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The Heritage Trails are presented courtesy of CKUA Radio Network and Cheryl Croucher

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Government of Alberta

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How Alberta Got Its Name

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John Campbell was Marquis of Lorne, and eldest son of the Duke of Argyll. He was 33 and recently married when he was posted to Canada as the new Governor General. He adored his young wife, Princess Louise Caroline Alberta, who was the fourth daughter of Queen Victoria.

In 1882, the Marquis was asked to name one of the four new districts that had previously been part of the Hudson's Bay Company holdings known as Rupert's Land. According to historian Merrily Aubrey, inspiration for a new name came from the man's heart.

Actually the Marquis of Lorne, at the time of the naming, wrote a little poem because he was very much in love with his wife and the two of them seemed to get along very well. I mean, there may have been dalliances, but by all accounts probably not.
He wrote: In token of the love which thou has shown for this wide land of freedom, I have named a province vast and for its beauty famed by thy dear name.

In her later years, the princess once told an interviewer that her husband wanted the name to be associated with his tenure in office, besides, the American state Louisiana precluded the use of her first name.

In 1905, the district called Alberta became a province. History shows the only discouraging word over the choice of a girl's name appeared in an editorial in the Edmonton Bulletin.

And the article went on to say that even naming it after that quadruped that once swarmed over the plains in great herds would be more appropriate than naming it Alberta. So, we could have been Buffalonia or Bisona.

Looking back at the life of the princess, time shows that her husband's loving choice truly captures the spirit of our province.

She was a strong, independent woman of artistic temperament and exquisite taste. Apparently she was always at the forefront of fashion. In her youth, she took sculpting at the National Art Training School, which was very unusual at the time, and a statue that she did of her mother adorns a building in Montreal and another statue she did of her mother was placed near Kensington Palace, and that was the first statue done by a woman to ever be erected in London.
Both princess Louise and her husband were concerned about the welfare of the less fortunate and, among many philanthropic causes which you often associate with people of royal birth, they were both instrumental in setting up 35 day schools for girls who, for a small fee, could get an education usually only available for the wealthy. So, a very forward-thinking people.
It seems very appropriate, in light of the woman herself, to actually have named Alberta as we have because she was a very strong minded woman, very much an individual, probably a bit of a feminist before her time.

And that is how the province of Alberta got its name.

On the Heritage Trail,

I'm Cheryl Croucher.

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            For more on the history of settlement in Alberta, visit Peel’s Prairie Provinces.