A royal visit to Canada that a pandemic did not stop

The show was going to go on, even if an ongoing flu pandemic in 2009 meant fewer people would come out to see a future King.

Charles and Camilla undertake tour as Canada saw second wave of H1N1 cases in 2009

Charles and Camilla arrive in Canada

13 years ago
Duration 2:06
Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall started out their 2009 royal visit in Newfoundland.

The show was going to go on, even if an ongoing flu pandemic meant fewer people would come out to see a future King.

Eleven years ago, Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, landed in Newfoundland at the start of an 11-day Canadian tour.

More than 1,000 people were on hand to greet the royal couple, although concerns about a dangerous flu had limited the crowd that gathered to welcome them.

"Looming over all the festivities, fears and concerns over H1N1," reporter Melanie Nagy told viewers watching The National on Nov. 2, 2009, the day the royal tour got underway.

"Organizers suspect it kept a number of people home, but they also say it won't change the way the royals interact with Canadians."

'People don't care that much'

A child is seen holding a flag at a gathering in St. John's, where more than 1,000 people gathered to welcome Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, to Canada in November 2009. (The National/CBC Archives)

The royal couple's arrival, in fact, came less than two weeks after federal Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq had said the country was in the midst of the second wave of the H1N1 pandemic.

Nagy's report also noted that a recent poll had found "that people don't care that much about the monarchy."

She said it was hoped that Charles and Camilla's visit — the 15th official visit the prince had made to Canada during his lifetime — could change that.

Camilla is seen on the second day of the royal tour, during a visit to Cupids, N.L. (CBC News/CBC Archives)

Three days later, The National again had a reporter filing a piece on the royal visit, although this time the pandemic was not explicitly mentioned — but the angle of the dwindling popularity of the royals was examined again.

Viewers saw images of a crowd of hundreds gathered in Hamilton to see the visiting royals, but down the road in Toronto, they didn't get the same level of attention.

Getting out and about

Charles and Camilla meet Canadians

13 years ago
Duration 3:14
During a 2009 visit to Canada, Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall made an effort to connect with Canadians.

"There was a lot of security for Prince Charles, but no crowd," reporter Laurie Graham told viewers.

It was the same for Camilla, who Graham said seemed to be followed by photographers, but not many royal watchers.

Charles and Camilla did encounter royal admirers who waited patiently for a glimpse of the couple. (The National/CBC Archives)

Graham said the couple, presumably aware of what the poll had said about their popularity, were doing what they could to raise their profile while in Canada.

"On every stop so far, they can be seen shaking more hands, getting close to people, even taking time for a quick chat," she said.

Veteran photographer Arthur Edwards believed the royals had become less relevant to Canadians over time. (The National/CBC Archives)

Arthur Edwards, a veteran photographer from Britain, had covered the royals for many years, including dozens of their trips to Canada.

He believed the family was less relevant to Canadians than they had been in the past and Edwards did not think that trend could necessarily be reversed.

"It's fair enough that, you know, after all these years, you say: 'Thank you very much, but goodbye,' " he told CBC News.

He predicted that was likely to occur after the reign of Queen Elizabeth.

Not the attention they wanted

Anti-monarchist protesters in Montreal showed their displeasure with the institution that Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall represented. (The National/CBC Archives)

Following a four-day visit to British Columbia, Charles and Camilla headed east and spent some time in Quebec near the end of their trip, where they found themselves facing a very different reception.

That would be the anti-monarchist protesters who managed to block the visiting royals from travelling to a Montreal armoury — holding up the royals for nearly an hour.

"Two weeks ago, Quebec separatists promised to surprise the royal visit — today they delivered and how," Lynne Robson said, when describing the protest on The National that night.

Robson said "it took riot police" getting involved to clear a path for the royals.

At the armoury, Prince Charles apologized to his audience for being late.

"I just wanted to say how very sorry my wife and I are to have kept you all waiting so long. I fear there was a little local disturbance," he said.

A connection to Quebec

Tracing Camilla's family tree

13 years ago
Duration 0:20
Régis Corbin traced the family tree of the Duchess of Cornwall and found that one of her ancestors had moved to Quebec in the 17th century.

Robson said the couple had met "well-wishers in most locations" during their visit to Quebec.

Like Régis Corbin, a Montreal man who had traced Camilla's family tree and found an ancestor who had lived in Quebec centuries earlier.

"They are our royalty, they are our royal family and I'm proud of it," he said.

The following day, Charles and Camilla were in Ottawa to attend Remembrance Day ceremonies. They departed from Canada the day after that.

Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, waves as she and Prince Charles depart for London at the end of their visit on Nov. 12, 2009, in Ottawa. (Chris Jackson/Getty Images)

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