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A ROYAL VISITOR TO NAAS OF THE KINGS

Leinster Leader 13 May 2010
A royal visitor to ‘Naas of the kings’.

The county town’s name Nás na Ríogh is sometimes translated as ‘Naas of the kings’, the kings in this case referring to the chieftains of ancient fable who ruled north Leinster from their fortress at the moat in the town centre. However Naas featured on the itinerary of royalty of a much more recent era. A royal visitor to the county town in the early years of the last century was recalled in an edition of the Kildare Observer newspaper of May 1910 when it reported on the local sympathy at the news of the death of Edward VII, king of England since 1901.
Edward’s connection with Kildare dated from 1861 when his mother, Victoria,  despatched him from the comforts of Buckingham Palace to the more spartan accommodation of the Curragh camp. It was said that her motivations were two-fold: to remove her pleasure-seeking son from the temptations of London and to ensure that he learned the rudiments of behaviour as a young officer, a standard career path for a male member of the royal family. She was not entirely successful in the precautionary relocation of her son. Apparently his education on the Curragh was broad, being light on military discipline but fulsome in introducing him to other manly pursuits. 
His mother’s grim grip on the throne (she was to rule Britain and its expanding Empire for over six decades) meant that on his return to London, Edward (or ‘Bertie’ as he was known to society hostesses) had little to do in the way of royal duties and instead found himself with the time and the means to immerse himself in the pleasures of life: horse racing, theatres and music halls, yachting, and game shooting, were among his priorities together with the accompanying  parties, balls and social whirls. It was his interest in racing – as an owner and as a betting-man – which brought him to Punchestown on a number of occasions. Firstly in 1868 when his attendance in his capacity as Prince of Wales gave the first royal seal of approval to the east Kildare track and boosted its popularity among the fashionable circles of Dublin Castle society.  When eventually he was crowned King following the death of Victoria in January 1901  (who had ruled for a long sixty-three years) he made sure that his royal responsibilities would not get in the way of the high-octane lifestyle which he had enjoyed during his extended apprenticeship as Prince of Wales. Thus in 1904 he became the first and only King of England to visit Punchestown.
The royal cavalcade was to sail across the Irish sea to Kingstown (Dun Laoghaire) and then onwards by rail from Dublin to Naas station where the king would alight from the royal train and continue to Punchestown by horse-drawn carriage. News of Edward’s visit had triggered a frenzy of preparation among the elites and merchants of Naas. Spectacular photographs exist of the main street of the county town swathed in bunting, banners and arches bearing royal and loyalist symbols and colours. Part of the protocol for his welcome in Naas, as he passed through on the way to Punchestown, was for local dignitaries to present him with an address of welcome on behalf of the Urban District Council.
The text of the address and Edward’s reply were reprinted in the Kildare Observer of May 1910 as part of the paper’s coverage of the local reaction to the news of his death and the associated recollections of his connections with Co. Kildare. The address of welcome had been signed by William Staples, Chairman of Naas Urban District Council (whose licensed premises and grocery was located in the building now occupied by the ‘Kalu’ boutique in South Main Street). The statement titled ‘the humble address of the Urban District Council of Naas’, began with an obsequious flourish ‘To their Most Gracious Majesties, King Edward VII, King of Great Britain and Ireland, and all the Dominions beyond the Seas, Emperor of India, and Queen Alexandra.’
The readers of Kildare of May 1910 were reminded of this latest instalment in the royal history of the county town ‘Naas of the kings’ through the Kildare Observer’s May 1910 coverage, just a hundred years ago now, of the passing of Edward, pleasure loving prince and, at the time of his visit to Naas, monarch of the greatest Empire the world had known. Series no: 177.

Liam Kenny in his column 'Nothing New Under the Sun' from the Leinster Leader of 13th May 2010 reflects on a royal visitor to Naas a century ago.  Our thanks to Liam.  


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