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Britannia and Columbia at the Peace Centenary Ball of June 1914

October 31, 2014

Lady Maud Warrender as Britannia and Mrs John Astor as Columbia - Statue of Liberty - 1914

In June of 1914, in advance of the centenary of 100 years of peace between the United States and Great Britain, a grand Peace Centenary costume ball was held at the Albert Hall in London, England.

The timing of the fund-raiser was fortunate and had it been left any later, likely would not have been held.

Described by The Times  as a spectacle that was “brilliant and imposing,” the event  drew together a number of themes, in a theatrical setting.

There was the presence of Britannia, representing the British, and Columbia, representing the American people.  There were portrayals of  Indians,  of  William Penn and the Quakers, of Christopher Columbus and a replica of his ship the Santa Maria.  The Pilgrim Fathers made an appearance,  arranged by Harry Brittain of the British Peace Centenary Association.

Gentlemen representing the  signatories to the Treaty of Ghent of December 14, 1814 were assembled on stage.

Samuel Hill would later adopt many of these themes in his presentation and dedication of the Peace Arch, substituting some – Mayflower for Santa Maria, for example – and discarding others.

Countries of the British Empire were all represented, including ladies of  the Dominion of Canada, dressed in flowing gold dresses with crimson trim.

Britannia was performed by Lady Maud Warrender,  and Columbia, appearing as the Statue of Liberty, was played by Mrs John Astor. 

Mrs John Astor was the first wife of John Astor,  who went down on the Titanic the previous year. Astoria, Oregon, at the mouth of the Columbia River, was named after his great grandfather, fur trader John Astor.

Lady Warrender, six feet two inches in height and cutting “a superb figure in her great gold helmet,” was accompanied by 50 of the tallest young women in British society.

Lady Maud Warrender - 1907Lady Maud was known to British Columbians, having visited here.  Lady Maud Ashley was married in 1894 to Captain, later Admiral Sir  George Warrender,  who had first served on the Pacific Coast as early as 1888 as an officer  on the HMS Amphion

Lieutenant Warrender was on  Amphion when she ran aground in 1889 on “Oh, my!” Rock, Kellett Bluff,  Henry Island with the Governor-General Lord Stanley and Lady Stanley on board.   This was the trip on which Lord Stanley visited New Westminster and Brownsville. 

Lady Maud Warrender was a sportswoman – archer, golfer, big game hunter – and a noted amateur singer. Her  friend Edward Elgar dedicated to her the song Pleading.

Following her appearance at Royal Albert Hall in June 1914, Lady Warrender left for Germany to meet  her husband who was on duty at the marine festival at Kiel, Germany on the Baltic Sea.

While  Admiral Warrender played host to Kaiser Wilhelm and German Naval Officers on board his  flag ship HMS King George V, Lady Maud entertained on the cruise ship Viktoria Luise.

It was during the time of this visit that the Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated, casting a pall over what had been a period of the most amicable of social relations with German officers.

The onset of war in August 1914 put on hold most of the planned Peace Centenary projects and events.

Britannia Beer bottle - New Westminster MuseumBritannia, as a symbol of Great Britain, and by extension her Colonies, was a popular icon in British Columbia in years past.  This “Britannia Beer” bottle and its striking label are on display in the New Westminster Museum.


British Columbia,  given its name,  could also be represented by  its own unique  personification, Britannia Columbia.

Britannia and Columbia played symbolic roles at the opening ceremony of the Peace Arch in 1921, and are prominent in the Goodwill Memorial in Stanley Park, Vancouver.

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