Members of the royal family have been frequent visitors to Canada, beginning as early as 1786 when Prince William (the future King William IV), the son of King George III, came to the country as part of a naval contingent serving in North America and the West Indies. He celebrated his 21st birthday on the frigate Pegasus off the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador. In 1791, William's younger brother, Edward, Duke of Kent, Queen Victoria's father, made the first of several long stays in Canada on military duties or as commander of British North American troops.
The Victorian Era
In 1857, Queen VICTORIA selected Ottawa as the capital of the Province of Canada, and, although she never visited Canada, she sent her son, Albert Edward, Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII), to make the first official royal visit to what is now Canada in 1860. During a 2-month tour of Newfoundland, the Maritimes and the Province of Canada (later Ontario and Québec), highlighted by the opening of the Victoria Bridge between the Island of Montréal and the south shore of the St Lawrence River, and the laying of the cornerstone for the Parliament Building in Ottawa, the prince was honoured as a visible symbol of monarchy and empire. The next major royal tour was that of the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall and York (later King George V and Queen Mary) in 1901. This was the first transcontinental tour, and demonstrated the "steel of empire" significance of the CPR.
In 1911, Prince ARTHUR, Duke of Connaught, the third son of Queen Victoria, was appointed Governor-General of Canada. He and his wife fell in love with the country's vastness and landscape, particularly the Rocky Mountains. The popular Edward, Prince of Wales (later King Edward VIII), made official tours of Canada in 1919 and 1927 in addition to private visits to his Alberta ranch.
Visits by Reigning Monarchs
In May and June 1939 King George VI and Queen Elizabeth made the first visit of a reigning monarch to Canada (see 1939 Royal Tour). The extensive tour was planned to solidify Canadian support for Britain on the eve of the Second World War and included a visit to Toronto's Coronation Park, site of a memorial created in honour of both George VI's coronation and Canadian veterans. Queen Elizabeth was asked whether she was English or Scottish and famously replied, "Since we reached Québec, I've been Canadian." She made her last visit to Canada 50 years later, at the age of 89.
During the reign of Queen Elizabeth II, royal visits have become fairly frequent. As Princess Elizabeth, accompanied by the Duke of Edinburgh, she made her first royal visit to Canada in 1951. She travelled 16 000 km on that trip, by many different means of transport. The Queen's symbolic associations have been less popular in Québec, where at one time President Charles de Gaulle of France was given what amounted to a royal welcome in Québec City. PM John TURNER's request that Queen Elizabeth delay her visit to avoid the political campaigning of the summer of 1984 caused a mild controversy. The Queen has visited Canada on 22 occasions since her first visit in 1957, each province and territory having received Her Majesty at least once.
The Queen has attended the celebrations of the 100th and 125th anniversaries of Confederation as well as provincial and territorial anniversaries of importance. She has opened Parliament on two occasions (1959 and 1977), proclaimed the Constitution Act in 1982 patriating Canada's constitution, and presided at the official opening of international events held in Canada (the Games of the XXI Olympiad in Montréal in 1976; the Commonwealth Games in Edmonton in 1978 and in Victoria in 1994). The Queen toured Canada extensively as part of her Golden Jubilee celebrations in 2002, and made her first visit to the new territory of Nunavut. During the centennial celebrations of Alberta and Saskatchewan in 2005, the Queen and Prince Philip visited both provinces. In 2010 they returned to Canada for the centennial of the founding of the Royal Canadian Navy. They also joined Canada Day celebrations on Parliament Hill and dedicated the cornerstone of the Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg.
Heir to the Throne
Charles, the Prince of Wales, has visited Canada several times. The first was in 1970, when he accompanied the Queen, Prince Philip and Princess Anne on a 10-day tour. He served aboard the HMS Hermes in Canadian waters in 1975. The following year the royal family visited Canada and Canadians were given a new perspective on the royals by seeing the Queen and her children relaxed and at ease with each other. In 1983, Canadians were charmed by Princess Diana, when she and Prince Charles celebrated Newfoundland's 400th anniversary of becoming a British colony. They returned to give Vancouver's Expo 86 a royal opening. In 1991, Charles and Diana were joined by their sons William and Harry. The children handled their first official visit like old pros while keen royal watchers speculated on the state of the royal marriage.
In April 1996, Prince Charles travelled alone to visit Ontario and eastern Canada, seemingly pursued by a snowstorm that caused delays along his route. When he visited Saskatchewan in 2001, hotel workers at the hotel where he was to stay, and the alternate, went on strike, but a last-minute deal with workers averted a change in schedule. He was awarded the Saskatchewan Order of Merit during his visit. His next visit to Canada was not until 2009, when he and his second wife, Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, visited 12 cities in four provinces in 11 days.
The Next Generation of Royals
In March 1998, when Prince William arrived in Vancouver with his brother and father, he was greeted like a rock star. Girls screamed and shouted "We love you William" as he blushed and smiled. The gangly youth became a flight lieutenant in the Royal Air Force. With his bride, Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, he made an extensive tour of Canada, 30 June to 8 July, 2011.
Prince Harry came to Canada in 2007 to train at CFB Suffield, Alta, with his British Army unit. Although it was not an official royal visit, Prince Harry did attract a certain amount of attention from the public and the media, notably from young women.
This "next generation" of the royal family have become surprisingly relevant to young adults in Canada. With good looks and plenty of glamour, they have attained celebrity status even as they connect Canadians with their history.