The Prince’s Lodge has become a legendary place for its royal connection and a place of Georgian Era romance that transports one into a Jane Austin novel. In 1794, then Lt. Governor of Nova Scotia, Sir John Wentworth, owned a 500-acre property, called “The Lodge.”
When Prince Edward Augustus, (later appointed Duke of Kent And Strathearn in 1799) arrived in Halifax as a major-general in command of the British Forces in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, Governor Wentworth leased the estate to the Prince for his personal residence and retreat, and the property became known as the Prince’s Lodge.
Edward was the first member of the royal family to reside in North America for more than a short visit. All that remains now of the Prince’s Lodge is the Rotunda which was originally built as an ornamental garden feature.
Lt. Governor Wentworth named the mansion, The Lodge as seen in the 1808 map in the slide deck. The estate and mansion only became known as Prince’s Lodge once Prince Edward resided there with Mme de Saint-Laurent who was his mistress.
“There he lived with Thérèse-Bernardine Mongenet*, known as Mme de Saint-Laurent. She had come to Gibraltar in 1790 at his request and followed him faithfully on his travels to Quebec, Halifax, Ealing, and finally to Brussels where they parted. There can be no doubt that he was remarkably devoted to this companion who shared fully in his life. In 1818, after 27 years with Julie, as she was better known, the danger of failure in the royal succession obliged him to respond to public and family pressure for his marriage. He made a generous financial settlement upon Mme de Saint-Laurent, and on 29 May 1818 at Coburg (Federal Republic of Germany) married Victoria Mary Louisa, widow of the prince of Leiningen. The birth of Princess Victoria, the future queen, one year later was the result wished for by public opinion. The duke was proud of her, and he and the duchess paraded the baby at every opportunity. In December 1819 he took his family to a country house in Devon, where he died of pneumonia a month later. Much about Edward Augustus’s life is still unknown. Rumour spoke of children by Mme de Saint-Laurent and others, stories which Queen Victoria much disliked and endeavoured to suppress, and Sir William Fenwick Williams* took pleasure in not denying that he was the duke’s son.” http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/edward_augustus_5E.html
The Prince’s Lodge became a residential haven where the couple also hosted numerous dignitaries, including Louis-Phillippe of Orléans (the future King of France).
As for the Prince’s Lodge, when Prince Edward departed Halifax in 1798 to England to recover from a leg injury after having fallen off a horse, the Wentworth family resumed residence of improved estate. Though the Prince did return briefly to Halifax in September of 1799 (then he was known as the Duke of Kent and Strathearn and Earl of Dublin) – he had been appointed commander-in-chief of British forces in North America. But by August 1800, he returned to England due to ill-health. Two years later, he was appointed Governor of Gibraltar.
When Lt. Governor Wentworth passed away in April 1820, and the Prince’s Lodge fell into disrepair.
“In 1870 the property was sold at auction for building lots, but few houses were constructed until after the First World War, a development which accelerated after Second World War. The only structure on the estate surviving from Prince Edward’s day is the circular music room or rotunda of 1796, which was taken over in 1959 by the Government of Nova Scotia as a provincial historic building. The Prince’s Lodge Association ceased to exist when the remaining property was transferred to the Provincial Government in the 1950s.” https://memoryns.ca/princes-lodge-association
The story of Prince’s Lodge is linked to many other places in Halifax. For example, an over-looked connection is with the city’s military defences.
As a major-general in command of the British Forces in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, Prince Edward was noted as a strict commander, known for discipline and parading soldiers at 5AM everyday under his personal supervision. Under his command, he arranged for new barracks to be built and a communications tower placed on the Prince’s Lodge grounds.
It is believed the building of Prince’s Lodge was carried out by the 7th Regiment of Foot (Royal Fusiliers). The Prince realized the location as strategic being a stopping point along the Bedford Highway into Halifax. The barracks and officer’s quarters can be seen in the painting by George Isham Parkyns, c. 1800 in the slide deck.
The slide deck also contains an image of the archaeological foundation remains of the barrack wall.
The legacy of Prince Edward extends past the Prince’s Lodge in Halifax. He was responsible for significant and ambitious improvements to Halifax’s defences.
“In view of the war with France, Edward embarked on an ambitious program of reconstruction of the Halifax fortifications, which had fallen into considerable disrepair after the American revolution. A new citadel was built to replace the old one, and Citadel Hill itself was cut down to accommodate the new works. Other batteries and fortifications including several towers were also erected, and a boom was placed across the Northwest Arm to prevent an enemy fleet from entering and bombarding the town from the rear. One innovation was the creation of a signalling system to facilitate communications between Halifax and the outposts. Although these works were built at a cost much higher than the original estimates, only a decade later many were in virtual ruins.” http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/edward_augustus_5E.html
The last intact structure remaining from the Prince’s Lodge is the Rotunda. The Rotunda was built in 1796 making it one of the few Georgian Era buildings remaining in Halifax. The Rotunda is an iconic structure of Halifax and a visit to its grounds one can picture the Duke and his mistress would sit and enjoy the view of the basin. In true English Garden tradition the Rotunda enhanced the landscape and was an ornamental feature before being a functional building. The round design of the Rotunda is derived from the Greco-Roman Palladian Architecture harkening back to the Georgian era love affair with Classical architecture and modeling after the Pantheon in Rome. The Rotunda served as a house through the 20th century until 2008. In 1959 the Province of Nova Scotia purchase the Rotunda and continues to care for the building.
Prince Edward also erected the Garrison Town Clock, St. George’s Round Church, and Martello Tower which all stand today; see links below for further reading on these sites.
Further Related Readings:
Biography of the Duke of Kent: http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/edward_augustus_5E.html Also see Wikipedia reference: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prince_Edward,_Duke_of_Kent_and_Strathearn
Stories of the Rotunda, Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/184311008740910/
St. George’s Round Church: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St._George%27s_(Round)_Church,_Halifax,_Nova_Scotia
Martello Tower: https://www.historicplaces.ca/en/rep-reg/place-lieu.aspx?id=3175