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Mackenzie King: Loneliness at Kingsmere

The Story

Mrs. H.O. McCurry tenderly recalls the evening Mackenzie King first won the Liberal leadership in the summer of 1919. He walked over to her family's cottage and said quietly, "I've just been made Liberal leader and I have nobody to share it with." In this 1960 CBC Television special called The King Nobody Knew, McCurry -- who was a neighbour of King's at his cottage in Kingsmere, Que. -- remembers King as a lonely man who loved poetry and religious hymns.

Medium: Television
Program: Close-Up
Broadcast Date: March 17, 1960
Guest(s): Dorothy McCurry
Reporter: Douglas Leiterman
Duration: 2:43

Did You know?

• The years leading up to his Liberal leadership win in August 1919 were fraught with devastating personal loss for King. His sister Bella King died in 1915. His father, John King, died in 1916. And his beloved mother, Isabel Grace Mackenzie King, died in 1917.
• The death of former prime minister Wilfrid Laurier in February 1919 was also hard on King. Laurier was a political mentor, father figure and friend to King.

• King never married. He and R.B. Bennett are the only two prime ministers in Canadian history to have remained bachelors all their lives. Pierre Trudeau was the only prime minister to marry while in office.
• Many who knew King remembered him as a very lonely man. Journalist Bruce Hutchison (who covered politics for the Victoria Times, Vancouver Sun and Winnipeg Free Press during King's leadership days) once called King "the loneliest man in Canada."

• Kingsmere is in the Gatineau Hills of Quebec, about 20 kilometres from Ottawa. King discovered Kingsmere on a biking trip in 1900 and fell in love with the area. He bought a small lot there in 1901 and built a four-room cottage on that lot in 1903. He called it Kingswood. Over the years, he continued to buy more and more property in Kingsmere. Eventually he owned nearly 500 acres of land on Kingsmere Lake, with two cottages and three houses.

• Although King's official Ottawa residence was Laurier House -- which had been bequeathed to him by Wifrid Laurier's wife Zoe in 1921 -- King spent most of his summers at Kingsmere throughout his political career.

• King even built his own fake "ruins" at Kingsmere, using pieces of old demolished buildings from Canada and abroad. King loved his ruins not only for their beauty, but also for their symbolism. He used several stones from his grandfather's house to build a faux fireplace, for instance, and he also joined together stones from Canada's and Britain's houses of Parliament in his ruins to show the link between the two countries.

• In his last will and testament, King wrote that Kingsmere had been a very important part of his life, and that it was his true home. He bequeathed his property to the government of Canada. Today (2004), the National Capital Commission maintains the King properties at Kingsmere as a public site and tourist attraction.


Mackenzie King: Public Life, Private Man more