For our next Governor General, we have reached one of the more famous individuals. He isn’t famous for any of his duties in Canada when he was Governor General. No, he is famous for the fact that he donated a silver bowl to serve as a trophy for the best amateur hockey team in Canada.
Frederick Stanley, the 16th Earl of Derby, was born on Jan. 15, 1841 to Prime Minister Edward Smith-Stanley and Emma Caroline. The family was descended from Thomas Stanley, the First Earl of Derby, who participated in the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485. According to legend, he found King Richard III’s crown on the battlefield and placed it on the head of his stepson, Henry VII.
As a young man, he was educated at Sandhurst.
He would receive a commission with the Grenadier Guards, eventually rising to the rank of Captain before he left to start a career in politics.
From 1865 to 1886, Stanley was a Member of the British Parliament. During that time, he served as the Civil Lord of the Admiralty, the Financial Secretary of the War Office, the Secretary of the Treasury, the War Secretary and the Colonial Secretary.
During his time in Parliament, there was a debate to call Canadian Confederation, the Kingdom of Canada, but Stanley stated this would offend the sensibilities of the United States, so the Dominion of Canada was chosen instead.
Stanley may have been the son of a prime minister, but he lacked his father’s oratory skills, and he was never comfortable in the House of Commons. He was skilled in administration and had a head for business, which aided him in his political posts.
With his two decades of experience in politics and various international posts, he became a natural choice to serve as the sixth Governor General of Canada.
Appointed on May 1, 1888, he would soon arrive in Canada with his wife Constance Villiers. The couple, who married in 1864, would have eight sons and two daughters together. During her time in Canada, his wife, who was described as an able and witty woman by Wilfrid Laurier, founded the Lady Stanley Institute for Trained Nurses. This was the first nursing school in Canada.
The Halifax Herald reported on Stanley quote:
“In the broadest and best sense, Lord Stanley is an Imperialist and in much the same sense Canadians, as a people, are imperialists too. He believes as they believe, that Canada and the Motherland have many interests in common.”
Unfortunately, things did not get off to a good start for Stanley. The people of Quebec City had arranged for a grand reception and a civic address for Stanley, but upon landing at the city on June 10, 1888, he instead chose to go straight to Ottawa. As soon as he arrived, he took his official transportation to the railway depot, and on to Ottawa. Stanley would return to Quebec City, as well as Montreal, later in the week to visit.
The Montreal Gazette would write quote:
“As Governor General of Canada, Lord Stanley will, without doubt, prove a worthy successor to the illustrious statesman who have filled that position in the past.”
After he was sworn in on June 11, he would say in a speech quote:
“I trust that be my career long or short, I may feel when my period of office comes to an end that I have endeavored, God willing, to devote to the utmost my abilities to the cause, to the interests and to the welfare of your Great Dominion.”
As Governor General, Stanley travelled extensively throughout the country, which gave him an appreciation for the beauty of the landscape.
As Governor General, he would purchase property, Stanley House, on the Cascapedia River.
While Stanley enjoyed the landscape of Canada, he was not happy with Rideau Hall, stating it was quote:
“The unsightly and unhealthy patchwork building known as Rideau Hall.”
They would praise other aspects of being in Canada though. Lady Stanley would write to her sister stating quote:
During his travels, he would meet with the Indigenous.
During his visit to British Columbia, he would dedicate Stanley Park in Vancouver, which he named after himself and christened with a bottle of wine.
The Vancouver Daily World reported of his visit quote:
“In bidding welcome to Lord Stanley, we do so the more readily, because he for the first time sets foot in a city which tells what Canadian pluck and Canadian enterprise can do.”
A cairn made up of mineral specimens from all operating mines in British Columbia. Unfortunately, with 50 years, the cairn had disappeared and no one knew where it was. One theory was that it disappeared under moss. Another is that people started to take the ore away, piece by piece, to sell it.
The Vancouver Daily World reported quote:
“The cairn to be erected in Stanley Park, the first stone of which was laid by His Excellency, will commemorate the visit of himself and Lady Stanley to Vancouver. It will be built of loose stones, ornamented with minerals, collected from the various mines of the province.”
The cairn stood 15 feet in diameter and 10 feet high with three tiers. On the ledges, there were flowers and vases as decoration.
The Daily World reported quote:
“When the cairn is completed, it will prove a very attractive feature in the park as well as a tribute to the memory of our illustrious guests.”
Traveling west on the Canadian Pacific Railway, Stanley was enthusiastic about the railroad. Lady Stanley would write, outside Regina, quote:
“We are filled with wonder and admiration for the minds that conceived the idea of this wonderful railroad and of the energy and courage of those who carried it out.”
During his travels through Canada, he would praise the provinces and Canadians. He would say in a speech at Government House, quote:
“In all parts of the Dominion, I have been met by kindness so spontaneous and overpowering that each place I have visited I would like to make my home. I lost my heart to Quebec, I am thoroughly content to remain in Ottawa once I reached there, pronounced Manitoba a splendid place for a man to make his home, and find British Columbia unequalled among them all.”
For the first three years of his term as Governor General, Stanley formed a close friendship with Sir John A. Macdonald. Unfortunately, on June 6, 1891, Macdonald died while in office as prime minister.
Stanley thought that Macdonald would have named his own successor and he refused to name a successor. This indecision caused the political crisis of the death of Macdonald to become worse. Nevertheless, it fell to him to choose Canada’s third prime minister.
The Montreal Gazette reported quote:
“It is expected that Lord Stanley will tomorrow morning send for one of the members of the late government for the purpose of advising with him as the selection of a prime minister.”
While Macdonald was laying in state in the senate chamber, Stanley was the first to see his body. The Kingston Daily News reported quote:
“At 10 o’clock, the Senate doors were thrown open. Lord Stanley accompanied by his staff, was the first to enter. He paused at the casket to take a farewell look at the old chieftain. He deposited a beautiful wreath on the casket.”
The Montreal Gazette added to this stating quote:
“For some minutes, Lord Stanley gazed sorrowfully at the features of the dead, and then with traces of emotion, displayed on his features passed on and out of the chamber.”
Initially, Stanley thought to appoint Sir John Thompson as the new prime minister but he worried that Thompson would not have the support of the Protestants in Ontario.
Stanley would ask John Abbott to take over as prime minister but Abbott would resign soon after taking office due to health reasons. The government was then turned over to Sir John Thompson to serve as prime minister.
The role of the Governor General began to change under Stanley. He began the trend of assuming a non-political role that would evolve over the next century.
In 1891, he refused to agree to a motion in the House of Commons that asked him to disallow Quebec’s Jesuit Estates Act, which paid $400,000 as compensation for land granted to the Jesuits by the King of France. Opposition for the bill came from other provinces who did not trust the Roman Catholic Church in Quebec.
Stanley refused to interfere, stating it would be unconstitutional. This gained him popularity because he did not compromise his position, while maintaining neutrality.
By far, the most famous act of Stanley was the creation of the trophy that has his name, The Stanley Cup.
In Canada, Stanley’s sons were avid hockey players and played for teams in Ottawa. His one son, Arthur, would be instrumental in forming the Ontario Hockey Association. His daughter Isobel would participate in the first recorded women’s hockey game. This led Lady and Lord Stanley to become intense hockey fans. The sport was just beginning to grow in Canada and Ottawa, along with Montreal, were the hotbeds for the sport.
Stanley had first seen hockey at the 1889 Winter Carnival in Montreal. The Montreal Gazette reported that he quote:
“Expressed his great delight with the game of hockey and the expertise of the players.”
Stanley decided to donate a silver bowl that was initially known as the Dominion Hockey Challenge Cup, which would be awarded to the best amateur hockey club in Canada.
On March 18, 1892, Stanley sent the following message to the three-time champion Ottawa Hockey Club, who were celebrating at Russell House Hotel in Ottawa.
“I have for some time been thinking that it would be a good thing if there were a challenge cup which should be held from year to year by the champion hockey team in the Dominion of Canada. There does not appear to be any such outward sign of a championship at present, and considering the general interest which matches now elicit, and the importance of having the game played fairly and under rules generally recognized, I am willing to give a cup which shall be held from year to year by the winning team.”
The cost of the decorative punch bowl would be $48, or about $1,400 today. He then had the words Dominion Hockey Challenge Cup engraved on the outside rim with “From Stanley of Preston”
On May 1, 1893, the name Stanley Cup was first used in an article by the Ottawa Journal which stated in bold letters as the headline “The Stanley Cup”
It reported quote:
“The Governor General, in accordance with a promise made last year, has given a hockey challenge cup to be held from year to year by the winning team in the Dominion.”
The Stanley Cup would eventually be awarded to professional teams and in 1926, only teams in the NHL could compete for it.
While the original trophy was only seven inches, it is now 36 inches and weighs 35 pounds. The trophy has also become a treasured national icon of Canada.
Stanley was supposed to serve until September 1893 but his brother died and Stanley was called on to succeed him as the 16th Earl of Derby. Stanley would leave Canada on July 15, 1893.
The Vancouver Weekly News Advertiser reported quote:
In leaving Canada, he would write to Prime Minister John Thompson, stating quote:
“I assure you that Lady Stanley and I will always look back upon our five years stay in Canada as the happiest period of our lives.”
Stanley would then become the Lord Mayor of Liverpool and the first Chancellor of the University of Liverpool.
Stanley would pass away on June 14, 1908, one year before his trophy was awarded for the first time to professional teams. By the time he died, his trophy was already outstripping him in fame, and was the lasting legacy of his time in Canada.
The Montreal Gazette reported quote:
“The Earl of Derby, who when he came to Canada as governor general was known as Lord Stanley of Preston, was a quiet and safe man who gained and held the public confidence wherever duty called him. He was well liked when his residence was at Ottawa and continued to be equally fortunate in the important offices to which he was called.”
Throughout Canada, Stanley has been honoured extensively. The Stanley Barracks in Toronto are named for him, as is Stanley Peak in British Columbia. Towns in New Brunswick, Ontario and Nova Scotia are named for him, as are several streets throughout the country.
In 1945, Stanley was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in the Honoured Builders Category.
In October 2017, Lord Stanley’s Gift Monument, a statue in Ottawa, was erected to honour the location where he presented the new Challenge Cup to be used for hockey competitions.
Information from Canadian Encyclopedia, Governor General of Canada, Biographi, Wikipedia, Halifax Herald, Macleans, Montreal Gazette, Ottawa Daily Citizen, Vancouver Daily World, Kingston Daily News, Vancouver Weekly News Advertiser,