Queen Elizabeth II’s second son, Prince Andrew, the Duke of York, arrived in Vancouver yesterday for four days of engagements in the province of British Columbia, Canada. In February, the Duke of York attended the opening of the new British Columbia Trade and Investment office overlooking Hyde Park in London. At the reception, the Duke announced that he intended to visit British Columbia in May.
The Duke of York’s visit consists of two days in Vancouver on May 16 and 17 and two days in the provincial capital, Victoria on May 18 and 19. In Vancouver, the Duke opened the new dock at the Royal Canadian Yacht Club, speaking with Canadian Olympic windsurfer Nikolas Girke. The Duke also visited the Royal Vancouver Rowing Club, where he was greeted by an “honour guard” of rowers standing with their paddles upright.
In Victoria, the Duke of York will be chief of the 150th Victoria Highland Games and Celtic Festival, presenting some of the awards for the Highland Dance competition. The Games attracted 20,000 attendees in 2012 and organizers hope that the presence of royalty will increase these numbers regardless of the weather. While in Victoria, the Duke of York will also dine with Lieutenant Governor Judith Guichon and present Duke of Edinburgh awards at Government House to British Columbia youth. Like his father, Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, the Duke of York is interested in promoting youth athletics and his itinerary in British Columbia reflects this theme.
The Duke’s presence in British Columbia for the Victoria Day long weekend, which is the Queen’s official birthday in Canada and a popular time for royal visits, also reflects his longstanding relationship with Canada and the Canadian people. In 1979, Prince Andrew attended the Lakefield College School in Peterborough, Ontario as an exchange student from Gordonstoun in Scotland.
At the time of his term abroad, the Prince had already visited Canada during three consecutive summers, cheering his sister, Princess Anne, when she competed in the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal, accompanying his brother, the Prince of Wales to the 1977 Calgary Stampede and attending the 1978 Commonwealth Games with the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh. The Prince enjoyed his time at the Lakefield College School and returned on a personal visit in 1983 to join a student trip to the Northwest Territories.
The wedding of Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson in 1986 attracted widespread popular attention in Canada. Prime Minister Brian Mulroney sent the couple a pair of parkas as a wedding gift and established the Prince and Princess Andrew prize for photography in their honour, stating “These gifts will express the sincere best wishes of the people of Canada and bear witness to the affection Canadians have for the Royal Family.” Although the parkas reflected the royal couple’s interests, which included skiing and other outdoor activities, the gift sparked controversy in the press as it appeared to reinforce stereotypes about Canadian culture.
At the time of Prince Andrew’s wedding, there were rumours that the newly created Duke of York might be appointed Governor General of Canada and reside with the Duchess in Ottawa for a five year term. Other members of the royal family previously held this appointment including Queen Victoria’s son-in-law, Lord Lorne, King George V’s uncle, the Duke of Connaught and King George VI’s uncle, the Earl of Athlone.
During the reign of Elizabeth II, however, all Canadian Governors General were born in Canada and the Duke of York ultimately did not receive the appointment. In a 2009 interview, the Duchess of York speculated that their marriage might not have ended in divorce in 1996 if they had lived in Canada, telling the CBC, “We could have been Governor of Canada living in Ottawa in the Government House. It would have kept us together and we would probably be together now.”
The Duke and Duchess of York made well received official visits to Canada in 1987 and 1989, attending a diverse range of events including the Queen’s Plate horse race in Toronto, the 150th anniversary of the town of Cobourg and Jamboree 1989 at the Fort Amherst Provincial Park. The royal couple also undertook a fifteen day canoe expedition on the Hanbury-Thelon River in the Northwest Territories in 1987.
Since the Jean Chretien administration of 1993-2003, junior members of the royal family are no longer invited to Canada by the government for official visits. Nevertheless, the Duke of York continues to make frequent working and personal visits to Canada in support of the Lakefield College School, and his other Canadian charitable patronages and military appointments. The Duke of York is Honourary Colonel-in-Chief of three Canadian regiments, The Queen’s York Rangers, the Royal Highland Fusiliers of Canada and the Princess Louise Fusiliers.
The Duke of York’s 2013 visit to Vancouver and Victoria reflects his decades long personal relationship with Canada, his interest in promoting trade relationships between the various Canadian provinces and the United Kingdom, and his patronage of organisations that support youth athletics.