Princess Patricia of Connaught was so popular in Canada that the government put her portrait on its one dollar bill in the middle of the First World War. She was only the second solo non-regal woman on Canadian currency (after the Countess of Dufferin in 1878) according to the Bank of Canada). The rare honour was a symbol of how much Canada adored the princess. Aside from members of the immediate royal family on bills in 1935, the year of King George V’s Silver Jubilee, Patricia would be the last solo non-regal female on Canadian currency until the portrait of civil rights icon Viola Desmond was put on the $10 bill in 2018.
The photo that the Department of Finance chose from which to create its banknote image was taken from a photo shoot by Pittaway Studio in Ottawa. Patricia is in a partial silhouette, wearing a softly draped gown with long necklace of pearls. By August 1, 1916, Edwin Gunn, an engraver at the American Bank Note Company had created the banknote for approval, and the first proof was submitted to the federal government six weeks later, according to Bank of Canada records.
The bill is dated March 17, 1916, the princess’s 31st birthday. But there was virtually no record of the special issue in the media, as it was focused on the war and the tumult in Russia in the aftermath of Tsar Nicholas II’s abdication.
As well, the currency honour was overwhelmed by bad news for the Connaught family itself. Just three days before, her mother had died at Clarence House in London after a series of illnesses including measles and broncho-pneumonia, the Times reported. Patricia herself was also suffering from measles and was unable to attend her mother’s funeral (her sister, Margaret, was also unable to attend due to the difficulty of travelling during wartime).
It’s said that the death of her mother cleared the final obstacles to perhaps the most famous moment of Patricia’s life: her wedding on February 27, 1919. It was the fairy tale that so many now expect from royal nuptials.
Before Princess Patricia’s appearance, the following historic, political and royal figures appeared on Dominion government banknotes since the first one was issued in 1870 (list from the Bank of Canada):
- Jacques Cartier ($1 in 1870)
- General Wolfe and General Montcalm from the Battle of the Plains of Abraham ($2 in 1870)
- Queen Victoria ($50 in 1871)
- The Countess of Dufferin ($1 in 1878)
- The Earl of Dufferin ($2 in 1878)
- The Marquis de Lorne ($4 in 1882)
- The Marchioness and Marquis of Lansdowne ($2 in 1887)
- Countess and Earl of Aberdeen ($1 in 1897)
- Edward VII as Prince of Wales ($2 in 1897)
- Lady and Lord Minto ($4 in 1902)
- Lord and Lady Grey ($1 in 1911)
- Duke and Duchess of Connaught ($2 in 1914)