Go to the Globe and Mail homepage

Jump to main navigationJump to main content

Carolyn Harris

The royal consort's royal request Add to ...

When the itinerary for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge's tour of Canada was announced, the British press immediately noted the influence of Kate Middleton over at least one aspect of the visit: As an unidentified palace source told the Daily Mail, the Duchess herself had expressed an interest in visiting Summerside, PEI, because she wished to see the settings of Lucy Maud Montgomery's famous Canadian novel, Anne of Green Gables.

"It is something of a sentimental journey," the source said "The book was Kate's favourite when she was growing up. The details of the Canadian tour are still being worked out, but she requested that Prince Edward Island be on their itinerary so she could see the house and places mentioned in the book." If this source is correct, it shows that, with the young couple's input, they are changing the way royal tours have traditionally been organized, and sheds light on Kate's previously little-known literary interests.

Previous royal tours provided few opportunities for sentimental journeys or the requests of the royal consort. When the Prince and Princess of Wales toured Canada in 1983, British reporter Harry Arnold, who covered the 18-day visit, said Princess Diana was "tired and fighting a brave battle against boredom." According to Mr. Arnold, the busy itinerary of museums, town halls, libraries and other historic institutions apparently reflected the interests of Prince Charles, his advisers and the Canadian government rather than Diana herself. The Queen's 22 visits to Canada have often coincided with seminal events in Canadian history, such as Expo 67 or the patriation of the Constitution, circumstances that shape the nature of her tours.

While the Queen has always seemed to be pleased with the itineraries of her Canadian visits, her husband, Prince Philip, has occasionally criticized the round of engagements he's expected to perform. "We don't come here for our health," he declared during a 1976 visit to Canada. "We can think of other ways of enjoying ourselves." If William and his advisers are involving Kate in the planning of their Canadian tour, it should ensure that the couple will regard their visit as a pleasure rather than a royal obligation. As a happy royal couple, able to tour sites of personal interest to them both, they will show Canadians that their marriage is united and successful, and that they are enthusiastic about the Crown's connection to Canada.

As for Kate's affinity for Prince Edward Island's most famous literary orphan, there at first appear to be few similarities between the famously composed and dutiful Duchess and the rebellious, hot-tempered Anne. The content of Ms. Montgomery's eight novels touching on Anne's childhood, coming of age and marriage to Gilbert Blythe, however, provides plenty of instances in which Anne and Kate seem to be kindred spirits.

In the novels, Anne delights in beautiful things. The young Anne wants to wear dresses with fashionable puffed sleeves and to find scope for the imagination in the natural world, while the adult Anne tries to find the inner beauty in the occasional unfriendly person she encounters as a teacher, principal and doctor's wife.

Kate has always been interested in art, spending part of her gap year between high school and university in Florence, reading art history in university and working as a photographer for her family's party supply business. As a public figure, she also helps shape her image through her clothing choices, and she appears comfortable interacting with people of all backgrounds.

Both Kate and Anne also had long courtships before their marriages. Kate dated William for almost a decade before becoming the Duchess of Cambridge at 29, while Anne marries Gilbert in Anne's House of Dreams at 25, although they have known each other since childhood. Kate and Anne have different personalities, but elements of their outlooks and experiences are similar. Kate's involvement in the planning of her Canadian visit and her affinity for Anne of Green Gables suggest the royal tour will be both enjoyable and productive for the royal couple and the many Canadians interested in their travels.

Carolyn Harris is a PhD candidate in history at Queen's University.

Follow us on Twitter: @GlobeDebate

 

In the know

Most popular video »

Highlights

More from The Globe and Mail

Most Popular Stories