Behind the tiara: An inside look at how St. Patrick's Parade royalty is chosen

For more than 60 years, the United Irish Societies of Montreal has organized an annual contest to select a queen and princesses to preside over the parade.

The St. Patrick’s Day queen selection evening has been an annual tradition since 1956

CBC Montreal went behind the scenes at the 2019 Queen Selection evening to take a closer look at this beloved tradition. (Elise Jacob/CBC)

Planning to attend the 196th St. Patrick's Day parade this Sunday? If you are, you'll be in the presence of royalty.

Since 1956, the United Irish Societies of Montreal has organized an annual contest to select a queen and princesses to preside over the parade.

The queen election evening brings together women of Irish descent between the ages of 18 and 25 for a public speaking event that takes place in front of a crowd of more than 200 people.

The winner gets a trip to Ireland as well as the chance to attend all of the society events leading up to Sunday's parade. 

Jump up, jump up and get down! All the evening’s contestants pictured together. Look for the queen and her court this Sunday at the 196th St. Patrick’s Parade. The parade starts at noon along Ste-Catherine Street, from the corner of Fort to Metcalfe. (Elise Jacob/CBC)

Originally called the Queen's Pageant and held at the Sailor's Club in Old Montreal, the event used to be a popularity contest — the winner being chosen through crowd applause.

Today it draws intelligent, eloquent, young women looking to explore their Irish heritage and celebrate their roots.

A little solidarity between contestants before taking the stage. Note that everyone is wearing their traditional Irish ring: the Claddagh. The Claddagh ring is about loyalty, love and friendship, as represented by the crown and the two hands clasped around the heart. (Elise Jacob/CBC)

It is the first public event of the "Irish season" and it brings together a community of proud Irish Montrealers, many of whom have either attended or participated in the event for decades.

The event took place Feb. 2, and CBC Montreal was there to capture all of the nerves, the camaraderie and the pomp and circumstance of a 64-year tradition that is still going strong.


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