Yesterday, on returning home from watching the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge be greeted at Rideau Hall I became quite reflective. It has been, for me a long history of royal visits to Canada, and I thought I might share, here, my reflections on my relationship to the Royal Family, and going to see them when they come here.
First of all, I understand that my fascination for the royal family is not necessarily shared by all, or in quite the same ardent manner. Not everyone goes to see them when they come to town, nor do many collect memorabilia, which now is scattered in delicious abandon around my apartment. I could blame my English mother, who liked the royal family a lot. But even she did not collect memorabilia, or endeavour to see them every time they hit Canadian shores. I think it was the romance of the royal wedding in 1981 that hooked me good. Sure in retrospect it was not the romance that was thought, but I was young and impressionable.
My first encounter with the Royal family was in 1977 when the Queen opened the Canadian parliament during her Silver Jubilee year. I had been to England that summer for my cousin’s wedding, and had come back with a jubilee umbrella and a poster (which I still have). I was dressed in my guide uniform, and H, my brother was in his cub uniform. Mom came with us. H took this picture of the royal carriage.
Queen’s Carriage, Ottawa, 1977
I remember waving. It was great.
The next time I went to see the royal family it was for the Prince and Princess of Wales in 1983. They had come to Edmonton to open the World University Games. I stationed myself along their route in Winston Churchill Square at a ridiculously early hour to see the couple. They arrived in the early afternoon. I didn’t take pictures, funnily enough, so there is no ‘proof’, but I saw them and shook both Diana and Charles’ hands. It was glorious. When I got home H made the silly comment that I would never wash my hands again, but I did that very day.
My next encounter was in 1989 (I think). The Duke and Duchess of York came to Edmonton for some reason. So I again, at a ridiculously early hour stationed myself along their walkabout route on the grounds of the Alberta Legislature. Again I shook hands, with the Duchess. And I took pictures.
Of course, it doesn’t end there. Prince Edward came to Edmonton in 1993 to hand out some Duke of Edinburgh awards. I liked Edward much. It was a crush, he was cute, interested in the same things as me, and, at the time, single. So once again I stationed myself at an early hour at the Provincial Museum and waited. My patience was rewarded. I shook his hand and saw him twice, once going in to the ceremony, and once coming out of the ceremony.
But, it gets better. Seriously better. I went home and told all that it was great, I saw him and all that. End of story. Or so I thought. The next morning my Mom woke me up and called me a cover girl. I was snapped with Prince Edward by the Edmonton Sun and they put it on the cover!!! Squeal!!!!
Edmonton Sun photograph, 27 March 1993.
I am the one with the jacket covered in patches.
So time marches on. My next royal encounter was thanks to a friend who is a part of the Black Watch. Prince Charles came to Montreal to give the Watch its new colours. It was a most interesting experience. This time I had a seat. Let me tell you that is a luxury in royal watching. What was most interesting about this affair was that there were protesters outside of the armoury, and they actually were able to delay some of the proceedings. Those in the armoury watched in amazement when the police started to bring into the building some of the projectiles, flags and posters that the protesters had begun hurling. We could hear all the shouting. Amazing. Charles and his wife, the Duchess of Cornwall finally arrived, and I had a killer view of the back of his head, and the feather on her hat. They did walk about a bit, so I later saw them full on. Didn’t need to shake his hand because I had done so in 1983. It was a great day.
Prince Charles, Montreal, 2009
This all leads me up to the present, and the Royal visit of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge to Canada. I was intending to go to Parliament Hill, the scene of my first royal visit, but was not looking forward to the crowds anticipated there. I had also thought to go to the War Memorial the day before and see if I could see them. Then my friend J calls and asks what my Thursday plans were. I told her. She then said how about a seat to see them at Rideau Hall? OMG. J was in the colour party for the ceremony at Rideau Hall and put my name in for the lottery for VIP seats. She won, I won! I was able to see William and Kate up close, and watch J as the Prince reviewed her. Sadly he did not stop to talk to J, although I was hoping. And he didn’t stop to talk to me or anyone else in the VIP section. Sigh. But I had a killer view and took many many photos.