top of page

1951::Princess Elizabeth and Prince Phillip Visit Vancouver Island, British Columbia

Updated: Mar 21

Before the Princess became Queen, the young royal couple made their first visit to Vancouver Island.


1951::The Royal Couple Arrive in Victoria's Harbour on the H.M.C.S. Crusader

"1951::The Royal Couple Arrive in Victoria's Harbour on the H.M.C.S. Crusader"

Photo Clip: The Illustrated London News (1951) London, England


On October 21, 1951, two Indian war canoes led the H.M.C.S. Crusader into Victoria's Inner Harbour. On board the Canadian warship was the young royal couple, Princess Elizabeth and her husband, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. They had spent most of their sail from Vancouver on the ship's bridge, watching the rain as it poured down on the coast. It was a dark and dismal day. But in a strange occurrence, as the ship docked, the rain suddenly stopped, the setting sun broke through the clouds, and a rainbow appeared over the harbour. It was a welcome sight for the 60,000 people who had lined the streets of Victoria, hoping to catch a glimpse of the British royals who had charmed their way across the country on their first Royal Tour of Canada. Their island visit marked the halfway point of their tour, and their tour marked Elizabeth's last full tour as a Princess before ascending to the throne.


1951::A Royal Salute on Victoria's Inner Harbour

"1951::A Royal Salute on Victoria's Inner Harbour"

Photo Clip: Sunday Times Magazine (1951)

Victoria, British Columbia


As the Prince and Princess disembarked from the ship, the Royal Canadian Navy boomed a West Coast welcome with cannons that lined Victoria's causeway. It was the first royal visit to Vancouver Island since Elizabeth's parents, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, in 1939.


1951::The Princess at Victoria's Parliament Buildings

"1951::The Princess at Victoria's Parliament Buildings"

Photo Clip: Sunday Times Magazine (1951)

Victoria, British Columbia


As the crowd cheered and the bagpipes played, the royal couple offered smiles to everyone as they climbed the steps of Victoria's Parliament Buildings. But it soon became apparent that they were exhausted. Their Royal Tour of Canada had brought them face-to-face with 4 million people in 34 cities and towns in just two weeks. It was time for a break. With the help of the press, the royal couple quietly arranged a private 3-day getaway before leaving Vancouver Island to continue with their official engagements.


1951::A Royal Gathering of Chiefs and Indian Bands at Thunderbird Park in Victoria, BC

"1951::A Royal Gathering of Chiefs and Indian Bands at Thunderbird Park in Victoria, British Columbia"

Photo Clip: The Illustrated London News (1951) London, England


With the welcome speeches out of the way, the royal couple was treated to a special event. Vancouver Island's First Nations people welcomed the royal pair with songs and dance at Victoria's new Thunderbird Park. Representatives from Port Alberni, Songhees, Nanaimo, Cowichan, Beecher Bay, Esquimalt, Sooke, Saanich and the Malahat delivered a memorable performance. In full traditional dress, they performed the Headdress Dance, the Hummingbird Dance and the Sea Serpent Dance before closing with a farewell song. The royal couple later admitted that it was a highlight of their tour.


1951::Official Royal Engagements

"1951::Official Royal Engagements"

Photo Clip: (tbd)


When the welcoming ceremony ended, the royals left Victoria's Parliament Buildings in their Cadillac convertible and retired at the Government House. The following day, they spent time at the Veteran's Hospital and inspected Esquimalt's dockyard. Their visit to Royal Roads College in Colwood was cut short due to rain. In her luncheon speech at The Empress Hotel, the Princess expressed how much they had enjoyed meeting so many people and that she intended to travel more than any other British sovereign when crowned Queen of England.


1951::The Royal Getaway Retreat at Eagle Crest Lodge in Qualicum Beach, Vancouver Island

"1951::The Royal Getaway Retreat at Eagle Crest Lodge in Qualicum Beach, Vancouver Island"

Photo Clip: (tbd)


When their official engagements were over, the royal couple made their getaway escape for some private time and asked the press to allow them three days of rest without interruption. With Prince Philip at the wheel of a borrowed car, they drove almost 200 kilometres north to the Eagle Crest Lodge in Qualicum Beach and spent time alone for three restful nights.


1951::Fifty-Five Newsmen at The Empress Hotel in Victoria, British Columbia

"1951::Fifty-Five Newsmen at The Empress Hotel in Victoria, British Columbia"

Photo Clip: Victoria Daily Times (1951) Victoria, British Columbia


The press had already covered so much of the Royal Canadian Tour that they agreed to give the royal couple time to rest. Fifty-five newsmen, including reporters, radio men, photographers, and communication experts, were doing their best to keep themselves busy when several unexpected communiqués arrived at their makeshift headquarters at The Empress Hotel. The communiqués, which outlined how the Prince and Princess spent their time in Qualicum Beach, were a gift from the vacationing royal couple to the press, who had been respecting their time alone.


1951::The Rainy Escape to Qualicum Beach

"1951::The Rainy Escape to Qualicum Beach"

Clip: The Calgary Herald (1951)

Calgary, Alberta


The royal couple wasn't alone on their solo drive. Two official cars followed them, each vehicle equipped with a two-way radio to keep in touch. As they drove the Island Highway, the royal entourage made unofficial stops at Duncan, Ladysmith, Parksville and Port Alberni before settling in at the Eagle Crest Lodge in Qualicum Beach. Prince Philip spent hours fishing in the rain with his new rod and tackle that he had received as a departing gift from Victoria and warmed his bones next to the enormous fireplace of the lodge. On their final day, the royal couple watched lumberjacks top 125-foot Douglas Fir trees, a process that fascinated Prince Philip. After a quick conversation with the brave loggers, the royals prepared for their long trip home.


1951::The Royal Couple Motoring Away from the Canadian National Dock in Vancouver, British Columbia

"1951::The Royal Couple Motoring Away from the Canadian National Dock in Vancouver, British Columbia"

Photo Clip: The Vancouver Daily Province (1951) Vancouver, British Columbia

Photographer: Eric Cable


At the end of their three-day retreat, the royal couple spent their last official visit on Vancouver Island with the people of Nanaimo.

1951::Royal Route to New Westminster

They signed the guestbook at City Hall and boarded the H.M.C.S. Crusader, waiting in Nanaimo's harbour to return them to the mainland. Thousands had gathered at Vancouver's Canadian National Railway Dock at the bottom of Main Street to see them off. It was estimated that nearly 100,000 people lined the royal route as the Princess and her Prince made their way to New Westminster, where the Royal Train was waiting to return them to the East Coast.


1951::A Map of Princess Elizabeth's First Royal Tour of Canada

"1951::A Map of Princess Elizabeth's First Royal Tour of Canada"

Clip: The Illustrated London News (1951)

London, England


The Royal Train stopped in as many towns and cities as possible along the Canadian Pacific Railway line. When it reached Montreal, the royal couple snuck away on a 45-hour detour to Washington, D.C., where President Truman and his wife accompanied them on a tour of their nation's capital.


1951::King George VI and Queen Elizabeth With their Grandchildren

"1951::King George VI and Queen Elizabeth With their Grandchildren"

Clip: Illustrated London News (1951) London, England


On November 14, 1951, little Prince Charles was celebrating his third birthday in the company of his grandparents when this famous photo was taken. It was King George VI's first photo since having surgery weeks before his daughter left on her Royal Canadian Tour. Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip returned to England from Canada just days after the photo was taken. King George VI died weeks later, on February 6, 1952, and his daughter Elizabeth took the throne. Queen Elizabeth II was coronated in June of that year and became Britain's longest-reigning monarch. She died on September 8, 2022, less than two years after the death of her husband, Prince Philip. She was 96 years old.


Related Posts

See All

Comments


Commenting has been turned off.
bottom of page