Whistlestop royal visit touched on serious subjects but had lighter moments, too

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Hello, royal watchers. This is a special edition of the newsletter following the three-day visit to Canada by Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, last week. Reading this online? Sign up here to get this delivered to your inbox.

When Prince Charles stepped up to take part in a drum dance Thursday in Yellowknife, it came as something of a surprise to some of those there.

“Nobody thought he would, but he did have a dance once around, and that shows that he does care and wants to help,” Fred Sangris, Yellowknives Dene First Nation chief for Ndilǫ, told CBC News Network.

Sangris said he and other leaders spoke with Charles about reconciliation, residential schools, the Giant Mine remediation project and a lack of housing. 

“I think he understood. He was really attentive, listening to our concerns.”

The drum dance and that time spent with the leaders came as Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, were on the final day of their three-day visit to Canada. The whistlestop tour was part of efforts to mark Queen Elizabeth’s Platinum Jubilee and 70 years as monarch and took the couple from St. John’s to Ottawa and, finally, the Northwest Territories.

Prince Charles and Camilla attend a ceremony in the Heart Garden at Government House in St. John’s on Tuesday. (Paul Daly/The Canadian Press)

There were many serious moments, as Charles and Camilla attended events and spoke with people about issues ranging from climate change to Indigenous concerns, which Charles acknowledged in a speech Thursday.

“Our visit has enabled us to deepen our understanding of this important moment in Canada’s journey,” he said.

“It has been deeply moving to have met survivors of residential schools who, with such courage, have shared their experiences. On behalf of my wife and myself, I want to acknowledge their suffering and to say how much our hearts go out to them and their families. All leaders have shared with me the importance of advancing reconciliation in Canada.”

There were lighter times, too, such as when Charles met a life-size woolen bust of his own face, which was part of efforts to promote wool and its sustainability. He and Camilla also pulled a couple of pints of beer at the Quidi Vidi Brewery in St. John’s.

Ahead of the visit, there had been some discussion about how much interest there would be in the tour, given its relatively short duration, along with the discussion such visits typically generate around the relevance and future of the monarchy.

In this case, wherever Charles and Camilla went, they were welcomed.

Prince Charles meets and greets local residents at the National War Memorial in Ottawa on Wednesday. (Chris Jackson/Getty Images)

“What stood out for me was that Charles and Camilla were warmly received everywhere they travelled,” Toronto-based royal author and historian Carolyn Harris said in an interview Friday. 

Harris, who noted that the visit had “a very strong emphasis on listening to Canadians from all walks of life,” said she was also struck by “how topical the itinerary was,” with a focus on Indigenous reconciliation, climate change and sustainable financing, along with time spent meeting with Ukrainian Canadians.

During their time in Ottawa, Charles and Camilla visited the ByWard Market. As they met and spoke with local farmers and entrepreneurs, they “very much seemed to be in their element,” Harris said. 

Whether the way in which this tour unfolded, and how Charles and Camilla were received, will influence future royal visits remains to be seen. 

“Certainly, a longer tour would have enabled them to visit more regions of the country and engage with even more people,” Harris said, “so there’ll be interest in seeing what subsequent royal tours look like and whether they remain very short and targeted like this one, or whether we’ll see some slightly longer tours in the future.” 

Prince Charles and Camilla take part in a traditional prayer service at a Ukrainian church in Ottawa on Wednesday. (Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press)

For his part, Charles seemed struck by what he and Camilla experienced, and said they “greatly appreciated the warmth and hospitality.”

“When we began our journey in St. John’s earlier this week — and in marking the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee by celebrating the spirit of people and service — our great hope was that we might listen to and learn from Canadians directly,” he said during his speech Thursday.

“This hope has been more than fulfilled. We have treasured beyond words the way that so many people have shared with us their experiences, their ideas and their example.”

He said they will remain “in close touch,” including through the Canadian organizations he and Camilla are affiliated with. 

“Above all, we will be closely following the next chapter in this country’s remarkable story — and doing so with the greatest affection and admiration for everything that Canada and Canadians stand for in the world.”

Day by day

Camilla smiles as she meets students while visiting Assumption Elementary School in Vanier, Ont., on Wednesday. (Carlos Osorio/The Canadian Press)

Here’s a roundup of CBC coverage of the royal visit over the past few days:

  • In St. John’s on Tuesday, the royal couple visited the provincial legislature, the lieutenant-governor’s residence and picturesque Quidi Vidi Village during a 4½-hour tour that encompassed themes from the sombre to the celebratory.

  • Ottawa on Wednesday marked the longest stop on the visit, and saw Prince Charles and Camilla tour a city he recently called “the much-storied capital at the heart of a great nation.”

  • In the Northwest Territories on Thursday, a pair of Yellowknives Dene First Nation councillors said Prince Charles and Camilla were very polite and interested in learning about Dene culture.

Prince Charles visits the now-melting Dettah Ice Road on Thursday. The ice road, which connects Yellowknife and Dettah via Great Slave Lake in the winter, typically opens in late December, but in recent years that has been delayed until early January. (Jacob King/Getty Images)

Royal visits inevitably prompt discussion and debate over the monarchy and its future. Here’s some CBC coverage on that from the past week or so:

WATCH | Why it would be so hard to ditch Canada’s constitutional monarchy:

Why ditching Canada’s constitutional monarchy is nearly impossible

Andrew Chang explores the challenging process for Canada to sever its ties with the British monarchy and the implications it would have on Indigenous communities across the country.

A surprise appearance

Queen Elizabeth visits Paddington Station in central London on Tuesday to mark the completion of London’s Crossrail project, ahead of the opening of the new Elizabeth Line rail service this coming week. (Andrew Matthews/AFP/Getty Images)

Public appearances by Queen Elizabeth have been rare in recent months, so it came as a surprise when the 96-year-old was on hand this week to officially open a subway line in central London named in her honour.

Health and mobility issues have been limiting her official appearances outside her residences. Last week, Prince Charles took her place reading the Queen’s speech for the state opening of the British Parliament.

But the Queen was seen last weekend at the Royal Windsor Horse Show, and there are reports she hopes to attend the Chelsea Flower Show in London this coming week.

Attention will also focus in early June on how many events she will be able to attend during the long weekend marking her Platinum Jubilee.

  • Do you have plans to mark the Platinum Jubilee, either in Canada or the U.K.? Drop an email to The Royal Fascinator. We’ll follow up in the next newsletter.

Royally quotable

“We must listen to the truth of the lived experiences of Indigenous peoples, and we should work to understand better their pain and suffering. We all have a responsibility to listen, understand and act in ways that foster relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples in Canada.” 

— Prince Charles, during a speech Thursday in Yellowknife, as he and Camilla wrapped up their visit.

Prince Charles shakes hands with local representatives Thursday before departing from Yellowknife for the U.K. after the three-day visit to Canada. (Chris Jackson/Getty Images)

Royal reads

  1. The art and photography that have depicted Queen Elizabeth throughout her 70 years as monarch reveal some interesting truths, author Holly Williams writes for the BBC.

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