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

Updated: Sep 10, 2022

Before the Princess became Queen, the young royal couple made their first visit to the West Coast.

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

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

Photo Clip: The Illustrated London News (1951)

On October 21, 1951, two Indian war canoes escorted the H.M.C.S. Crusader into Victoria's Inner Harbour as night began to fall on the city. On board was the British 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 as the rain poured down on the coast. But in a strange occurrence, as the warship docked, the setting sun broke through the clouds and a rainbow formed over The Empress Hotel. It was a sight-to-see for the 60,000 people who had lined the streets of Victoria, hoping to catch a glimpse of the British royals who had just charmed their way across the country on their first Royal Tour of Canada.

1951::Royal Salute on Victoria's Inner Harbour

"Royal Salute on Victoria's Inner Harbour"

Photo Clip: Sunday Times Magazine (1951)

Cannons of the Royal Canadian Navy lined Victoria's Inner Harbour and boomed a royal welcome as Princess Elizabeth and her consort disembarked from their ship. Theirs was the first royal visit to Vancouver Island since Elizabeth's parents (King George VI and Queen Elizabeth) in 1939. The young royal couple's first visit also marked the turn-around point of their Royal Canadian Tour.

1951::The Princess at the Parliament Buildings in Victoria, British Columbia

"The Princess at the Parliament Buildings"

Photo Clip: Sunday Times Magazine (1951)

As the crowd cheered and the bagpipes played, the royal couple offered a smile to everyone as they climbed the stairs of Victoria's famous Parliament Buildings. But it soon became apparent to the cameras 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 two weeks. In a morning conversation with her hairdresser, the Princess admitted missing her two children, Charles and Anne. It was time for a break. With the help of the press, the royal couple arranged a private 3-day getaway on Vancouver Island before continuing on with their official engagements.

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

"A Royal Gathering of Chiefs and Indian Bands in Thunderbird Park in Victoria, BC"

Photo Clip: The Illustrated London News (1951)

With the official welcome speeches out of the way, the royal couple was treated to the most colourful event of their tour. 300 members of Vancouver Island's indigenous tribes welcomed the royal pair with songs and dance at Victoria's new Thunderbird Park. Tribal representatives from Port Alberni, Songhees, Nanaimo, Cowichan, Beecher Bay, Esquimalt, Sooke, Saanich and Malahat came together to deliver a memorable performance for the royal audience. 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::Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip leaving Victoria's Parliament Buildings for the Government House.

"Official Engagements"

Photo Clip: (tbd)

When the welcoming ceremony was over, the royals left Victoria's Parliament Buildings in their Cadillac convertible and retired at the Government House. The following day, the couple spent time with patients at the Veteran's Hospital and inspected Esquimalt's dockyard. They also inspected cadets at the new Royal Roads College in Colwood, but when the rain poured down, the inspection came to a sudden end. In her luncheon speech at The Empress Hotel, the Princess expressed how much they had enjoyed meeting so many people along their tour and that she intended to travel more than any other British sovereign when she assumes her position as the Queen of England.

1951::The Eagle Crest Lodge where the royal couple escaped for a three day getaway on Vancouver Island.

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

Photo Clip: (tbd)

When their official engagements were over, the royal couple made their escape for some private time. With Prince Philip at the wheel, they drove 100 miles north to the Eagle Crest Lodge in Qualicum Beach. Before leaving Victoria, they asked the press to allow them three days of rest without interruption.

1951::The Royal Press Headquarters in The Empress Hotel, Victoria, BC.

"The 55 Newsmen at The Empress Hotel"

Photo Clip: Victoria Daily Times (1951)

The press had already covered so much of the Royal Canadian Tour that they agreed to give the royal couple some time to rest. The 55 newsmen, including reporters, radio men, photographers and communication experts, kept themselves busy when several unexpected communiqués from the vacationing royal couple arrived at their makeshift headquarters at The Empress Hotel.

1951::The Eagle Crest Lodge in Qualicum Beach, BC

"The Rainy Escape"

Clip: The Calgary Herald (1951)

The royal couple wasn't entirely alone on their solo drive. Two official cars followed them, and each vehicle was equipped with a two-way radio to keep in touch. The royal entourage stopped in Duncan, Ladysmith and Parksville and visited Port Alberni before settling in at the Eagle Crest Lodge in Qualicum Beach. The enormous fireplace of the lodge warmed their bones after a few hours of fishing in the rain with Prince Philip's new rod and tackle, a departing gift from Victoria. 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 lumbermen, the royals prepared for their long trip home.

1951::The Royal Couple Motoring from the C.N. Dock in Vancouver, British Columbia

"The Royal Couple Motoring from the C.N. Dock in Vancouver, British Columbia"

Photo Clip: The Province (1951)

At the end of their three-day retreat, the royal couple spent their last official visit on Vancouver Island with the people of Nanaimo. They signed the guestbook at City Hall and soon boarded the H.M.C.S. Crusader, now waiting in Nanaimo's harbour to escort them back to the mainland. The ship landed the royals at the Canadian National Docks in Vancouver, where thousands had gathered to see them off. They waved at the crowd along Vancouver's streets and soon arrived in New Westminster, where the Royal Train was waiting to return them to the East Coast.

1951::A Map of the Royal Tour of Canada

"1951::A Map of the Royal Tour of Canada"

Clip: The Illustrated London News (1951)

The Royal Train stopped in as many towns and cities as possible as it steamed its way to the East Coast. 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.

King George VI and Queen Elizabeth With their Grandchildren

"King George VI and Queen Elizabeth With their Grandchildren"

Clip: Illustrated London News (1951)

On November 14, 1951, little Prince Charles (now the King of England) celebrated his third birthday in the company of his grandparents. It was King George VI's first photo since his surgery weeks before his daughter left on her Royal Canadian Tour. Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip returned to England (and their children) just three days later. Weeks later, on February 6, 1952, King George VI died, and his daughter Elizabeth took the throne. Elizabeth was coronated the following year and became Britain's longest reigning monarch as Queen Elizabeth II. She died on September 8, 2022, less than two years after the death of her husband, Prince Philip. She was 96 years old.


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