ST. JOHN’S, N.L. — A seven-year-old boy whose father was killed in Afghanistan reached up to the Duchess of Cornwall, put his arms around her neck and kissed her at a ceremony Wednesday to remember Newfoundland and Labrador’s war dead.
Camilla was delighted by the spontaneous show of affection from Matthew Lucas, whose father, Sgt. Donald Lucas of St. John’s, was among six Canadian soldiers killed by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan on April 8, 2007.
Matthew gave a pin to Prince Charles but explained that he couldn’t give him the General Campaign Star he had pinned to his chest.
It was “my Dad’s,” he said.
“It’s real gold,” he assured Charles as his mother, Natasha, and four-year-old sister, Mackenzie, stood nearby.
It was part of a moving ceremony that also saw Charles lay a wreath at the province’s National War Memorial before the couple departed for Toronto to begin the Ontario leg of their 11-day Canadian tour.
The royal couple arrived at Pearson International Airport, just outside Toronto, disembarking from the aircraft just as it was beginning to drizzle and shaking the hands of dignitaries waiting in a row to meet the royal couple.
The dignitaries included Lt.-Gov. David Onley and Premier Dalton McGuinty, with whom Prince Charles and Camilla then had a half-hour private meeting.
They parted ways after, with Camilla attending a performance by three young musicians at the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto and Charles meeting with business leaders to discuss social responsibility.
His motorcade momentarily shut down one of Toronto’s busiest streets, with a handful of bystanders watching as the prince stepped out of his black car and was ushered into the building.
“I’m not the type of person who will follow when they’re coming and when they’re leaving as far as wanting to be present, but I happen to be here, so it’s a good opportunity”, said Wanda Lyons, who works in the building but slipped outside to get a glimpse of royalty.
Charles also presented the Heritage Canada Foundation’s Prince of Wales Prize for Municipal Heritage Leadership to Stephen Mandel, the mayor of Edmonton.
Later Charles and Camilla were to attend a reception hosted by the province of Ontario.
The royal couple arrived earlier Wednesday at Newfoundland and Labrador’s Government House to carry out a royal tradition that dates back to 1939. That was the year King George VI visited with Queen Elizabeth, later known as the Queen Mum, and planted oak trees in a province that was then a self-governing dominion of the British empire.
Charles and Camilla kept up the ritual, each taking turns shovelling dirt, sprinkling water and tapping the trunks of two young oak saplings.
Newfoundland and Labrador Lt.-Gov. John Crosbie turned heads in a sealskin coat as he squired the royals around St. John’s.
He said he wore the striking coat, which once belonged to St. John’s entrepreneur Craig Dobbin, because it was a gift from a friend.
“The governor general the other night, when she saw it, was very taken by it. And I said: ’Well, you eat the product and I’m wearing it.’ I think she got a kick out of that.”
Gov. Gen. Michaelle Jean made international headlines this summer when she helped carve a seal and ate part of its heart in support of the traditional aboriginal hunt.
Crosbie said the royals seemed to like the jacket, noting that they love animals but also appreciate that cows have to be killed to make roast beef.
Camilla took some flak from animal rights critics for wearing a real rabbit-fur scarf Tuesday to fight the damp chill of a rainy day.
Crosbie declared the royal visit a success, despite thin crowds, because he said people felt like they actually had a chance to see the prince and meet Camilla, up close and personal.
The couple will make several stops in Ontario, British Columbia and Montreal before ending their tour Nov. 12 in Ottawa.
This is their first visit to Canada as a married couple.