of the crowd.

Queen's carriage leaving the harbour
The Queen gave a short but heartfelt speech about the brave Irish soldiers who have fought for her in the Boer War in South Africa. She came to Ireland to pay tribute to the 1000s who have given their lives to the Empire. I heard someone mutter she just came to recruit more foolish men to fight in a war that didn’t concern Ireland.

Demonstrations have been kept in check. The Irish Transvaal Committee gathered for a torchlight procession of protest last night, but were chased off by baton-wielding police officers. Mainstream media are pro-Victoria, but the nationalist newspaper The United Irishman today called Her “the Famine Queen.” Policemen seized as many copies as they could find and arrested the editor, Arthur Griffith, future founder of the Irish Political Party, Sinn Fein. He will be in jail for the next two weeks.

There are extra policemen and soldiers and personal guards everywhere. The Queen hasn’t forgotten the Irish assassin who tried to shoot her back in 1849. There is no record of any attempt on her life on this visit. She may be the Leader of the British Empire, but she is also a frail sickly 81-year-old woman. Who wants to be known as the chap that shot a great-grandmother? Just doesn’t seem sporting.

the 81-year-old Queen Victoria
Footage of Queen Victoria’s Visit to Dublin
(That’s me in the brown top hat.)

More of Queen Victoria’s visit to Dublin

More photos:
The Queen and her Indian secrtary, Abdul Karim
Her Majesty's Yacht, the Victoria and Albert II
Lands that were part of the Bristish Empire at one time or another


The Tea I Left Behind

Saturday, 31 March 1900 - Dublin, Ireland

I am staying at the beautiful Shelbourne Hotel overlooking St. Stephen’s Green here in Dublin. The hotel was opened in 1824 by Martin Burke. He named his hotel after William, the 2nd Earl of Shelbourne and Prime Minister of Britain (1782-83) in an effort to woo genteel customers. The register already looks like a Who’s Who of celebrities and heads of states.

Shelbourne Hotel overlooking St. Stephen's Green
I was asked to record Room 112 in particular. In 1922 Michael Collin’s will use this meeting room to draft the Constitution of the future Irish Republic. I think they may have chosen the Shelborne because during the coming Uprising of 1916, they opened their doors to the wounded and served as a hospital for both sides.

I had a bit of a shock this morning though. One of the servers, looked about 18, asked me if I would care for more tea in a German accent. I asked the fellow where he was from.

My server
“Linz, Austria.”

“How did you wind up in Dublin?”

“I ran away from home.” He scowled. “It was hell. My father beat me; my stepmother ignored me. She dotes on her little darling Adolf. Spoiled brat!”

“Doesn’t sound like a happy family life,” I agreed. “I think I would have run away, too.”

It was then the head waiter snapped his fingers. “Hitler! More tea at this table.” The boy scurried off leaving me feeling some what discombobulated.

Alois Hitler, Sr.
(as mean as he looks)
I knew Hitler is not a common name. Alois Schicklgruber, son of Maria Schicklgruber and...well, historians are still debating over who his father was. Johann Georg Hiedler was his stepfather. At 39 Alois asked permission to use his stepfather’s name and changed the spelling to Hitler. Alois married Anna Glasl-Hörer but had children with his two mistresses who he eventually married, including his cousin Klara with whom he had Adolf. (Sounds like a bad soap opera.)

There are a few records of other Hitlers not related to Adolf even though Hiedler is the more common spelling. Surely this lad isn’t related to THE Adolf Hitler. I pulled out my computer I have disguised as a pocket Bible and proceeded to “read the Good Book,” checking my historic records.

Oh my word! Apparently Alois’ eldest son, Alois Jr. is currently working at the Shelbourne as an apprentice waiter and...this isn’t good...will be arrested for theft soon and sent to jail for five months. Best watch my valuables, eh?

Alois Hitler, Jr.
Future not looking wonderful for Alois; he’s a chip of the old block it appears. He will be arrested on other occasions. He will meet a nice Irish girl named Bridget, elope to London, have a son in Liverpool and then desert them for a gambling trip in Europe and marry another lady in Germany, while still married to Bridget. Fortunately Alois Jr. will stay out of politics, only using his brother’s power to acquire the position of barkeep to the storm troopers at his tavern.

Bridget and their son William Patrick will carry on without Alois. In 1939 the two will go on a lecture tour to America speaking against Adolf, and be stranded there with the outbreak of World War II. Just as well, their digs back in Liverpool were destroyed in the Blitz. William will join the U.S. Navy and change his last name to Stuart-Houston. This Hitler will have a much more stable family life, raising four boys. None of them will have children.

William Patrick Hitler Stuart-Houston
I stared at the tea Adolf Hitler’s brother had poured me, feeling slightly nauseous. I know the Third Reich and the Holocaust are not Alois Jr’s fault. He played no part in them. However he did nothing to oppose his brother like his son had, but took advantage of Adolf's position for his own profit.

I left the tea without drinking it. I think I’ll have breakfast at that restaurant with the Irish name across the street from now on.


An Oversimplified History of Dublin

Thursday, 29 March 1900 - Dublin, Ireland

Map of Dublin circa 1900
Dublin is the largest city in Ireland--its industrial and political center. It’s also the least Irish of her towns since it’s been a dumping ground for cocky invaders for over 1,000 years. The city itself was founded back in the ninth century by marauding Vikings as a camp for their raiding parties.

Funny thing about Ireland is it’s hard to not be swept up by her culture and lilting accent. The Vikings slowly became Irish and turned to commerce, stealing from the natives with high prices rather than by the sword. The local Celts converted the Norsemen to Christianity and things settled back to normal.

In 1155 Pope Adrian, the only English Pope, “gave” Ireland to the Norman conquerors of England. Ireland didn’t agree with this arrangement so the Normans had to take it by force. There was one problem. Ireland at this time had a unique political system. The country was divided up into numerous small kingdoms. These kings pledged allegiance to a High King. However outside of token recognition, the High King was ignored and the lesser kings did as they pleased. So if you conquered the High King of Ireland, all you really conquered was his own little kingdom and not all the lands supposedly subject to him. The power struggle between Normans and natives see-sawed back and forth until Ireland became a patchwork of Gaelic and Norman kingdoms. By the 1300s Normans were Norman in name only, having intermarried with the natives and adopting their culture and language. (I should point out that many leaders of the later Irish Rebellion had Norman names. Indeed “Fitz” is now considered as Irish as “O” or “Mac.”)

In 1366 the English Crown created the Pale (literally “fence”.) It was the area around Dublin, the only part of Ireland that the English had any real hold on. In the Pale, intermarriage between Irish and English, as well as the Irish language, dress and customs were forbidden. The English Monarch became the High King of Ireland, which meant the rest of Ireland pretty much ignored him. Slowly the fence was breached and even the Pale became Irish.

Queen Elizabeth I had had enough. Pope Adrian had given her family Ireland so she felt it was hers. She would finish what the Normans started. So began the long drawn out and complex process of conquest enacted with numerous battles and occasional compromises that really only ended with the Act of Union in 1801. As Scotland and England were united as Great Britain, Ireland was united with Britain to form the United Kingdom. And peace finally came to Ireland...or has it?

The University of Dublin has asked me to come to Dublin to cover Queen Victoria’s visit. They also want me to record the reaction of the people to this very controversial event. Ireland is getting fed-up with this shotgun wedding and wants a divorce. Right now most folks are just pushing for self government as a Dominion like Canada or Australia. Others want a clean break as a totally independent country. I can already feel the dark cloud of revolution in the air that will erupt in 1919. This may not be the best time for an Englishman to be in Ireland, but the University of Dublin assured me there was no records of Englishmen being lynched, so I should be safe enough.

Dublin as she looks in 1900
I also plan to record the city architecture and the culture of Ireland. The Irish are known for their hospitality. If I’m polite conduct myself as a good guest I should be fine. If anyone does get hostile I will tell them I am here to study the magnificent manuscripts of the Irish Golden Age. That should appease any patriotic Irishman.

Besides they are a nation a tea drinkers, so we should get along just fine. (Yes, Ireland drinks more tea per capita than even England!)