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A Canfor pulp and paper mill in Prince George, B.C. (Dave Milne)
A Canfor pulp and paper mill in Prince George, B.C. (Dave Milne)

Royal baby's namesake city hopes to draw royal visit Add to ...

In 1994, the Queen came to Prince George to open the University of Northern British Columbia.

Nearly two decades later, some residents hope her great-grandson – and his royal parents – will make a visit of his own to the city that shares his name.

“We’ll be inviting the Duke, Duchess and Prince George to come visit the city in 2015,” Prince George Mayor Shari Green said on Wednesday, adding that the year will mark the city’s 100th anniversary and also the occasion of the city’s hosting the 2015 Canada Winter Games.

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“We’re hoping they’ll come and participate in that and bring their son with them. He’ll be about a year-and-a-half old, so that should be doable for them.”

Kensington Palace announced on Wednesday that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge named their son George Alexander Louis, confirming bookies’ speculation and generating considerable buzz in the city of Prince George, about 800 kilometres north Vancouver.

By midday, Ms. Green had fielded dozens of media calls and held rushed meetings with staff to discuss ways to celebrate the prince’s birth and to take advantage of a sudden global spotlight.

Along with installing a book for well-wishers to sign at city hall, city staff are putting together a small collection of Prince George-themed items to send to the royal baby. The city is also setting up an oversized crib to collect gifts of toys and clothing for needy families.

That initiative is in keeping with the social causes embraced by Catherine and Prince William and the fact that the newborn prince is more than likely to have enough clothes and toys of his own, Ms. Green said.

One item almost sure to make its way to the infant prince – or at least his household staff – is a miniature version of Mr. PG, an eight-metre-tall wooden mascot that was built in 1960 to symbolize the importance of forestry in the region and three years later was seen in the Grey Cup parade.

In coming days, Mr. PG might sport a diaper and sash in royal blue, Ms. Green said.

The naming of the royal baby is proving a lighthearted lift for the city, which was devastated in April, 2012, when an explosion at Lakeland Mills killed two people and injured 22 others.

A groundbreaking ceremony for a new mill was held earlier this week.

The city of Prince George, originally a fur trading post known as Fort George, got its current name when the railway company of the day – wanting to outplay land speculators – ran its tracks to a new site rather than through one of two rival town sites that had been vying for the route.

The site chosen by the railway company included the Fort George Indian Band Reserve and today’s city is on that land, where the Nechako and Fraser rivers meet. The Lheidli T’enneh First Nation, some of whose members were displaced when Prince George was created, are working with the city on ways to mark the 100th anniversary.

Fort George was named after King George III, sometimes known as mad King George, said John Swainger, a history professor at the University of Northern British Columbia.

After considerable research, Mr. Swainger believes the city of Prince George was named after the fourth son of King George V. That fourth son, Mr. Swainger says, was the Queen’s uncle.

Beyond the convoluted family tie, the city of Prince George can look to a history of royal visits, including the Queen in 1994 and Princess Margaret in 1958.

“This is a continuation of a developing line of royal connection for Prince George,” Mr. Swainger said.

Tyler Burbee, owner of the Copper Pig Barbeque in Prince George, welcomed the news, taking to Twitter to post a photo of a group of miniature Mr. PGs with the comment, “we are #royalbabies too!”

Follow on Twitter: @wendy_stueck

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