Queen Milli of Galt: what’s the whole truth?

April 30, 2014   ·   0 Comments

graveyardIn 1972, shortly after the death of the Duke of Windsor (Edward VIII), there appeared on the Milroy family monument in a cemetery in Galt, Ontario, an inscription: “Millicent Milroy, daughter of James and Helen Jane Milroy, 1892 – [as Miss Milroy was not deceased at the time] wife of Edward (VIII), Duke of Windsor – 1894 – 1972.”

This way of releasing the astonishing news of a marriage between a local citizen and the (then) heir to the throne of England caused quite a stir in Galt.

Not surprisingly, people were not inclined to believe it and, in the years that followed, Milli, as she was called, was considered to be a crazy person, with delusions about her relationship with Prince Edward.

However, there is the other side of the story: evidence that supports her claim, somewhat.

Edward did visit the city more than once; he did skip some of the events which he was meant to attend; there were letters to her with the Buckingham Palace crest on the envelopes.

What is the truth, then, of Milli’s claims? No one knows for certain but playwright Gary Kirkman decided that it is an excellent story and put it into a play.

Queen Milli of Galt begins with the romance as a flashback to1919, in response to a young journalist appealing to the 80-year-old Milli to tell him the story.

Mag Ruffman, who plays the role of the young Milli’s mother, always thought the whole story was just that; she had not realized until she became involved with a Theatre Orangeville production of Queen Milli of Galt that there was truth to the tale.

To make the point to the five actors in the play, David Nairn, who is directing it, took them all to Cambridge, of which, following amalgamation, Galt is now a part, along with Preston and Hespeler, to the cemetery in which the Milroy tombstone stands.

There, sure enough, is the inscription, the focus of the play.

Said Ms. Ruffman of her joining the cast for this production, “I decided a month ago that I didn’t want to produce anymore. Then, one morning, I woke up thinking about David Nairn and he called me that day to ask me – would you be interested in doing a role?…. I thought the whole play was made up and I saw the tombstone and realized the story is true.”

Giving zest to the situation, she remarked, “Edward was a super star then.”

Heidi Lynch plays the dual roles of the younger and older Milli.

“This is the story of a girl who has lost a lot,” she said of her character. “I don’t even know if it matters [whether or not she actually married the Prince] because you just want to believe it. She waited until after his death to tell it.”

Handsome, dashing young Adrian Shepherd plays the role of Prince Edward: “This is a really romantic comedy-drama. These are well drawn characters and so is the romance between them. Gary makes the assumption the story is true. ”

Welcome back to Lauren Toffan, who appeared in all the female roles in Great Expectations last February and March.

For this production, she is playing the role of Desdemona Simpleton, an actress and Milli’s dearest friend.

“She travelled all over and made quite a name for the cenotaph,” Ms. Toffan remarked. “She looks up to Milli’s mother.”

“The characters are terrifically believable,” David Nairn said.

It is great to have Jefferson Mappin back to Theatre Orangeville, playing the part of Sir Thomas Godfrey, Edward’s “handler.” This is a role Mr. Mappin has performed when the play was staged at Blyth.

“The Prince of Wales had a reputation of not attending all the functions,” commented Mr. Mappin, going on to say, “He was a bit of a roué.”

Mr. Mappin, who lives in Erin, comes to us with 40 years of acting experience both on the stage and in film – 125 of them, including Clint Eastwood’s Academy Award winning Unforgiven.

Ms. Ruffman had high praise for him: “I spend my time fawning over Jefferson,” she joked. “He’s so experienced. It’s fun to watch someone who’s so comfortable in his own shoes, on the stage and off.”

Naturally, the play has attracted some different crowds in addition to all the regulars. Members of the Monarchist League of Canada will be attending the play on the weekend of May 16, 17 and 18.

On the 16th and 17th, Wayne Townsend, director at the Dufferin County Museum, is giving a short talk after the performances about the connection of the Royals with Dufferin County over the decades.

They passed the question of the veracity of Milli’s story amongst them and, overall, voted that it did not really matter.

Ms. Ruffman seemed to speak for them all, “It’s way more interesting to believe in something than not.”

Queen Milli of Galt opens initially as preview next Thursday, May 8, with opening night on  Friday, May 9. Come early for opening night as this is the occasion when David Nairn, standing on a chair, announces the plays for the coming season. There is also coffee and dessert, along with a reception afterwards.

The play then runs until May 25.

Tickets, as always, at the box office, 519-942-3423; and online at theatreorangeville .ca.

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