As some stray hounds and horses from the Holderness Hunt made their way down Finchcroft Lane on Boxing Day to gather on Beverley Westwood, it struck me that whatever the merits or demerits of fox hunting, horses and hounds have been a remarkably resilient element of country life in the East Riding for many years. The Holderness Hunt was set up in 1726 and its territory or “country” was defined in 1765. It has continued to meet regularly, scarcely disturbed by the tremor of world or local events such as world wars. The Hunt has been graced by royalty and this month it is 120 years since Prince Albert Victor joined the hunt for a jolly ride across the wolds around Bishop Burton.

Prince Albert Victor, Duke of Clarence and Avondale, Earl of Athlone was born Albert Victor Christian Edward in Windsor, England, the eldest son of the Prince of Wales (the future King Edward VII) and Alexandra of Denmark, and was therefore the second in line to the throne of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. Born two months premature, he was said to be of limited intellect, and when he reached young adulthood his dandyism earned him the nickname Prince Collar and Cuffs. He was known to his family as Eddy. The prince and his brother George served as Naval cadets on the HMS Bacchante until 1883, after which Albert was sent to Trinity College, Cambridge. However, the Prince showed no ability as a student, and in 1885 he was sent to join the Army, in the Tenth Hussars Cavalry Regiment which caused him to be quartered in York.

Prince Albert became engaged to Princess Mary of Teck (also known as Princess May), but before the marriage could take place he died of pneumonia at Sandringham House in Norfolk in 1892. He was 28 years old and unmarried, and his death left his younger brother, Prince George, heir to the throne. George married his brother’s fiancée, with whom he was in love and had a long and happy marriage. Prince George succeeded to the throne as George V.

The hunt took place on 20th January 1888. Prince Albert then lived in York and regularly hunted with nearby hounds. The hunt met in front of the East Stand on the race course at Beverley rather later than usual because of the hunt ball that there had been the previous night. A large number of people turned up to view the start, presumably because of the celebrity of their guest rider. The prince rode onto the race course at 12.25 accompanied by Major A Wilson of Tranby Croft, the master of the hunt.

The hunt made off in the direction of Bishop Burton and a fox’s scent was picked up at Lamb’s Fold (an area to the east of the road half-way from Bishop Burton to Cherry Burton). They chased the fox into Cherry and back through the Park before capturing and killing it. Two further foxes were found but managed to escape. Then a fourth fox was found over near Lion’s Den (a farm to the south of the B road from Walkington to High Hunsley ). “Reynard” (as the local newspaper report calls the fox) was chased across to Little Wood and then back towards Cold Harbour Farm. Apparently the onset of darkness meant that the hunt gave up the chase and “Reynard” was reprieved. The Prince is recorded as having kept up well with the hounds.

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