Once a much longer, sweeping highway running from Silvertown Station, across the docks before taking a sharp West almost reaching Custom House Station. Prince Arthur William Patrick Albert Saxe-Coburg and Gotha (later Windsor) (May 1, 1850 – January 16, 1942), opened the Royal Victoria and Albert Docks on June 24, 1880, six years after he was raised to the peerage as the Duke of Connaught and Strathearn and Earl of Sussex in the Queen’s birthday honours list. These new docks were a huge and important undertaking after the level of shipping using St Catherine’s and the London Docks overwhelmed the facilities there. Congestion on the River Thames not only made the going slow but was increasingly hazardous. Added to that the increasing use of larger steam ships meant modern docks were required to accommodate them. In its report of the opening The Times explained: “In place of a desolate marsh, intersected by dykes and tenanted only by browsing herds, a magnificent dock, a mile and a half long, 390 feet wide, and some thirty feet in depth, provided with every appliance of modern engineering, now stretches down towards the Thames, and beyond it a noble entrance lock and jetties extending far into the river complete the transformation. Three and a half miles of dangerous navigation through the crowded river are thus saved, and instead of the present inconvenient entrance near Black-wall this broad unencumbered reach means a safe and commodious terminus for vessels entering the Victoria Dock.” Prince Arthur was the seventh child and third son of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. He was born in Buckingham Palace, on the Duke of Wellington’s 81st birthday. To mark the coincidence – and the family’s close relationship with the Iron Duke – he was asked if he would be his godfather. At the age of eight, with his Army career already mapped out for him, he was appointed a tutor with instructions to direct his education as far as was possible on military lines. Aged 12 he was sent to Ranger’s Lodge in Greenwich Park to continue his studies and was a frequent visitor to the Woolwich Arsenal. After leaving the Royal Military Academy a corporal he was posted to the Royal Engineers in Chatham before returning to Woolwich to serve with B Battery, Royal Artillery. More promotions followed and in 1882 he was to see his first action commanding the Guards Brigade in Egypt at the Battle of Tel-el-Kebir. His commander later wrote to his mother: “He is a first-rate Brigadier-General and takes more care of his men and is more active in the discharge of his duties than any of the generals now with me.” After the battle he joined voices arguing for troops in the field to be given khaki uniforms – at the time home stationed units still wore bright regimental ones. He went on to tour South Africa and become Governor General of Canada. In 1916, in the midst of the First World War, his posting came to an end and he returned home, not staying long before heading to France to tour the Western front. In peacetime he returned to royal duties and visited India, in what was seen, by the British press at least, as a successful tour. He outlived his wife Princess Louise Margaret of Prussia, the daughter of Prince Frederick Charles and a great-niece of the German Emperor. The couple had three children: Princess Margaret Victoria Charlotte Augusta Norah (born 15 January 1882), Prince Arthur Frederick Patrick Albert (born 13 January 1883), and Princess Victoria Patricia Helena Elizabeth (born 17 March 1886), who were all raised at the Connaughts’ country home, Bagshot Park, in Surrey, and after 1900 at Clarence House, the Connaughts’ London residence. His eldest children both predeceased him. Prince Arthur junior who married Princess Alexandra, Duchess of Fife, in 1913, died after a long illness on September 12, 1938. His son succeeded to his grandfather’s dukedom.
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