Characters > Historical

Sir Wilfred Laurier
Prime Minister of the Dominion of Canada
1896 -1911

Photo Sir Wilfred Laurier

While Sir Wilfrid Laurier plays a small role in my novel, he does meet Count Jaggi at Katherine MacNutt’s Christmas party, which he attends with Mackenzie King, a future prime minister of Canada.

The Count was there to assess his opposite number, Inspector Andrew MacNutt of the Dominion Police’s Secret Service, and to gather intelligence for further German sabotage operations.

Biography

He was a tall, slender man and always elegantly dressed in what was fashionable at the time: tailored frock coats, high collars, silk cravats held in place by a jewelled pin and a gold pince-nez dangling from a silk tread.

In that era, where two-hour political speeches drawing large crowds were common, Laurier was a master in English and in French. A century later, Canadians still quote Laurier’s speeches. In 1864, as the graduating law student valedictorian at McGill University in Montreal, he surprised the convocation by delivering his speech entirely in French. He said in his speech, “I say it is to our glory that the struggles of race are ended on Canadian soil” and “Mighty nations, indeed, might well come to us to seek a lesson in justice and humanity.” Though this was spoken as a naive young man, Laurier would spend the rest of his career trying to achieve this goal.

After graduation he settled in rural Quebec to practice law. During his career he could find no easy solution to the problem of Canada’s status in the British Empire.

While he and his wife Zoë Laurier had a happy marriage, there were persistent rumours that Laurier was having an affair with a close friend, Émilie Lavergne, the wife of his law partner. The rumours were partly fuelled by Mme Lavergne’s son, Armand, bearing a striking resemblance of Laurier. Also, it was under Mme Lavergne’s tutelage that Laurier acquired his elegant flair, and she was his equal in intellectual debates.

Sources and further reading

Web

Sir Wilfred Laurier, Parliament of Canada, Parliamentarian File, Prime Ministers of Canada

Sir Wilfred Laurier, Library and Archives Canada,  First Among Equals, Prime Ministers of Canada

Wilfrid Laurier, Wikipedia

Print

Hutchison, Bruce. Mr. Prime Minister 1867-1964. Toronto: Longmans Canada.

LaPierre, Laurier L. Sir Wilfrid Laurier and the Romance of Canada. Toronto: Stoddart Publishing, 1996.