Royal and Titled Ranchers in Alberta

Royal And Titled Ranchers in Alberta

Long before the Prince of Wales bought the E. P. Ranch at High River in Alberta, he had been preceded by other royalties and men and women of title, who had found this last of the big lands an ideal place for ranching and adventure. The names of Alberta’s royal and titled ranchers read like pages from the Peerage.
In the early days when Alberta was still in a raw and pioneer state, upon the heels of the missionaries and the C. P. R. came such men as Sir Francis McNaughton son of Lord McNaughton, who for thirty years ranched at Bow Ness, Alberta, and who still maintains a home in this country to which he pays an annual visit. A colony of French aristocrats was established at a place named Trochu, after the leader of the party.
From one of the oldest and noblest families in France came to Alberta, with his wife and children, the Marquis de Roussy de Sales. They settled at High River, and are now residents of Montreal.
Another French family which arrived in those early days, accompanied by a retinue of servants, was that of the Count and Countess de Foras, also of High River. They lost considerable money in their venture in the new land, but stuck pertinaciously at ranching, and although today there remains but a single one of the many servants that accompanied them from France, it is doubtful whether the de Foras could be induced to leave Alberta. They are working, practical ranchers. They have a large family of girls, noted for their beauty and exceptional talent. One of them, Countess Odette de Foras, won the scholarship of the Royal College and the Royal Academy of Music of London, England, and her phenomenal voice is now being trained for Grand Opera. Two of the sons put in the crop each year and then go out to work for the Telephone Company as mechanics and linemen.
Lady Adela Cochrane was one of the first of the Old Timers. She established her ranch at what was then known as Mitford on the Bow River. Lord Norberry was her neatest neighbor. Bernard Howard, son of the Earl of Carlisle, ranched also in that part of the country. He made a great reputation as a polo player. Howard served with distinction in the recent war, was taken prisoner by the Germans, escaped and returned to England, and was soon again in action.

A Problem For the Authorities

Among the ranchers in Alberta in the early days was a son of the then Lord Decies. This member of the Beresford family married a girl of mixed blood. He was killed while riding on a freight train. His brother, Lord Charles Beresford, came out to Alberta soon after, but did not remain long.
So many younger and—sometimes wayward sons—of the British nobility were shipped to this country in the years that followed that they became a problem for the authorities. Many of these had been sent out of the way because of trouble and mischief into which they had gotten at home. Some of them were hopeless dipsomaniacs. many of these succumbed to the altitude themselves. Others reacted to the spur of the new land and demonstrated that blood will tell. When the war broke out scares of these formerly wild young scions of Britain’s noble families poured down from all parts of the ranching country, and they made up a healthy majority of the men who marched from Alberta.
The Mounted Police service also offered alluring prospects to the reckless youngsters. It has been said that there were more aristocrats in the Mounted Police service in the early days than men from any other class. The life of adventure and of daring, the splendid code, the smart uniform, the association and romantic glamour—all this appealed to the newcomers. Among the men especially noted at that time was the son of Admiral Keppel. Count Rosencrantz was another mounted policeman. He came of the Danish noble family of that name, made famous by Shakespeare in Hamlet. Inspector Dickens of the Mounted Police force, was a son of Charles Dickens. In fact, names of illustrious English families were so common in the Canadian Mounted Police that the force acquired something of that esprit and tone of the crack British regiments. The men who joined the Mounted Police might be said to be the pick of the remittance men, physically and mentally equipped for that splendid service. Some of them are still with the service. Some are the hands of great families in England; others have become famous through their own talent and endeavor. Among the latter one might mention Sergeant Ralph Kendall, author of Benton of the Royal Mounted, The Luck of the Mounted, and other tales of the mounted police. Kendall, himself a mounted policeman, was probably the first and certainly the best, of the writers who revealed the celebrated police to the world. His books had enormous sales in England and have been the model upon which many writers of Canadian stories have founded their plots.
An interesting feature in connection with the remittance men, who were sent out originally as a measure of discipline, is that they became infatuated with the country, and though in many cases they were compelled to leave Alberta, it was almost the invariable rule for them to return—even those who succeeded to titles and estates. They trail back almost annually. Something about the climate, something about the bigness, the rugged splendor of the country, the gambling quality, the strange personalities that foregather from all parts of the world, something in the feeling of immensity and tiptopness, the elevation and the altitude, and above all, the everlasting sunshine—these combine to exert a fascination that is hard to analyze or resist. No wonder the Prince of Wales, looking up at that matchless stretch of rugged peaks drew in his breath and cried out enthusiastically: It’s great! I wish I had a word to express how I feel about this country. I’d rather be there than anywhere else on earth.
The Prince was, however, not the first of the royalties to come to Alberta. There had been numerous visits from members of the Royal Family, but Prince Eric of Denmark, was possibly the first of the royalties to actually ranch here. He was a son of Prince Valdemar, a brother of Queen Alexandra. He came about eight years ago, and worked for a time in Calgary in quite humble capacities. It is generally known here that having gone broke in Calgary he took the position of janitor in an apartment house. His services were excellent though he stayed only a few days, having earned the necessary money to carry him to the ranch whither he was bound. Since that time, Prince Eric has ranched at Markerville, or to be more exact, he has worked on a dairy farm there, doing his day’s work like any other hand upon the place. Markerville is a Scandinavian settlement, and the Prince was much interested in the progress of the dairy business there. He presently acquired a place of his own, and up till his recent marriage with Miss Booth he was considered a permanent fixture. Prince Eric was extremely popular and much liked in the community. He is a democratic, quiet, rather stolid type, and typically Scandinavian in looks and accent. A familiar figure at country dances, picnics and gymkhannas, he showed his fondness for farm life and the plain people, by the way in which he would drop in upon the neighbors, and take pot luck with them at the kitchen table. He is more serious looking than his cousin, the Prince of Wales. A good dancer, he has not the Prince of Wales’ zest and enthusiasm for fun and dancing. His father lost nearly all they possessed in the failure of a big Danish bank. Eric is one of a large family, which includes among them his brother Axel, who married the Crown Princess of Sweden and Agge: a captain in the foreign Legion, recently married to a New York girl. Prince Eric always called himself an Albertan. His friends and cronies live in Calgary, and when he comes to town they foregather together and paint the town in typically ranch fashion.

Even Italy Sends a Prince

There is an Italian Prince here who is a man of mystery and money. Associated with this prince in large ranching and financial undertakings is another member of the royal family. Looking at this very exquisitely dressed personage on day, when they called upon us at our ranch at Morley, I could not refrain from remarking, when he assured me he was manager of their ranch: You do not look like a rancher. To which replied with a charming bow and smile:
Ah, but madame, you ’ave not see me ’wen I am not expecting you shall see me. Zen I am a very dirty man. I am in ze overhauls!
Speaking of Princes, brings one back to the always interesting subject of the Prince of Wales. He possesses certain traits of character that explain his popularity in a young country like Alberta. He is human, boyish, friendly and exceedingly witty. Stories of his swift retort are common on all sides here. an instance might be cited in the visit of the two veteran cattlemen to his ranch, Pat Burns and George Lane. Pat’s picture adorns the wall of the Prince’s little Parlor, a left over from the former owner’s effects. The Prince welcomed his callers in the hearty and cordial manner that is one of the assets of the British empire.
As George Lance, who is also his neighbor and owner of the great Bay U Ranch, which entirely encircles the Prince’s ranch and has an area of 200,000 acres, gripped the Prince’s hand, he drawled out in his characteristic manner and with a twinkle in his eyes:
I’ve brought a man along who thought he’d seen all of the important ranches of Alberta, but he tells me this is his first visit to the E. P.
A whimsical grin came over the Prince’s sunny face, as with a comical little jerk of his head he indicated Pat’s picture upon the wall:
Ah! but Mr. Burns we have with us always, said the Prince of Wales.
On another occasion, when the Prince came down to Calgary after several days on his ranch, it was remarked that his hair had grown down fuzzy and long on his tanned neck. He was about this by Miss Dorothy Lougheed.
How about a hair cut? teased Miss Lougheed, to which the Prince promptly replied:
It will either have to be that or a marcel.

Many Methods Used to Address Prince

The Prince is variously addressed when here. He had expressed a desire to be called merely sir, but few people sirred him. Those who think they know always Royal Highness him. One woman called him Lord Sir, and was laughed at by the royal rancher. He has been called Prince, Lord, Mister, your Honor, Your worship, Your majesty, sire and Hi Princey and Say you! One cowpuncher brought a wide grin to his face by hailing him as a Son-of-a-gun.
Whatever name the Albertans call him he seems to like better than the royal titles to which he is used at home. When someone told him the band was about to play God Save the King! he exclaimed with regret, that they were always saving Father in Canada.
One of his wittiest and most involuntary of utterances is also singularly revealing as to his opinion of bores at home:
He was assisting at the operations of a silo on his ranch. One of the men stood at the top of the machine feeding the sunflower stalks into the funnel. The Prince noticed him at his hot and dusty job, and finally turning to the manager, suggested that the man should be relieved.
I sent him up there on purpose, explained the foreman, to get him out of the way. He’s a great talker. If I let him stay on the ground, he’ll probably talk your head off.
The Prince gazed up thoughtfully at the top of the silo, and then heaving a big sigh, he said:
Good God! I wish there were silos in England!
It used to be the custom to refer to the English hired men as students. Younger sons and wayward ones were to be found on numerous ranches, doing the chores, riding the range, working the land, and, in fact, learning the work from the ground up. Lord Sholto Douglas worked in a menial capacity on a ranch. Lord Edward Seymour was also a student on a ranch at Millarville.

Many Other Prominent People Own Ranches

The Duke of Sutherland operates an immense ranch at Brooks. His half-sister, the Countess Bubna, owned the Merino ranch at Dog Pond. She was a familiar figure at the Cochrane and Morley races, picnics, gymkhannas and rodeos, and is what is known as a horsey type of woman. Her two young daughters, the Countesses Ina and Ivy, would accompany her to the various functions of the cow country and seemed to enjoy themselves hugely. They recently moved to British Columbia.
The Earl of Minto bought his ranch in Alberta about a year before the Prince of Wales acquired the E. P.
A nephew of Lady Butler, England’s great landscape painter, operates a pool room at Cochrane, and a small ice cream parlor at Spencer Creek.
Lord and Lady Rodney ranch not far from Edmonton.
Lord Arbuthnutt was working with a threshing outfit and his wife was doing her own housework at Alix, Alberta, when he succeeded to the titles and estates in Scotland. Did he leave his threshing job? Not till the season was finished. Letters continue to pour from him and Lady Arbuthnutt to relatives and friends deploring their fate in being unable to live on their little ranch at Alix.
Cousins of Lord Arbuthnutt, the Parlbys, of Alix, are grandchildren of Captain Maryatt, the famous English writer of sea stories.
Captain Sir Francis and Lady Eaton own a picturesque ranch at Alix, the Ghost Lake Ranch. Sir Francis is son of Lord Cheylesmore of Coventry, and Lady Eaton is a daughter of the Earl of Macclesfield.
Sir James Outram, baronet, traveler, scholar and author, is noted for his writing on Alpine subjects, and is the author of In the Heart of the Rockies. His home is in Calgary.
Captain Malcolm Mortimer, whose wife was formerly Mrs. Lionel Barrymore, is a grandson of the Duke of Richmond, and is a cousin of the late Cosmo Gordon Lenox, playwright and author. The Mortimers operate the Ghost Ranch, a ten horses and small hostelry on the Banff-Windermere Highway near Monley.
Besides the English people of title ranching in Alberta there are numerous wealthy Americans who favor holidaying in this part of the world. The Americans are inclined to come out ranches for sightseeing and motor trips, or to rough it by going out in packhorse outfits into the mountains. Seth Barton French. Jr., owned the Virginia Ranch at Cochrane, and Cornelius Vanderbilt Jr., is an almost annual visitor. The Americans are said to merely play at ranching, while the English people actually roll up their sleeves and make a real job of it. There used to be a time when a distinction was made between the rauncher and the rancher. The former played at the game, and the latter was, to use a favorite expression here, the real cheese and out to chase the dogies.

People Mentioned

Winnifred Eaton

  • Born: August 21, 1875
  • Died: April 08, 1954
See the Biographical Timeline for biographical information on Winnifred Eaton.

Pseudonym used in this text

Mary Chapman

Mary Chapman is the Director of The Winnifred Eaton Archive, a Professor of English, and Academic Director of the Public Humanities Hub at University of British Columbia. She is the author of the award-winning monograph Making Noise, Making News: Suffrage Print Culture and US Modernism (Oxford UP) and of numerous articles about American literature and women writers. She has also edited Becoming Sui Sin Far: Early Fiction, Journalism and Travel Writing by Edith Maude Eaton (McGill-Queen’s UP) and published essays on the Eaton sisters in American Quarterly, MELUS, Legacy, Canadian Literature, and American Periodicals. Her current research project is a microhistory of the Eaton family. For more information, see http://faculty.arts.ubc.ca/mchapman/.

Joey Takeda

Joey Takeda is the Technical Director of The Winnifred Eaton Archive and the User Interface Developer at the Digital Humanities Innovation Lab (Simon Fraser University). He is also an M.A. student in English at the University of British Columbia where his research focuses on Indigenous and diasporic Canadian literature; he is currently completing a digital edition of His Royal Nibs.

Organizations Mentioned

Montreal Daily Star

English-language Canadian newspaper in print from 1869 until 1979. Printed in Montreal, Quebec.

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