Prince Charles and his wife Camilla’s plane touched down under sunny skies in Fredericton Sunday evening for the beginning of a three-day, whirlwind visit to celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.
For some, the trip is seen as a way for the longest serving king-in-waiting in British history to reconnect with the Commonwealth. Others say the couple has been overshadowed by the next generation of the Royal Family: the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, whose visit to North America last summer seemed almost an extension of their honeymoon, both with each other and the wider world.
In some ways, Prince Charles, 63, will seek to follow in the footsteps of his son, by reaching out to young Canadians and projecting himself as a modern royal. He will stress the historical connection between the Royal Family and Canada, but he will also attempt to strike a note of “practicality” by seeking to demonstrate how the Royal Family is relevant to the Commonwealth today.
Some of his favourite causes – the environment, and helping underprivileged children – will figure into this visit. The couple’s itinerary also includes time spent with young entrepreneurs and meetings with families of Canadian soldiers who have died in service.
Their trip is also an implicit reminder of Prince Charles’s role in the succession at a time when much of the focus seems to have shifted to his eldest son and his bride.
For Prince Charles, this trip to Canada is a homecoming of sorts as he is visiting troops Monday at CFB Gagetown, where he trained briefly as a young naval officer in 1975.
The couple was most recently in Canada in 2009 and this is the fourth tour in the last four years by members of the Royal Family. The theme of this visit is about honouring service – the Queen’s service to the country and individual acts of service by Canadians.
The itinerary tomorrow touches on two tenets that Prime Minister Stephen Harper has been promoting as making up the Canadian fabric – the monarchy’s importance to the country, and the military.
“We are pleased that Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall are touring Canada to mark Her Majesty’s Diamond Jubilee,” said Andrew MacDougall, Mr. Harper’s spokesman.
“Canada’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations are meant to recognize the outstanding contributions of regular Canadians in communities across Canada and the Royal Tour will help bring those contributions to light,” he added.
Altogether, 60,000 Diamond Jubilee medals have been cast to award to Canadians, with about a dozen of the medals to be given out during the couple’s visit. The rest will be given out throughout the Diamond Jubilee year.
After their arrival in Fredericton Sunday night, the Duchess commented on the warm weather to one of the dignitaries who greeted her. She said it was much better here than back in Britain.
As did her daughter-in-law, Catherine, last year, Camilla arrived wearing a navy blue dress. The designer is Anna Valentine.
But even though this visit is a celebration of the Diamond Jubilee, it is not expected to attract the same interest as the visit last year by William and Catherine, who made Canada their first overseas visit as a married couple.
This time around, there are 500 accredited media, nine of whom are from Britain and 11 from the international press. Last year, there were 1,400 journalists who covered William and Catherine’s every move, including more than 100 from the United Kingdom.
This visit will take the couple from CFB Gagetown to Saint John and then on to Ontario and Saskatchewan.
“It’s an opportunity to really showcase New Brunswick and at the same time to honour the Queen and 60 wonderful years as really head of Canada. We’re really pleased they’ve chosen to start their tour of Canada here in New Brunswick,” said David Alward, Premier of New Brunswick. He noted the Prince had not visited the province since 1996.
It was a beautiful evening as they departed the aircraft, greeted by federal Fisheries Minister Keith Ashfield, who is the MP for Fredericton, and Lieutenant-Governor Graydon Nicholas.
In anticipation of the couple’s arrival, some beautification had taken place outside the Fredericton airport. Striking PSAC workers, who have been off the job for the past 15 weeks, were nowhere in sight. Their portable toilet had also been removed.
Kaitlyn Tozer, 11, who was diagnosed with a brain tumour in 2010, gave the Duchess a bouquet of flowers. Later, the little girl was too star struck to speak to journalists.
This was considered an “administrative” welcome. The official welcome to Canada takes place Monday in CFB Gagetown, the military base just outside of Fredericton, with Governor-General David Johnston, his wife, Sharon, Premier Alward and Heritage Minister James Moore.
The Prince will speak at this event, which also includes a 21-gun salute.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper will not meet up with the royal couple until Tuesday in Toronto. He is at the NATO summit in Chicago.
However, the Prime Minister and Prince Charles will sit down for a face-to-face meeting on Wednesday. The topic of their conversation is not being disclosed.
The Governor-General will also meet separately with the Prince.
With a report from The Canadian Press