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Charles and Diana's 1983 royal tour was capped by 2 birthdays

Hearing a stadium full of people sing Happy Birthday in your honour would be a memorable way to end a trip abroad, and that's exactly how Diana, Princess of Wales, finished her 1983 tour of Canada in Edmonton with her husband, Prince Charles. 

Crowds turned out at every stop during 18-day visit to see Princess of Wales

Charles and Diana arrive in Canada for 18-day visit

38 years ago
3:27
Charles and Diana, making their first visit as a couple in Canada, disembark at the Shearwater base in Nova Scotia. 3:27

Hearing a stadium full of people sing Happy Birthday in your honour would be a memorable way to end a trip abroad.

And that's exactly how Diana, Princess of Wales, finished her 1983 tour of Canada in Edmonton with her husband, Prince Charles. 

But it had begun 18 days earlier, on June 14, 1983, in Nova Scotia, when the couple's plane landed at the Canadian Forces base in Shearwater, outside Halifax.

"This Canadian visit is a first for Diana, who will mark her 22nd birthday while she is here," CBC reporter Phil Forgeron said as the couple descended the steps of their aircraft.

The pair would, however, miss their son William's first birthday, on June 21, because of the tour.  

Prince Charles, left, Diana, Princess of Wales, and Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau arrive for an official dinner given by Trudeau in Halifax on June 15, 1983. (Denis Paquin/The Canadian Press)

"As well, the couple are arriving 44 years to the day since King George VI and Queen Elizabeth began the first Nova Scotia tour by a reigning monarch in 1939." 

The tour was timed, in part, to mark the 200th anniversary of United Empire Loyalists arriving in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick after fleeing the newly independent United States, according to a Government of Canada website for royal tours.

But first, St. John's needed sprucing up

St. John's cleans up for royal visit

38 years ago
2:41
The Newfoundland capital asks residents to keep their homes looking smart ahead of a visit from Charles and Diana. 2:41

A day before the royal couple's plane landed, CBC's The National reported on efforts in St. John's, which Charles and Diana would be visiting starting on June 22.

"Preparations there for the royal visit are causing a royal stir," said host Knowlton Nash.

Along with a breathtaking harbour view of an iceberg and a carefully restored historic downtown, St. John's wanted to put on its best face.

And so the city had been employing street-sweeping machines and replacing broken sidewalks.

More controversially, it had been sending registered letters to owners of properties that were not, in the words of city Coun. John Tessier, "quite up to the standards" that local politicians wanted to project.

The sign says it all as Charles and Diana tour Saint John on June 17, 1983. (Andy Clark/The Canadian Press)

"If they want my house painted for the royal visit, very well and good," said resident Kathy MacPhee. "They can paint it, send the bill to Buckingham Palace. I'm not doing it." 

And then there was the problem of the rusting old freighter in the harbour, a few berths from where the royal yacht Brittania would soon dock.

"We should ensure that it's taken out of the harbour before the royal visit comes," Tessier told reporter Barbara Yaffe. "Hopefully that will happen, but I'm not holding my breath."

The Klondike couple 

Royal couple heads west

38 years ago
1:52
Charles and Diana reach the last stop on their 1983 tour of Canada. 1:52

After touring the eastern provinces of Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick and Newfoundland, as well as Ottawa, Charles and Diana travelled to Edmonton.

The crowds grew at each of three welcoming events for the couple, and 70,000 onlookers had gathered by the time the third event took place at City Hall.

"I shook hands with the prince and I'm thrilled," said a woman in the crowd. "My husband says I won't wash for a week. It may be a month."

Charles and Diana smile after picking up food at a barbecue in their honour at Kingsmere, Que., on June 21, 1983. (Chris Schwarz/The Canadian Press)

The camera captured others in the crowd tossing gifts at Charles for Prince William, who turned one while his parents were in Canada.

But much of the enthusiasm on display was for Diana, according to reporter Eve Savory.

"We want Di! We want Di! We want Di!" chanted a group of adolescent girls, who had waited for six hours only to be greeted by Charles instead. 

That evening, the couple got decked out in period clothing from the Klondike era to tour Fort Edmonton Park.

Happy birthday, Diana

Royal visit by Charles and Diana ends on Canada Day

38 years ago
2:19
An Edmonton crowd sings "Happy Birthday" to Diana on the day she departs Canada with Charles. 2:19

On the agenda in Edmonton for Charles was the official opening of the World University Games.

It also happened to be Canada Day, known until that year as Dominion Day, as well as Diana's 22nd birthday.

"It was a birthday party for a country and a princess, so Edmonton invited the world," said Savory. 

At the opening ceremony in Edmonton's stadium, athletes paraded out as 60,000 people watched, and Charles made a speech.

"It is the birthday of my dear wife," he said. "Not only that, but she had the good sense and the excellent taste to be born on Canada's national day."

As their car took them out of the stadium, those 60,000 people sang Happy Birthday to Diana before the pair flew home.

Charles and Diana would return to Canada less than three years later, attending Expo 86 in Vancouver and visiting other places in British Columbia over eight days.

And in 1991, they came back again with their sons William and Harry for a seven-day tour of Ontario.

Charles and Diana were divorced in 1996, and she died after a car crash in Paris the following year.

Charles tries on a pair of sunglasses that were given to him and Diana in Edmonton on June 30, 1983, by members of the Canadian team competing at the World University Games. (Larry Wong/The Canadian Press)

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