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Celebrating the King’s Birthday, 1811
Edited by Robert Henderson

    Throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, observing the reining monarch’s birthday was one of the most important celebrations in British and colonial society. The following account is of great interest as its details the activities, decorations, music, and general concerns of the Canadian elite in Montreal at the time of the War of 1812. Displays of loyalty to the crown by singing God save the King in French, references to the defense of Quebec in 1775 by its population, references to Iberian patriots for the courage when their nation was invaded, all point to a debate over whether Lower Canada’s (Quebec) population would defend the country in a war with the United States. The governor of the time, Sir James Craig openly questioned the francophone population’s loyalty. The patriotic dinner recounted below was a rebuttal. The list of toasts also show that Great Britain in turn was expected to support the Canadas for their loyalty: "May the Canadas be to Great Britain in this Hemisphere the same as Guernsey and Jersey are to her in Europe." With war looming ever near, Craig was replaced with Sir George Prevost as governor, a francophone of Swiss origin. While criticized for his military abilities, Prevost excelled in convincing the people of Lower Canada to defend themselves.

    The following account of this patroitic dinner, held at Mr Dillon’s Montreal Hotel and attended by 40 to 50 people, was recounted originally in the Montreal Gazette on Monday, June 10, 1811. Of those who attended there was an

"equal number of British subjects, natives of this province and from Europe. At 5 o’clock the company sat down to a most excellent Dinner, in providing which, Mr Dillon, if possible surpassed his accustomed attention. The dessert was truly elegant. In the center was placed a Pyramid, having Fame at the top, and the Base representing the walls of Quebec. Louis Chaboillez, Esq. Presided in the chair, and recited the following verses wrote for the occasion, previous to giving His Majesty’s health, which was announced by one and twenty guns fired from a small train of Artillery, placed in front of the Hotel, part of the Band of the 41st (which was in the politest manner permitted by Col. Proctor to attend) performing ‘God Save the King -

Grant us, Oh heaven!To our George, long life,
Ever protect him form domestic strife
Our empire’s father, and its guardian star,
Renowned for virtue amongst the nations far
Grant him long life to sway this happy land,
Exalted wever may his Empire stand.

We have endeavoured to procure a correct list of Toasts, which we understand were alternately given in English and French by the President and sub President.

The Transparency

Placed in the center window next the Parade, was most elegent in design, masterly in the execution, and unrivalled by any thing similar ever seen in this country. The upper part represented Fame, sounding her Trumpet, from which was suspended a Banner, having the inscription, "31st Decr. 1775", underneath, surrounded by a Glory, was the Triangle of Unity, representing at the same time, the three Branches of our Happy Constitution. The Triangle was supported by two hands and the upper side of it surmounted with the British crown; in the center of the Triangle was a Profile Busto of our venerable and much-loved Monarch; the lower compartment displayed a Medallion, encircled with Laurel, on which represented His Excellency Sir James Henry Craig, the likeness was most striking. The Medallion rested on a Military Trophy and was adorned with a Drapery of the Union and other British flags; on one side of the Medallion was a British Lion; and on the other Beaver of Canada, united by a Ribband, bearing the motto of :

"Quis Separabit"

The Staircase was lighted by another large Transparency, representing the Collar of the Order of the Garter.

The cordial unaminity which prevailed was truly gratifying, and enthusiastic loyalty and patriotism pervaded every breast. The company enjoyed themselves until a late hour, with much good humour and hilarity, and until the very moment of separation, the strictest decorum was observable.

Toasts

Tunes

1. The King

2. The Prince Regent

3. The Queen and Royal Family

4. The Navy

5. The Army

God save the King

The Hero comes

Duke of York’s March

Rule Britannia

British Grenadiers

God save the King was then sung, in a superior manner, in the French language accompanied by the music

6. His Excellency Sir Jas H. Craig and British North America

7. Our Union, may it ever support our Happy Constitution, equally removed from the Tyranny of a Despot or the Anarchy of a Mob

8. The various parts of the Empire, although are different we all understand our rights

9. Hearts resolved & Hands prepared, The Laws and Customs of our land to guard

10. "No War in Disguise", an open Enemy rather than an insidious and seeming Friend

11. The Board of Trade, may their measures ever tend to supply the Parent state from her own colonies [voicing concerns over the dismantling of the colonial trade system]

In the Garb of Old Gull


Britons Strike Home



Turkish March


Hearts of Oak

When war’s on the Ocean


Harvest Home

Rule Brittania was then sung, in a very superior style, accompanied with the music

12. May we be deprived of the Priviledges we hold most dear, rather than owe them to Foreign aid

13. Old Friends in preference to New Faces

14. The examples of Nelson, Moore, Wellington and Graham, may such men command our Heroes

Croppies Lie Down



The Roast Beef of Old England

Heart of Oak was then sung, accompanied with the music. At present we only know of following volunteers, [those who contributed additional toasts] should we hear of others, they will be added on in our next.

1. The Iberian and Lusitanian Patriots, success to them; their troubles a warning to Emissaries, their courage and perseverance an example to all Nations when invaded either by treachery or open violence [certainly a pointed warning to the United States]

2. May the Canadas be to Great Britain in this Hemisphere the same as Guernsey and Jersey are to her in Europe, the Picket Guard against her enemies, and always on the watch

Patriotic March

 

 


Duke of York’s Troop"

[Comments in [ ] made by the Editor and are not part of the original text]

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