The Queen Comes to Canada

Queen Elizabeth II addresses guests at the Hotel Nova Scotian in Halifax during a state dinner, June 1959. (CBC Still Photo Collection)

Queen Elizabeth II addresses guests at the Hotel Nova Scotian in Halifax during a state dinner, June 1959. (CBC Still Photo Collection)


As we come up to the Victoria Day weekend, it seems like the perfect occasion to celebrate our Queen, and her diamond jubilee that marks 60 years on the throne. On Rewind today, we revisit Queen Elizabeth's visits to Canada.

Today, in honour of Victoria Day, a celebration of Queen Elizabeth- and especially her visits to Canada.

On February 6, 1952, Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Windsor was proclaimed Queen of Canada. Her spectacular coronation in Westminster Abbey the following year was heard by millions on the radio and was the first ever to be televised. When she visited Canada on many occasions in the years that followed, Elizabeth left an indelible mark on Canadians. We will have sounds from some of those visits.

We start with the royal wedding. From November 1947, a still war weary Britain was eagerly anticipating the wedding of the Princess Elizabeth and Philip Mountbatten. The great war correspondent Matthew Halton set the scene.

Mountbatten was made Duke of Edinburgh shortly before the wedding. In 1957, the palace announced that Queen Elizabeth had designated him a Prince of the United Kingdom. He would henceforth be known as Prince Philip.

A year later, in November 1948, Britons were celebrating again: a future king was born. Here once again is Matthew Halton to report on the new baby prince.

A crowd of thousands had waited outside the palace gates for news of the infant prince. The proclamation of the baby's arrival was posted at the palace less than three hours after his birth and newspapers described him as "a lovely boy, a really splendid baby."

The baby's full name, Charles Philip Arthur George, was not publicly announced until one month after his birth. His sister, Princess Anne, was born in 1950.

In 1951, Princess Elizabeth and her new husband the Duke visited Canada for the first time. In Nanaimo, B.C., the royal couple was greeted by mobs of adoring children, many of whom had come hundreds of kilometres to catch a glimpse of their future queen.

Finding just the right gifts for Princess Elizabeth's children was on everyone's mind during the 1951 royal visit.

From the 1951 Royal visit, John Fisher. Stony Rapids (where the slippers were found) is a fly-in community in northern Saskatchewan with a population of about 250.

On February 6, 1952, King George VI died suddenly after several years of ill health. Princess Elizabeth, just 25, had begun a Commonwealth tour in Kenya with Prince Philip when she heard the news.

On the radio, millions of listeners heard the proclamation from St. James's Palace in London.

King George VI's death from lung cancer at age 56 caught much of the world by surprise. He had been ill the previous year but seemed to be recovering. In England, all radio and television transmissions were cancelled for 24 hours and resumed for six days of dirges and sermons.

There was a 16-week period of Court mourning before the Commonwealth celebrated the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in Westminster Abbey on June 2nd, 1953.

There were more than 200 microphones in the Abbey and along the new Queen's procession routes, with 750 commentators broadcasting in 39 languages.

The coronation in 1953 was a day of historic firsts- including the fact that the CBC and BBC teamed up to have film of the coronation flown across the Atlantic by jet bomber so that Canadians could watch it the day it happened.

Four years after her coronation, Elizabeth finally came to Canada as Queen. She only stayed for four days, but while she was here, she opened the first session of the 23rd Parliament.

On the evening before, she addressed the Canadian people.

1959 was an important year for the Royal Family in Canada. Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip embarked on a 45-day tour of the country, stopping in every province and territory.

One of the highlights of the visit was when the Queen and U.S. president Dwight Eisenhower opened the St Lawrence Seaway in June. After addressing the crowd at the lock at St. Lambert, Ontario, Elizabeth and "Ike" boarded the Royal Yacht Britannia, which entered the lift locks, and officially opened the Seaway for business. It was the Queen's first live appearance on Canadian television.

The welcome wasn't quite as warm in 1964 when the Queen came again to visit Charlottetown, Quebec City and Ottawa. 

On October 10 in Quebec City, she was met by huge crowds of booing separatists, who saw her as a symbol of British oppression. Many turned their back on Elizabeth, or chanted for her to go home. Quebec City police charge the crowds with nightsticks swinging. The day becomes known as "le Samedi de la matraque," or Truncheon Saturday.

Prince Philip was concerned for the Queen's safety and criticized Premier Jean Lesage for not being as tough as his predecessor Maurice Duplessis.

Elizabeth did not return to the province of Quebec on an official visit until 1987 -- 23 years later. She did make unofficial visits to Montreal for Expo 67 and the 1976 Olympic Games.

The Queen and her husband, Prince Philip, began their 1967 visit to Canada in Ottawa on June 29. They were on hand for centennial celebrations in the nation's capital on July 1, and arrived in Montreal on the royal yacht Britannia on July 3.

During Expo 67's six-month run, many heads of state paid a visit to their pavilions and to Canada. Everyone, of course, wanted the visits to go smoothly, and a reporter for CBC Radio's Expodition seemed most anxious of all.

In one report a commentator repeated a well-worn legend about a long-ago royal visit in which a Yukon waitress told a royal visitor: "Keep your fork, Duke, there's pie for dessert." Though this tale is most likely a myth, the CBC Radio's Peter Gzowski tried to glean its origins. He determined that it may have happened in a diner in northern B.C. between 1911 and 1916. The duke in question would have been the Duke of Connaught, later Governor-General of Canada.

In 1982 The Queen was in Ottawa for the patriation of the Canadian Constitution. To mark her Golden Jubilee in 2002 she had another extensive tour of the country, including her first visit to the new territory of Nunavut.

The Queen visited Canada again in 2005 and 2010. Prince Charles and his wife, Camilla will visit New Brunswick, Ontario and Saskatchewan for two weeks at the end of May to mark the diamond jubilee celebrations commemorating the Queen's 60-year reign.