Two years of pandemic caused such a delay in royal tours that the Windsors are seemingly everywhere as they make up for lost time celebrating the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee. But the tours are complex, guided by the competing interests of royalty, hosts, local communities and the media. There have already been some notable stumbles, most notably the ill-fated visit to the Caribbean in March by Prince William and Kate, Duchess of Cambridge.
Now it’s Canada’s turn, as Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, travel more than 3,000 kilometers across the country in three days. This tour, with its panel discussions and community events, is unlikely to spawn the spectacular photo ops that marked the Cambridges’ tour: they scaled Mayan pyramids and snorkeled a barrier reef. On the other hand, with its discreet and carefully calibrated “listen and learn” environment, it is unlikely to generate as many caustic comments about culturally insensitive royals. In fact, it seems designed to produce that result.
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It helps that royal trips to Canada are more frequent compared to other Commonwealth nations, which may see a trip every decade or so. This tour is Charles’s 19th, which means he’s been coming about every 2.5 years for half a century. Visiting often allows them to go places and do things that wouldn’t normally be considered “worthy of a royal visit,” such as a discussion on financing sustainability scheduled this week in Ottawa.
Still, it doesn’t take much to throw a tour off balance.
“Day one matters a lot more than day five,” says royal biographer Robert Hardman, who has been on more than 80 tours. In 2009, the media labeled youthe joint first Canadian tour by Charles and Camilla was a disappointment largely due to their first day, when a combination of miserable November weather and the choice of location (a small Newfoundland town called Cupids) resulted in scattered crowds greeting the couple It all made an uncomfortably stark contrast to the summer crowds that met Charles and Diana on their first visit in 1983.
The current tour takes place in the warmth of May. The first day in St. John’s is organized to offer photographic opportunities for the press, including a walk through the picturesque town of Quidi Vidi, northeast of the capital of Newfoundland. Unlike the Cambridge trip, which provided feedback on major events, this one begins with perhaps the most sensitive issue for the host nation: the harm inflicted on indigenous people by government policies, especially the horrors of the residential school system. In his speech at the official greeting on Tuesday, Charles said: “I have greatly appreciated the opportunity to discuss with the Governor General the vital process of reconciliation in this country.—it is not a one-time act, of course, but an ongoing commitment to healing, respect, and understanding.
“I know that our visit here this week comes at an important time.—with indigenous and non-indigenous peoples across Canada committing to reflect honestly and openly on the past and forge a new relationship for the future.”
Immediately afterwards, the prince and Camila I take part of a moment of reflection and prayer with indigenous leaders in the Garden of the Heart at Government House, which is dedicated to the memory of the children who suffered in the residential school system. It was the first in a series of indigenous-focused events on the tour.
That first day is crucial because narratives are hard to dislodge once established, which the Cambridges discovered when their week-long tour of the Caribbean ran up against well-known concerns and issues. William and Kate had not even arrived in Belize when protests by indigenous peoples led organizers to change the site of your first event. As the days passed, the media attention increased displaced from tour commitments to historical and social issues, including reparations for slavery, colonialism, racism and the current Windrush scandal, in which the British government wrongfully detained, denied benefits, and deported British subjects of Caribbean descent. In Jamaica, Prime Minister Andrew Holness flipped a photo shoot with the couple saying bluntly that they want their nation to “stop being a monarchy,” meaning to get rid of William’s grandmother as the country’s head of state.
By the time William broached the topics of slavery Y republicanism In two major speeches near the end of the tour, the visit was seen as an out-of-touch effort designed to promote the monarchy and Britain, notes Berthelsen, who has helped organize royal tours since 1978 in his previous roles as private secretary. to the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, and as a policy and program officer at Rideau Hall.
Instead, Ottawa made it clear from the start Press release that this tour was at the invitation of Canada, with Canadian goals and aspirations. Prime Minister justin trudeau and governor general Mary Simon reinforced that message with welcoming statements of support. In the countdown to the tour, the royals social media accounts have been dominated by information on Canadian tours, past and present.
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Gone are the overly formal performative tours of the past, notes Berthelsen. The focus now is on the shared concerns of Canada and the royals: environmental issues; royal charities and organizations; and, especially, issues important to indigenous communities. Before the royals arrived, Cassidy Caron, president of the Métis National Council, said that when he meets Charles in Ottawa, he will ask him or the Queen to apologize and offer reparations on behalf of the Crown for the trauma inflicted on residential schools. “It takes a lot of healing,” he told CBC News. (The royal visit comes just after the Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury offered his own apology in Saskatchewan and before Pope Francis expected do the same in July.)
On the third day of the visit, Charles is scheduled to meet with leaders of the Yellowknives Dene First Nation in Dettah, NWT. He will then speak with members of local communities about how climate change is affecting icy roads in winter and contributing to coastal erosion, while Camilla visits a school to learn how he is preserving wıìlıìdeh, a dialect of Tlicho idiom.
Nothing goes completely to plan on any royal tour. During William and Kate’s trip to British Columbia and the Yukon in 2016, Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of Indian Chiefs of BC announced that he would not attend a reconciliation ceremony due to the daily tragedies that the indigenous peoples were enduring. Then there was the Queen’s visit in 2002 which was criticized by then Deputy Prime Minister John Manley; a few days before officially escorting her to Ottawa, Manley told her reporters who opposed the monarchy.
One way Canada minimizes the risk of blatant embarrassment is to send royals only to provinces or territories where they are welcome and where there is an agreement between Ottawa and local authorities about tour stops, Berthelsen explains. That policy was established after the Queen 1964 trip to Quebec, which took place at the behest of the federal government, but saw nationalist protesters shout “Elizabeth, go home” and turn their backs on her.
At the end of their own short tour, Charles and Camilla fly back to Britain in an RCAF plane, knowing that they have successfully checked off the Canadian portion of their to-do list, at least for this Platinum Jubilee year.
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