Royals in the Arctic: The Earl and Countess of Wessex Visit Iqaluit, Nunavut

The Earl and Countess of Wessex are greeting by Nunavut Premier Eva Aariak in the presence of Commissioner Edna Elias. Photo credit: Government of Nunavut

The Earl and Countess of Wessex arrived in Iqaluit, the capital of the territory of Nunavut last night on the second stop of their week long working visit to Canada. Although Prince Edward has visited Canada on thirty-two previous occasions, and is the only member of the royal family apart from the Queen to have a Canadian Private Secretary, 2012 marks his first visit to Nunavut. According to Nunavut Premier Eva Aariak, the territory was the Earl and Countess of Wessex’s first choice of destination on their 2012 working visit.

Iqaluit skyline during the winter

The royal couple have a full itinerary of events during their time in Nunavut. The program began this morning at 10:30am with a ceremony at the Nunavut legislative building to honour sixteen long serving members and employees of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. The Earl of Wessex is Honorary Deputy Commissioner of the RCMP and takes a close interest in the organization. Five of the honourees will receive Diamond Jubilee medals. After a lunchĀ  given by The Honourable Edna Ekhivalak Elias, the Commissioner of Nunavut, at her Residence, the Earl and Countess will attend a service of dedication at St. Jude’s Anglican Cathedral.

The rebuilt St. Jude's Anglican Cathedral in Iqaluit in 2012.

The site of the original St. Jude’s cathedral was dedicated by Queen Elizabeth II during her 1970 tour of the Canadian arctic. The unique building, designed to resemble an igloo, was severely damaged by fire in 2006 and has recently been rebuilt. The presence of the Earl and Countess of Wessex at the dedication of the new building continues to the royal connection to the seat of the Anglican Diocese of the Arctic. At 5:30pm, the royal couple will attend a reception for community leaders and volunteers at the Nunatta Sunakkutaangiit museum with Commissioner Elias. The museum is housed in an old Hudson Bay Company Warehouse and contains exhibitions of Inuit sculpture, prints and artifacts.

The people of Iqaluit will have the opportunity to meet the Earl and Countess of Wessex at a community feast this evening at at St. Judeā€™s Anglican Parish Hall. The Hall was the setting of Anglican religious services after the destruction of the original St. Jude’s cathedral and still serves as a community centre. After spending the night in Iqaluit, the Earl and Countess will visit the nursing program at Nunavut Arctic College before returning to Ontario for the remainder of their visit. The college was founded in 1968 as an Adult Vocational Training Centre by the government of the Northwest Territories and became Nunavut Arctic College when Nunavut became a separate territory in 1999. The nursing program operates in a partnership with Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Queen Elizabeth II and Princess Anne touring Resolute Bay, Northwest Territories in 1970

Royal visits to Canada’s territories are not only an opportunity for the Queen and her family to engage with the people and institutions of the Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut but are politically significant as direct evidence of Canadian sovereignty over the Arctic. During the Cold War, Canada’s territories were strategically significant because of their proximity to both the United States and the Soviet Union.

Queen Elizabeth II’s 1970 tour of the Arctic was a direct statement of Canadian sovereignty over the region during a period when the United States was questioning Canada’s ability to effectively populate and defend its northern territories. Instead of only visiting the territorial capital cities of Whitehorse and Yellowknife, as she had done during her 1959 cross Canada tour, the Queen, accompanied by the Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Charles and Princess Anne traveled north of the Arctic Circle to what are now the communities of Inuvik and Tuktoyaktuk. Her presence symbolized Canada’s authority over these regions.

In the twenty-first century, Canada is once again facing challenges to its sovereignty over the Arctic. As global temperatures rise, the Northwest Passage through the islands of Nunavut and the Northwest Territories is increasingly accessible to sea going vessels. Canada claims the Northwest Passage as part of its internal waters according to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. The other Arctic Nations, most notably the United States, argue that the Northwest Passage is part of international waters and cannot be closed to shipping traffic by the Canadian government.

As these debates unfold, royal visits to the Arctic territories continue to reinforce Canada’s sovereignty over the region. The presence of the Earl and Countess of Wessex in Iqaluit had broader political significance in addition to the royal couple’s personal engagement with the people and institutions of Nunavut.

Royals in the Garden: The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge Visit Singapore Botantical Gardens

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge admire an orchid named for Diana, Princess of Wales at Singapore Botanical Gardens. Photo Credit: Pool/Getty Images

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge began their nine day Diamond Jubilee tour of Singapore, Malaysia, Tuvalu and the Solomon Islands today with a visit to Singapore Botanical Gardens. William and Catherine admired an orchid named for Diana, Princess of Wales, which she had intended to view herself at the time of her death in 1997. To commemorate their visit, the royal couple were presented with a special white and purple hybrid orchid named the Vanda William Catherine in honour of their marriage. The Diana and William Catherine orchids join the dozens of flowers, and a few vegetables, named in honour of royal occasions.

King Edward VII in his coronation robes

William’s great-great-great-grandfather, King Edward VII achieved immortality in the garden through the development of the King Edward potato, one of the oldest varieties still in cultivation today. Following the disastrous blight that precipitated the Irish potato famine in 1840s, attempts were made to develop more disease resistant varieties. In 1902, John Butler of Scotter, Lincolnshire derived a white skinned, pink coloured potato from the Rough Purple Chili potato that predominated in nineteenth century Ireland. The new potato was first introduced in the United Kingdom in 1902, the year of King Edward VII’s coronation. Butler therefore named his new spud, “The King Edward potato” in honour of this royal occasion. This hardy vegetable was a staple of British diets during the food rationing of the Second World War and is now considered one of the best potatoes for making gnocchi.

The Duchess of Edinburgh clematis, named for Her Royal and Imperial Highness, Grand Duchess Marie of Edinburgh

The 2011 wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge is not the first royal wedding to inspire a new kind of flower. When the future King Edward VII’s brother, Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh married Grand Duchess Marie Alexandrovna of Russia in 1874, florists George Jackman & Son developed a new flower, which they named the “Duchess of Edinburgh” clematis in honour of the bride. The most spectacular modern display of these royal flowers is in the white garden at Sissinghurst Castle, designed by Vita Sackville West.

Queen Elizabeth II’s sister, Princess Margaret Rose, naturally inspired botanists to develop new varieties bearing a name that was both royal and floral. The pink Camellia japonica or winter rose ‘Princess Margaret’ flowers honoured the Princess. Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother cultivated varieties of this flower in her own garden and these “Margaret Roses” were included in the Princess’s funeral wreath.

Princess Irene tulips

The Dutch royal family has also inspired unique varieties of flowers. The orange “Princess Irene” tulip, is named for Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands’ sister, Irene. The Princess was born on the eve of the Second World War and her parents Princess Juliana and Prince Bernhard named her for the Greek word for peace in the hope that hostilities would be averted. Princess Juliana and her daughters spent the wartime years in Ottawa as guests of the Canadian government. To thank Canadians for their involvement in the liberation of the Netherlands and for hosting the Dutch royal family, Princess Juliana sent thousands of tulip bulbs to Ottawa including the newly created Princess Irene tulips. The name celebrated both the Dutch princess who spent her early childhood in Canada and the peace that followed the Second World War.

The orchids in Singapore Botanical Gardens named for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Diana, Princess of Wales are part of a long tradition of royal names for new varieties of flowers or, in the case of the King Edward Potato, vegetables. Throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, royal weddings, coronations, tours and homecomings have been commemorated through the naming of new plants. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge continued this custom on their Diamond Jubilee tour of Singapore.

The Itinerary for the Earl and Countess of Wessex in Canada: September 11-18, 2012

The Earl and Countess of Wessex attending the wedding of Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden and Daniel Westling in 2010

The Earl and Countess of Wessex will be in Canada from September 11 to September 18, 2012 for a working visit. In contrast to official visits, where a member of the royal family receives a formal invitation from the Prime Minister, a working visit is arranged privately with the Queen’s representatives in Canada. While an official visit involves a royal presence at state ceremonies or celebrations, the focus of a working visit is engagement with the organizations that have a personal relationship with the members of the royal family in Canada. Working visits receive less media attention than official visits but they reinforce the vital relationships between members of the royal family and Canadian institutions.

Governor General David Johnston at the University of Waterloo in 2010

The Earl and Countess of Wessex’s 2012 working visit to Canada will begin in Ottawa on September 11, where the royal couple will be guests of Their Excellencies the Right Honourable David Johnston, Governor General of Canada, and Mrs. Sharon Johnston at Rideau Hall. That evening, the royal couple will attend a Reception on the Occasion of the Third Biennial Gathering of the Royal Victorian Order Association of Canada. The royal Victorian order was established by Queen Victoria in 1896, awarding extraordinary, important or personal services performed for the Sovereign or the Royal Family.

On September 12, the Countess will tour the National War Museum with Mrs. Johnston, viewing the War of 1812 centenary and permanent exhibitions, and observe a demonstration at the Royal Canadian Mounted Police musical ride centre while the Earl distributes Duke of Edinburgh awards to high achieving students in the Ottawa area. The Earl has assumed the patronage of this Awards scheme, which was originally founded by Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh in the 1950s and travels extensively worldwide to present the awards.

The Queen meeting members of a local cub troop in the Northwest Territories in 1970. Photo credit: Doug Griffin/Toronto Star

After departing Ottawa, the royal couple will fly north to Iqaluit, the capital of Nunavut territory for their first visit to the Canadian arctic. According to the Nunatsiaq News Online, “[The Earl of Wessex’s] visit to Iqaluit is likely related to the recent consecration of St. Judes Cathedral. In 1970, the Queen visited Iqaluit for a sod-turning ceremony that marked the start of construction on the original St. Judes.” Queen Elizabeth II’s 1970 tour of the Canadian arctic helped reinforce Canadian sovereignty over this region and the repeated presence of members of the royal family in the north continues this role as the Northwest Passage becomes increasingly open to seafaring traffic.

David Onley, Lieutenant Governor of Ontario

The royal couple will return to Ontario after Nunvut, visiting Trenton, Toronto, Hamilton, St. Catharines and North Simcoe as part of a tour organized in consultation with the Honourable David Onley, Lieutenant Governor of Ontario. The visit to Trenton will undoubtedly involve engagement with members of the Canadian forces. The Earl is Colonel-in-Chief of the Hastings and Prince Edward Regiment, based in nearby Belleville and has visited the region on a number of past personal visits. In Toronto, the Earl will continue to distribute Duke of Edinburgh Awards. The Countess’s Toronto engagements have not yet been announced but may include visits to her various charitable patronages in the city, including Toronto General Hospital.

On September 15, the Earl will be part of the 150th anniversary celebrations of The Royal Hamilton Light Infantry. He will also be the reviewing officer for a military Trooping of the Colour ceremony on the tarmac at the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum. The same day, the Countess will present new colours to the Lincoln and Welland Regiment in St. Catharines as their Colonel in Chief.Ā  The ceremony will take place near the monument to Issac Brock at Queenston Heights, further commemorating the centenary of the War of 1812. The Countess will also visit Niagara College, touring the Collegeā€™s Wine Visitor and Education Centre and celebrating the launch of the Canadian Food and Wine Institute Research Centre.

In North Simcoe, the Earl and Countess will visit Sainte-Marie among the Hurons in Midland and St. James-on-the-Lines Church in Penetanguishene. Both are historic sites. Sainte-Marie among the Hurons was the first European community in Ontario, serving as the headquarters for French Jesuit Mission to the Huron Wendat people from 1639 to 1649. St. James-on-the-Lines Church celebrated its 175th anniversary last year.

The Earl and Countess of Wessex will visit numerous Canadian military regiments, historic sites, institutions and charities during their working visit. Their upcoming tour of Ontario and Nunavut will reinforce their personal connections to numerous Canadian organizations and institutions and provide opportunities for Canadians to engage with the Crown.


The Importance of the Duchess of Cambridge’s Upcoming Meeting with Women’s Groups in the Solomon Islands

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge at a Gala Celebrating the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.

The complete itinerary for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s upcoming Diamond Jubilee tour of Malaysia, Singapore, Tuvalu and the Solomon Islands was released this past week. In contrast to the 2011 tour of Canada, where the royal couple performed all public engagements together, the Duke and Duchess will separate for the afternoon of September 17 in the Solomon Islands.

During this time, William will present six gold Duke of Edinburgh Awards to high achieving students while Catherine attends a reception for Solomon Island women’s groups. The Duchess of Cambridge’s engagement with women’s organizations in the Solomon Islands has the potential to improve the status of women in this Commonwealth nation.

Britannia, Her Majesty's Yacht until 1997. This vessel facilitated royal visits to island Commonwealth realms.

There have only been two previous official royal tours of the Solomon Islands. In 1974, the Queen and Prince Philip, accompanied by Princess Anne and her first husband Captain Mark Phillips visited the Islands as part of a Pacific tour. In October 1982, the Queen and Prince Philip made a subsequent visit aboard the royal yacht Britannia after attending the Commonwealth Games in Australia. The decommissioning of Britannia after Prince Charles’s visit to Hong Kong for the handover to China in 1997 resulted in fewer royal visits to the more remote, island nations within the Commonwealth. The publicity that will accompany the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge as they undertake a rare royal tour of the South Pacific will result in increased global awareness of the organizations and issues that they engage with during their travels.

The main street of Honiara, the capital of the Solomon Islands

Women in the Solomon Islands current face numerous threats to their health, safety and well being. According to a 2011 report by Amnesty International, “‘Where is the Dignity in That?’ Women in Solomon Islands Slums Denied Sanitation and Safety” over one third of the 64,600 inhabitants of Honiara, the capital of the Solomon Islands, live in makeshift shanty towns without reliable access to clean water or sanitation facilities. Residents of these settlements either risk contracting illnesses from contaminated water or walk long distances to collect clean water. Women traveling through remote areas to reach clean water sources often face harassment and sexual assault.

In addition to the threats to health and safety created by living conditions in Honiara’s shanty towns, domestic violence is endemic in the Solomon Islands. According to a 2009 study by the Secretariat of the Pacific Community for the Ministry of Women, Youth & Childrenā€™s Affairs, 64 percent of women in the Solomon Islands between the ages of 15 and 49 have experienced domestic violence. In 2010, the government approved a national policy to eliminate violence against women. The Duchess of Cambridge’s engagement with local women’s groups will contribute to increasing awareness of the challenges faced by women in the Solomon Islands.

Queen Victoria and her youngest child, Princess Beatrice.

There are numerous past and present examples of royal women improving the lives of all women through their high profile activities, opinions and charitable patronage. When chloroform and ether were developed as childbirth anesthetics in the mid nineteenth century, the British clergy debated whether the use of these painkillers violated the biblical injunction that women should bear children in suffering. Queen Victoria’s decision to use what she described as “blessed chloroform” for the births of her two youngest children, Prince Leopold and Princess Beatrice, made the use of anesthesia in childbirth socially acceptable.

Queen Victoria’s daughters supported numerous organizations that improved the lives of ordinary women. After her marriage to Prince Louis of Hesse-Darmstadt, Princess Alice attempted to reduce the maternal mortality rate in the German Duchy by supporting charities devoted to improving the lives of mothers and children. Princess Helena improved career opportunities for women through her support of Florence Nightengale’s nursing reforms, and Princess Louise was a patron of the the Girls’ Public Day School Company, and the National Society for the Protection of Young Girls. In the 1930s, Queen Victoria’s granddaughter Princess Alice, Countess of Athlone, became the first member of royal family to publicly support women’s access to contraceptives and family planning.

Crown Prince Frederik and Crown Princess Mary of Denmark

Royal involvement in women’s organizations continues to the present day. In March 2012, Crown Princess Mary of Denmark attendedĀ  the Second World Conference of Womenā€™s Shelters in conjunction with her work with the Mary foundation, which assists victims of domestic violence. In April, Princess Basma Bint Saud Bin Abdulaziz, daughter of the late King Saud of Saudi Arabia detailed the five main changes necessary to improve the lives of Saudi women in an interview with the BBC including education reform and an overhaul of the constitution. In May, Cornell law school alumna, Princess Bajrakitiyabha Mahidol of Thailand, returned to her alma mater to endow a scholarship and raise awareness of women’s rights before the law including the situation of female prisoners and their children. The Duchess of Cambridge’s meeting with women’s groups in the Solomon Islands will be part of this trend of royal women seeking to improve the lives of all women.

The Duchess of Cambridge’s attendance at a reception to honour representatives of women’s groups in the Solomon Islands will increase global awareness of the challenges faced by women in this Commonwealth nation. The publicity surrounding the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s Diamond Jubilee tour of the South Pacific has the potential to increase the momentum of state and philanthropic initiatives to improve the lives of women in the Solomon Islands.

From Party Prince to the Queen’s Representative: The Rise of Prince Harry in 2012

Prince Harry (centre) representing his grandmother Queen Elizabeth II at the Closing Ceremonies of the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London on August 12, 2012. The Duchess of Cambridge is standing at his right. Source: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images Europe

At the closing ceremonies of the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London, the audience in Olympic Stadium was called to stand for the arrival of Prince Henry of Wales, representing Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. Prince Harry’s central role in the Closing Ceremonies marked the apogee of an extraordinary year for Queen’s grandson that saw him assume the duties of a senior member of the royal family.

In March, 2012, Harry completed a successful tour of Belize, the Bahamas and Jamaica on behalf of Queen Elizabeth II, in honour of the Diamond Jubilee. The Prince infused the well known format of the royal tour and walkabout with his own personal style, joining the dancing during street parties, and racing Olympic champion Usain Bolt. In Jamaica, the Prince diffused what might have been a tense diplomatic situation by embracing Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller, who had previously expressed support for the appointment of a Jamaican born Head of State.

Prince Harry plays volleyball on Flamengo Beach on March 10, 2012 in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil. (Source: Chris Jackson/Getty Images)

Following the Jubilee tour of the Caribbean, Harry visited Brazil as an ambassador for British trade and the London Olympics, promoting youth athletics and discussing the transition from the 2012 to 2016 Summer Olympics, which will take place in Rio de Janeiro. Once again, Harry succeeded within a complicated diplomatic climate as South American attitudes toward the United Kingdom are coloured by Argentina’s claim to the Falkland Islands.

In May, Prince Harry traveled to Washington D.C. to receive the 2012 Distinguished Humanitarian Leadership Award from the Atlantic Council, on behalf of himself and his brother, Prince William for their patronage of charities that assist injured members of the British and American armed forces. This award drew worldwide public attention to Harry’s charity work including his patronage of the Walking With The Wounded, andĀ  support for The Soldiers’ Charity and Help For Heroes.

Prince Harry at the official press launch of Walking with the Wounded in 2010.

The Prince returned to the United Kingdom to celebrate his grandmother’s Diamond Jubilee then threw himself into the role of Olympic Ambassador during the London Games, which culminated in his central role at the Closing Ceremonies. If 2011 was the year of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, with their magnificent wedding and successful tour of Canada, 2012 has been the year Prince Harry assumed the profile and duties of a senior member of the royal family.

The public approval that Harry currently enjoys because of his success representing Queen Elizabeth II and philanthropic workĀ  contrasts with his past reputation as a “party prince” with poor judgement. Although Harry received widespread public sympathy when his mother, Princess Diana, died when he was only twelve years old, he attracted criticism in his late teens and early twenties.

Prince Harry at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst in 2005.

Harry engaged in charity work in Lesotho during his gap year visit to Africa but the press focused on his altercations with photographers outside nightclubs and his poor choice of fancy dress costume. Carol Sarler, a Daily Express columnist, wrote in 2004 that Prince Harry was a “horrible young man” and a “national disgrace” in column that received a personal rebuttal from the Prince of Wales. Prince Harry’s diplomatic and philanthropic work in 2012 demonstrates that he has learned from his past lapses in judgment and is eager to take his place as a prominent working member of the royal family.

King Henry VIII, the second son of King Henry VII. Upon the unexpected death of his childless elder brother Arthur, he became the heir to the English throne.

Harry’s evolution from Party Prince to the Queen’s representative is important to the future of the royal family because he is currently a direct heir to the throne. The intense speculation about when (not if) the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge will have children ignores the numerous historical precedents for second sons and their children ultimately becoming monarchs. King Henry VIII, King Charles I, King George V and King George VI were all originally second sons of reigning monarchs or their heirs.

The eight years of childlessness experienced by Crown Prince Naruhito and Crown Princess Masako of Japan before the 2001 birth of their only child, Princess Aiko, demonstrates that even in the 21st century, royal succession can be unpredictable. Aiko is not eligible to become Empress under the current Japanese law of succession, which is restricted to male dynasts. While the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are childless, Prince Harry should be viewed as a potential successor to the thrones of the United Kingdom and the other fifteen commonwealth nations.

In the event that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have children of their own, Prince Harry’s abilities as a diplomat and philanthropist will still be essential to the success of the monarchy. Queen Elizabeth II’s cousins, the Duke of Kent and Gloucester and Princess Alexandra perform an extensive program of royal duties but it is unlikely that the younger generation of the royal extended family will have the same public profile. In a smaller working royal family, Harry will be expected to assume a wide range of royal tours and charitable patronages.

Prince Harry’s successes in 2012 as the Queen’s representative and a respected philanthropist will be of lasting benefit to the monarchy. In the event that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge do not have children of their own, Harry’s increased profile as a working member of the royalty will reassure the public that he will be a successful future monarch. If the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge continue the direct royal line, Harry’s activities will support subsequent monarchs within a streamlined working royal family.

The Diamond Jubilee Series 4: The Jubilee Queen of Canada

The fourth and final article of my four part series about Queen Elizabeth II in Canada was published today in the Kingston Whig Standard. Click here to read The Jubilee Queen of Canada about the recent revival of interest in the monarchy in Canada with the 2010 Canada Day visit of Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh, the 2011 tour by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and the 2012 Jubilee visit by Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall.

The Diamond Jubilee Series 3: The Celebrity Queen of Canada

The third article in my four part series about Queen Elizabeth II in Canada was published today. Click here to read “The Celebrity Queen of Canada” about the visits of the Queen and her children to Canada during the 1980s and 1990s and the intense media interest in the personal lives of the royal family.

Also, see my recent interview with comparing the Diamond Jubilees of Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth II.

The Diamond Jubilee Series 1: The Young Queen of Canada

The first of the four part series I wrote for the Kingston Whig-Standard about the Queen’s role in Canada during her sixty year reign was published today. Click here to read “The Young Queen of Canada.”

In the past few days, I have also been interviewed for the Hamilton Spectator and Le Figaro.

Enjoy the Diamond Jubilee Coverage!

Canada and Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee

The Official Photograph of Queen Victoria for her Diamond Jubilee in 1897

This weekend, the Diamond Jubilee celebrations for Queen Elizabeth II that have been taking place in the United Kingdom and Commonwealth throughout 2012 will culminate in a magnificent river pageant on the Thames. The festivities mark the Queen’s six decade reign and the United Kingdom’s history as a naval power. The opulence of the planned flotilla also underscores the rarity of Diamond Jubilees.

There has only been one other comparable occasion in the history of the British Isles: The Diamond Jubilee of Elizabeth II’s great-great grandmother Queen Victoria in 1897. Victoria succeeded to the throne in 1837 at the age of eighteen and enjoyed the longest reign in British history. When she died in 1901, after nearly sixty-four years on the throne, the nineteenth century was already being described as the Victorian Era.

A Victoria Day celebration at First Government House in Toronto, 1854. The public holiday was originally a celebration of the Queen’s birthday before becoming a commemoration of a “Mother of Confederation” after her death in 1901.

The current Queen is the most well traveled monarch in history and takes her role as Head of the Commonwealth seriously. The modern royal family is therefore celebrating Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee on an international scale with representatives visiting all the commonwealth realms. Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall joined the Canadian celebrations, significantly visiting Canada over the Victoria Day holiday weekend. The international celebrations in 2012 highlight the Queen’s role as Head of a Commonwealth of equal nations.

Canadian involvement in the celebrations for Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee was very different in 1897. The Queen had a personal connection to Canada. Her father, Prince Edward, Duke of Kent and Strathearn, did military service in British North America, overseeing the defenses surrounding the royal naval base in Halifax, Nova Scotia. The Prince was appointed Commander-in-Chief of the British Forces in North America in 1799 and gave his name to the future province of Prince Edward Island. Although there is no direct evidence that Prince Edward and his mistress Madame de St. Laurent had children during their time in British North America, there are Canadian families who claim descent from the couple.

Portrait of Queen Victoria’s father, Prince Edward, Duke of Kent and Strathearn by Sir William Beechey

In contrast to her father, Queen Victoria did not travel widely, leaving the British Isles on rare occasions such as a state visit to Napoleon III in France and family weddings in Germany. By the time of her Diamond Jubilee, the seventy eight year old Queen suffered increasing difficulties walking. The Thanksgiving service for her sixty year reign was held outside St. Paul’s cathedral because she could not climb to steps to go inside. For the British Empire to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee with Queen Victoria, representatives had to travel to London.

The presence of colonial premiers, diplomats and military regiments in London in 1897 made the Diamond Jubilee distinct from all previous celebrations of Queen Victoria’s reign. The Golden Jubilee of 1887 celebrated the Queen’s role as grandmother of Europe with the parade comprising of her illustrious children and grandchildren from across Europe. In contrast, the Diamond Jubilee celebrated Queen Victoria as the matriarch of a global Empire.

John Hamilton-Gordon, Earl of Aberdeen and Governor General of Canada at the time of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee

On June 22, 1897, the Diamond Jubilee Parade in London began with the Colonial Procession, headed by the Canadian delegation. Although Canada had been a self-governing Dominion since 1867, the country’s foreign affairs were managed by Great Britain and Canadians viewed themselves as part of the British Empire. When Lord Aberdeen, Governor General of Canada received the Queen’s Jubilee message that morning, “From my heart I thank my beloved people. May God bless them,” he responded, “The Queen’s most gracious and touching message, this moment received, shall be immediately made known to all your Majesty’s people throughout the Dominion and will stir afresh the hearts already full on this memorable day. We offer the glad tribute of loyal devotion and affectionate homage. God save and bless the Queen.”

In London, the Canadian cavalry rode five abreast at the Head of the Colonial Procession. Prime Minister Sir Wilfrid Laurier, an ardent monarchist who had received his knighthood from the Queen that morning, followed in a carriage. After the Prime Minister came a
detachment of the Toronto Grenadiers and Royal Canadian Highlanders. Representatives from the other regions of the British Empire, British and foreign royalty and finally, the Queen herself completed the parade. The festivities took place in London but Canada was well represented by the Prime Minister and the military.

Canada participated in the celebrations for both Queen Victoria’s and Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilees. While the Empire gathered in London to celebrate Victoria in 1897, members of the royal family are traveling throughout the commonwealth in 2012 to join the worldwide festivities in honour of Elizabeth II.