Why Victoria is the perfect place to begin the royal tour

For many reasons, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge will find special significance in Victoria


The Duke and the Duchess of Cambridge wave to the crowds as they take part in a ceremony at the National War Memorial in Ottawa on Thursday, June 30, 2011. (Sean Kilpatrick/CP)

The Duke and the Duchess of Cambridge at the National War Memorial in Ottawa on Thursday, June 30, 2011. (Sean Kilpatrick/CP)

When Prince William, his wife Kate and their children land in Victoria on Saturday aboard a Royal Canadian Air Force helicopter, the future king and queen will survey the city that has more connections to the monarchy than any other place in Canada.

Parts of the city named in 1844 after Prince William’s great, great, great, great-grandmother Queen Victoria still resemble a slice of England, complete with Tudor-style mansions and double-decker buses painted with the Union Jack.

In Victoria’s inner harbour, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge will see two of the city’s most prominent landmarks — the Fairmont Empress Hotel, named after Queen Victoria’s additional title Empress of India, and the provincial parliament buildings, both of which were built by British architect Francis Rattenbury.

Monique Goffinet Miller, a Victoria-based spokeswoman for the Monarchist League of Canada, said the city is abuzz as many residents and tourists of all ages prepare to stake out a place on the lawn of the legislature building for a ceremony on Saturday to welcome the Royal Family.

“The lights of the B.C. legislature building are there because they were lit for the diamond jubilee of Queen Victoria and they’ve been burning ever since,” she said of the site’s significance. “It was meant to look like Her Majesty’s crown.”

The royal couple and their children Prince George and Princess Charlotte will be based in Victoria for their week-long tour of the province and Yukon.

Royal Roads University and Royal Jubilee Hospital are some of the local names reflecting the city’s British heritage, though a large wave of British immigrants did not move there until the late 1890s, said Prof. John Lutz, who teaches history at the University of Victoria.

“They really had to work hard to maintain a kind of connection to Britain and they partly did that by naming and claiming,” he said of local officials.

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II/Royal Collection Trust

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II/Royal Collection Trust

With the economy in the doldrums around the First World War, Victoria reinvented itself as “more British than the British” to attract visitors, Lutz said.

In the last decade, with Victoria’s population becoming increasingly diverse, the city has shifted its identity to focus on the heritage of its indigenous people, he said.

Their legacy will be a focal point for Prince William and Kate at the welcome ceremony, where Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his wife Sophie Gregoire Trudeau will also be present.

The royal couple and various dignitaries will be feted to a performance by traditional dancers from the Songhees Nation and singers and dancers from the Esquimalt Nation, signifying a historical bond between First Nations and the Crown.

“When treaties were made they weren’t made with the local officials, but with Queen Victoria,” Lutz said of the monarch who reigned from 1837 to 1901 and is considered the mother of the British Empire.

“Still to this day you’ll see First Nations arguing they’re not going to negotiate with the province because the province doesn’t really have the authority. They want to negotiate with the federal government because it’s the federal government that represents the queen.”

On Saturday, Prince William and his wife will also lay a wreath at the cenotaph in front of the legislature to honour Canada’s military service, and the prince will address Canadians.

The Royal Family has a long history of involvement in the Royal Navy and because Victoria is the home of Canada’s Pacific fleet, their acknowledgment of Canadians’ sacrifices is all the more significant, said Prof. Mariel Grant of the University of Victoria, where she is an expert on the monarchy’s influence in modern times.

Prince William is a pilot with the East Anglian Air Ambulance service and served as a search-and-rescue pilot with the military until 2013.

“He will become king of Canada in time and it’s very important for him and his family to become acquainted with this part of the world.”

Prince William last visited British Columbia on holiday in 1998 with his brother, Prince Harry, and his father, Prince Charles, the heir apparent to the queen.


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