Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, arrive in St. John's tonight for an 11-day tour of Canada billed by the federal government as a thematic representation of Canadians' sense of place and identity.
It is the Prince of Wales's 15th visit to Canada and his wife's first - and the place-and-identity motif the Department of Canadian Heritage has come up with actually fits with their itinerary.
Heritage Minister James Moore calls the 12-city, four-province tour "a celebration of Canadian innovation, community building, national pride, and presence on the world stage."
Nothing they're being asked to do is stuffy and formal except possibly meeting with premiers and the Prince's presentation of new colours - battle honours - to the three reserve regiments of which he is colonel-in-chief, two in Toronto and one in Montreal.
The government's chief tour organizer, Kevin MacLeod, the Canadian Secretary to the Queen, is a royal-visit pro.
He was one of the masterminds in 2002 behind getting the Queen, guided by Wayne Gretzky, to drop the puck for a ceremonial NHL face-off in Vancouver as a giant gold EIIR flashed on the JumboTron screen atop an "I Am Canadian" beer logo.
What the couple will do
Prince Charles and the Duchess will visit historic, preserved Newfoundland outports, green ventures on sustainable urbanization, sustainable fishing and local food production, architectural conservation projects, a botanical garden, educational institutions, cultural facilities and programs for student entrepreneurs, socially responsible business and holistic health, all things the Prince is interested in. In fact, his website stresses that much of what he'll be doing in Canada meshes with projects he gives his patronage to in Britain, which is something his Canadian friends, Galen and Hilary Weston, have tried to encourage.
The couple will visit Vancouver's Olympic and Paralympic Village, tour the headquarters of Cirque du Soleil in Montreal, celebrate the navy - 100 years old in 2010 - and meet privately with the families of soldiers serving and fallen in Afghanistan wherever the itinerary permits.
Prince Charles also will take part in the Remembrance Day ceremony at Ottawa's National War Memorial, an event which Mr. MacLeod said Prime Minister Stephen Harper particularly wanted the Prince here for.
The full itinerary is at http://www.visiteroyale-royalvisit.gc.ca
Prince Charles will give four speeches - in St. John's, Victoria, Toronto and Ottawa - and make "remarks" when he meets with his regiments in Toronto and Montreal.
He writes his own speeches but, by custom, submits draft copies in advance to Canadian government officials "to ensure accuracies," says Canadian Heritage, "such as historical background information." It's also to make sure he doesn't get into hot water: the Prince has been outspoken on climate change, not an issue that tops the Canadian government's agenda.
The Prince's late first wife, Diana, and his former sister-in-law, Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York, carried out many engagements on their own when they visited Canada. They were young, vivacious and there was intense public interest in seeing them. The Duchess of Cornwall, in contrast, will have only two engagements on her own during the visit. She'll tour the recently refurbished Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto and meet with conservatory students and visit a mobile osteoporosis facility in Vancouver.
In Hamilton, the Prince and Duchess will visit Dundurn Castle, built by the Duchess's great-great-great-grandfather, Sir Allan MacNab, premier of United Canada from 1854-56 and a rather unprincipled businessman who declared, "All my politics are Railroad" and who was suspected of extortion. He was still alive when Charles's great-great-grandfather, Prince Albert Edward, later King Edward VII, visited Dundurn Castle in 1860.
The GG rumours
With recent reports that Michaëlle Jean has intimated on her website that she, not the Queen, is head of state, there were bound to be stories that the Governor-General is busy undermining the monarchy.
Rumour 1: That Ms. Jean broke with convention and did not invite the Prince and Duchess to stay at her Rideau Hall residence. Not true. That's where they're staying.
Rumour 2: That Ms. Jean has never mentioned Prince Charles's mother, the Queen, in a speech. Not true. She has mentioned the Queen four times in the 574 speeches she has delivered since her inauguration in 2005.
To scotch Rumour 3 before it starts: If anyone notices that Ms. Jean takes protocol preference over the Prince at the Nov. 11 Remembrance Day ceremony in the capital, it's because she symbolizes the Queen.
Swine flu behaviour
The Prince and Duchess will not curtail handshaking. Mr. MacLeod said by convention there is no discussion of medical treatment given members of the Royal Family, therefore there would be no comment on whether the Prince and Duchess had been vaccinated.
Neither is in a primary target group. Prince Charles will celebrate his 61st birthday two days after he leaves Canada on Nov. 14. The Duchess turned 62 in July.
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