She wowed them in Saint John, N.B., tickling and cooing over babies, shaking hands, and accepting bouquets of flowers. Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, really worked the crowd.
On Monday, hundreds lined the historic Prince William Street in Canada’s first incorporated city to get a glimpse of Prince Charles and Camilla and to help them celebrate the Victoria Day holiday. It was one of several stops the royal couple made in New Brunswick before arriving at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport Monday evening and then heading to a fireworks display in the city’s east end, where they were greeted by Toronto Mayor Rob Ford and Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty.
The three-day tour is Camilla’s second royal visit to Canada, and an opportunity to make an impression after her initial visit with Charles fell mostly flat. The 2009 trip, which lasted 11 days and included four provinces, drew sparse crowds and was marred by anti-monarchist protests in Montreal.
No one expects Charles and Camilla to generate the kind of excitement that surrounded last year’s visit by William and Catherine, who made Canada their first overseas trip as a married couple, but there is some hope this one will be a greater success for the heir-apparent and his wife.
Officials chose well in beginning the Prince and Duchess’s three-day tour of Canada in New Brunswick, where crowds poured out onto the streets under bright sunny skies. And clearly, the Harper government, which has made a point of promoting the monarchy, is pleased: “As long as we keep doing events like this, the public comes out, I think there is a great deal of interest still obviously in the royal family,” Heritage Minister James Moore said.
This time around, Camilla has her walkabouts down to an art. For her first appearance Monday at CFB Gagetown, she was wearing a blue and white hat to match her Bruce Oldfield-designed coat. By the time she arrived in Saint John, she was hatless and had changed into a sleek printed dress and tan jacket by yet another British designer, Fiona Claire. She sported the same outfit for her arrival in Toronto Monday evening.
Nine-year-old Morgan Marie Fremlin, who handed the Duchess a bouquet of flowers as she stepped off the plane Monday evening in Toronto, said she was excited to have a chance to meet the royal couple. “She said thank you for the wonderful flowers,” Morgan said, adding, “I felt very nervous, but very excited.”
She added that the Prince asked her if she had bundled the flowers together herself, and chuckled along with her when she told him she had not.
The couple is in Canada to celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and are promoting the theme of service during their visit.
Although the Duchess took more time on the walkabouts with the crowd than her reserved husband, Prince Charles surprised everyone when he jumped into a ball hockey game at a local school they were visiting.
He even managed to score against the kids – reminiscent of his son, William, who last year on his tour of Canada played street hockey in Yellowknife. William’s game was scheduled; Charles’s was not.
By the time he was finished the hockey match and unveiled another plaque, the Prince was looking sunburned. He had been out all day in the hot New Brunswick sun, beginning in the morning by inspecting an honour guard, and speaking and awarding a Diamond Jubilee Medal to 13-year-old Marshall Howard, who promotes wearing red on Friday for the troops and raises money for military families.
In Toronto, Charles and Camilla rode into Ashbridge's Bay on a police boat Monday evening, where they were greeted by a select group of firefighters and other emergency responders.
After chatting with the crowd, many of whom held cell phones aloft to capture the event, the couple sat on lawn chairs alongside Mr. McGuinty and Mr. Ford to watch the Victoria Day fireworks.
The most moving event of the day, however, was the couple’s visit to Hazen White-St. Francis School, a kindergarten to Grade 8 school, located in a very poor part of Saint John. The school was nearly closed down in 2008 but parents, community leaders, businesses and the teachers helped to save it.
The Prince and Duchess toured inside the school, sampled fiddleheads and maple cake made by the students and met with the large crowd that gathered outside.
The school’s principal Jennifer Carhart was taken by surprise when she was awarded a Diamond Jubilee Medal by the Prince. New Brunswick Premier David Alward choked up when he described her work.
Later, she said the royal visit to the school that she has led for four years justifies all the hard work that the students, staff and community have put in.
As for her award, she said she was in shock. “It’s a great sense of recognition for me as well. I do what I do because I love what I do ... it’s the greatest honour you could get in return.”