Did Edward VIII really marry a small-town Ontario schoolteacher in 1919?
There is a roadside graveyard near Galt, Ontario, part of what is now the municipality of Cambridge, on the Grand River near Waterloo. The cemetery is like hundreds of burial grounds in rural Ontario — hushed, historic, fascinating. But this particular site holds a clue, literally etched in stone, to a hundred-year-old mystery.
Inscribed on the monument of Millicent Milroy, a quiet local schoolteacher who died in 1984, are the words “Millicent Milroy, daughter of James and Helen Jane Milroy, Wife of Edward (VIII), Duke of Windsor, 1894 – 1972.”
Really? Is it possible that a rural Ontario schoolteacher was secretly married to one of the most controversial figures in British royal history? Or is Millicent Milroy’s claim simply a mental mirage contrived by a lonely, perhaps delusional small-town spinster?
The dramatic facts of this incredible story are about to unfold, right here in Perth.
Thursday, October 11th, the Studio Theatre premieres Queen Milli of Galt, a stage play by Canadian playwright Gary Kirkham that brings the compelling mystery of Millicent Milroy to light, potentially adding a romantic twist to Canadian history.
Award-winning theatrical director Carolee Mason discovered the play Queen Milli of Galt while adjudicating a drama festival in Western Ontario. Captivated by Millicent’s story, she decided to bring this remarkable romantic drama to Perth.
“It is a historic fact that the Prince of Wales, Edward VIII, visited Galt in 1919, and that Millicent Milroy met him during his royal tour. That’s really where the evidence trail ends,” says Carolee. “But for more than 60 years, Millicent, a sober, upstanding community figure, repeated her story with such clear-eyed conviction that it can’t simply be dismissed. Queen Milli of Galt imagines her romance with the dashing Edward, and how their relationship may have unfolded.”
History tells us that Edward VIII hated the suffocating protocol that bound his every move while he was on tour. He was notorious for disappearing from his handlers without notice, taking solitary walks, ignoring formal events he was expected to attend. On this day, Edward’s presence was required at the commemoration of a WWI memorial in Galt. Millicent Milroy, a very private woman who cared nothing for the monarchy (her sweetheart, a young Canadian soldier, had been killed in their war) was one of the few people who wasn’t downtown waiting to see the prince. Ironically, because she and Edward had both stayed away from the ceremony, they ended up meeting, perhaps on the street, and their romance took shape.
Director Mason says there’s a facet of Edward’s character that lends credence to Milli’s account.
“We all know that later in his life Edward abdicated to marry Wallis Simpson, whom he adored for her domineering manner and abrasive irreverence toward him,” says Carolee. “Like Wallis, Millicent Milroy was no gushing royal-watcher, and this would have appealed to Edward. You have to ask, why would Milli make up a fantasy romance with a celebrity she cared nothing about? She fell in love with the man before she even knew who he was.”
A Guelph woman who was Millicent’s friend said that Milli swore she would remain silent for the rest of her life. “They’ll have to wait until I die”, said Milli. “Then they’ll know.”
Queen Milli Of Galt is a poignant drama filled with romance and humour. Carolee Mason has assembled the perfect cast of seasoned actors to bring this wonderful tale to life.
Millicent Milroy is played by Mary Ann Majaury (The Game’s Afoot; Scotland Road) and Edward VIII is played by Brent Maguire (Sister Act). Joanna McCauley-Treffers (London Suite; Leaving Home) is Mrs. Milroy, while Sheila Jasiak (Romantic Comedy; Over The River and Through the Woods) plays Milli’s friend and neighbour Mona. Rob Glas (The Tomorrow Box; On Golden Pond) is Edward’s aide-de-camp, and Martin Treffers (Yesteryear; The Salvage Shop) is the valet. Justin Lackey (Sears Outstanding Production Six War Years; Lilly, Alta) is a young Journalist who investigates Milli’s story in 1972, and Danielle McDonald (Wait Until Dark; Mail Order Annie) plays Milli later in her life. The production’s Stage Manager is Sarah Nelson, whose experience includes work on The Tomorrow Box and The Wonderettes.
Queen Milli Of Galt premieres at the Studio Theatre on Thursday, October 11th for seven performances, Oct. 11, 12, 13, 19 & 20 at 7:30 pm and October 14 and 21 at 2 pm. Advance tickets are $24 at Tickets Please, 11 Gore St. E. (613 485-6434; ticketsplease.ca; in-store, phone, online and credit card purchases) and at the Studio Theatre box office on show nights. Students with ID pay just $10 at the door, subject to availability. Attend opening night and save $5!
A great cast and a compelling story filled with history and romance. Is there a better way to spend a Fall afternoon or evening? We hope you’ll join us for Queen Milli of Galt at Perth’s beautiful Studio Theatre. Note that there will be audience talkback sessions with the cast and director following the Oct. 12th and 19th performances. Note also that auditions for the Studio Theatre’s next production, The Gravitational Pull of Bernice Trimble, will be held Tues. Oct. 30 and Thurs. Nov. 1 at 7 PM at the Theatre. Visit studiotheatreperth.com for details.
In rehearsal: Mary Ann Majoury and Brent Maguire star as Millicent Milroy and Edward VIII, Prince of Wales, in Gary Kirkham’s Queen Milli of Galt, premiering Thursday, October 11th at the Studio Theatre in Perth. Please visit studiotheatreperth.com for details.
Article by Paul Joyce / Photo by Len Modderman