Mount Vernon has always been a place of pilgrimage because of the tomb of George Washington, America’s secular saint. Prior to the outbreak of the American Civil War, Mount Vernon was visited by HRH Prince Albert, Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII). On October 5, 1860 President James Buchanan accompanied the Prince on a tour of Mount Vernon and visited Washington’s tomb, which was not in very good shape. A British correspondent wrote, “No pious care seems to have ever tended this neglected grave. . .It is here alone in its glory, uncared for, unvisited, unwatched, with the night-wind for its only mourner sighing through the waste of trees, and strewing the dead brown leaves like ashes before the tomb. Such is the grave of Washington!”
After the First World War another Prince of Wales visited. On November 13, 1919, the future King Edward VIII visited Washington’s grave and laid a wreath. The Prince also planted a small English yew tree near the tomb.
On March 18, 2015, HRH Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales, and Camilla Duchess of Cornwall laid a wreath at Washington’s tomb. The Prince, a major force in raising awareness about environmental issues, found Washington’s tomb in considerably better shape than did his great-great grandfather. The yew tree planted by his great uncle was also pointed out to the Prince.