The recent passing and funeral of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, in many respects, marks the end of an era. Originally Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark, had a distinguished record of active service (including combat) in the Second World War as an officer in the Royal Navy.
He and Queen Elizabeth II were married for more than 73 years. For the last 69 years, since Elizabeth ascended to the throne, he has been the Prince Consort. To use Queen Elizabeth’s famous quote, Philip was “quite simply been my strength and stay all these years.”
Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip made many trips to Canada. Since Philip had a particular attachment to Canada, he made nearly four dozen visits to this country on his own. However, when Queen Elizabeth made a visit to Red Deer on June 28, 1990, to officially open the paediatrics ward at the Red Deer Regional Hospital, Phillip was not with her.
The first royal visit to Red Deer occurred almost 110 years ago on Sept. 5, 1912. His Royal Highness, Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught and Strathern, made a formal visit to the community. He was accompanied by the Duchess of Connaught and their daughter, Princess Patricia, after whom the famous Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry regiment is named.
Prince Arthur was the third eldest son of Queen Victoria. Victoria had not only been the reigning monarch until her death in 1901, but had also become the symbol of the British Empire at its height. Moreover, Prince Arthur was the Governor General of Canada from 1911 to 1916.
The Town of Red Deer went to considerable effort and expense to prepare for the royal visit. Business owners throughout the downtown area filled their front windows with patriotic displays. They also mounted flags and bunting on their buildings. A special reception pavilion was constructed in the public park in front of the CPR station.
Unfortunately, heavy rain that day put an end to all of the outdoor events. The waiting room in the new CPR station was turned into an impromptu reception hall. Moreover, because of the wet weather and recent illness, the Duchess of Connaught decided to stay on the train on which the Royal party had arrived. Thus, only Prince Arthur and Princess Patricia disembarked to meet the large crowds who were crammed into the station, or else stood enthusiastically in the rain for a glimpse of the Royals.
Prince Arthur, in his capacity as Chief Scout of Canada, made a formal presentation of colours to the Red Deer Boy Scout troop. Unfortunately, it is unknown what eventually happened to those historic colours.
In late May and early June, 1939, King George VI and his wife, Queen Elizabeth, made a highly successful cross-country tour of Canada. On June 2, when the King and Queen stopped in Edmonton, it was estimated at more than half of the population of Red Deer went up in hopes of catching a glimpse of the couple.
The next royal tour took place during the Second World War. On August 13, 1941, His Royal Highness, Prince George, the Duke of Kent and brother to King George VI, made a very brief ten-minute stop at Red Deer’s CP railroad station. The Prince was making a whirlwind tour of Air Force training bases across Canada to boost the war effort.
On July 26, 1980, Her Royal Highness, Princess Margaret, sister of Queen Elizabeth, made an official visit to Red Deer to help celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Province of Alberta. There was a short reception at City Hall followed by a luncheon at the Capri Centre. The first Princess Margaret Scholarship in the Fine and Performing Arts was presented as part of the ceremonies. The Royal party departed by helicopter to Joffre for a tour of the Alberta Gas Ethylene plant, and then on to Edmonton.
There has not been a Royal visit to our community since June 1998. The Queen and Prince Philip did visit Alberta in May 2005 as part of the celebrations of the centennial of the province. During that visit, then-premier Ralph Klein announced that Highway Two was being renamed Queen Elizabeth II Highway.
Red Deer historian Michael Dawe’s column appears Wednesdays.