The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge arrive in Canada today, and the world is abuzz with news about their first official royal tour. Canada is definitely feeling the excitement. The Canadian government has launched a website and mobile phone App to help promote the tour, Official flags have been created by the Canadian Heraldic Society and you can even follow the Royal Tour on Twitter andFacebook. As for me, I’m very proud the Royal Couple have chosen Canada for their first official Royal Visit, even though from what I have heard they have no plans to go anywhere near the place I grew up. (About 60 miles west of Toronto, if you are interested.)
This morning at the Rideau Hall, the residence of the Governor General (the Queen’s official representative in Canada), gardeners and chefs are busily preparing for the Royal Couple’s visit later today, and security barricades are already in place around the National War Memorial, where the couple will carry out their first official event shortly after their scheduled arrival at 2.30pm Eastern Time.
The Duke and Duchess’ visit is adding a special shine to the Canada Day celebrations on 1st July, when Canadians mark the 144th anniversary of Confederation. Canada is a Constitutional Monarchy, and the Queen is Queen of Canada – hence the terminology used for the Royal ‘tour’ of Canada but the Royal ‘visit’ to the US, where the current Royal Family have always been made very welcome, but where the Queen has no official role.
Among other things, visits to Québec, Prince Edward Island, the Northwest Territories and Alberta form part of the Royal Tour. For anyone who thinks this is not a packed schedule for 8 days, it’s important to remind them of the distances involved. Consisting of ten separate provinces and three territories, Canada has an area of 3,851,807 square miles, is 5,780 miles wide and has six separate time zones. (Just for comparison, the whole UK is only 94,241 square miles.) The Royal tour covers a huge area, beginning in the province of Ontario, moving East to Québec and then on to PEI, then up to the far north and back down to Alberta. The Daily Mail on-line have published a very helpful interactive map, which you can see by clicking here.
This visit has the promise of being much more personal and relaxed than previous Royal Tours. It is reported that the visit to Prince Edward Island is by request of the Duchess of Cambridge’s, who as a child is said to have loved the Anne of Green Gables stories by Lucy Maud Montgomery. The visit has been planned with the couple’s ‘youth’ in mind, (although with both close to 30 they are much older than many other Royals were when they first toured Canada). There are said to some fun activities planned for the couple including some dragon boating.
There is some concern that the Duke and Duchess are travelling with a very small entourage, and that the Duchess will be managing her own wardrobe. I don’t think anyone has anything to worry about. Not only is the Duchess saving everyone concerned money by doing this, her fashion choices so far have been impeccable. I have no doubt she researched it all extremely thoroughly and is totally prepared. The Duchess of Cambridge has reportedly been using style advisers at Selfridges and Harvey Nichols, and the Daily Mail also reported that last week that she was spotted at several high-end designer ateliers including Alexander McQueen’s store in Clerkenwell. Unlike the Duchess of York, who got so fed up with a daily multitude of wardrobe changes on her Canadian tour with the Duke of York that she said she felt ready to ‘burn the lot’, a royal source says this Duchess is planning on wearing only one or two outfits a day unless she has an evening event. This is much more sensible, down to earth and practical, especially in these tough economic times.
We may see less of the high street on this tour, as it was reported that the Duchess will be wearing exclusively British designers on tour. This would be, of course, in order promote British fashion. We have to be honest with ourselves and realize that official visits involve more than just goodwill – it’s about promoting the UK’s industry and exports, fashion among them (as well as our appeal as a tourist destination). Having said all that, I am really hoping to (and am sure I will) see some Canadian designers, and I would also be completely unsurprised to see high street items and indeed existing pieces from the Duchess’ own wonderful wardrobe on this tour. This is a lady who makes her own rules, and she does it with so much style that not only does nobody mind, we rush to emulate her.
Of course there are parallels being made to William’s parents’ first tour of Canada, but I think they are completely irrelevant. BBC Royal Correspondent Peter Hunt is quoted as saying that “The hope in royal circles is that William has the strength of character to cope with being upstaged – and that Kate has the maturity not to be damaged”. Prince William’s upbringing has been much different from his father’s, and has been coloured by his very different experiences, including losing his mother so publicly at such a young age. Not only that, but he and his wife have been a couple for a number of years, unlike his parents who reportedly only met a dozen or so times before their wedding day! As for Prince William’s lovely wife, she is nearly a decade older than his mother was on her first Royal Tour, and has so far proved herself to be not only incredibly mature, but also to have a grace and savoir faire many women much older than she would be lucky to achieve. I look forward to watching them both shine over these next few days, and I hope the Duchess comes to have as much fondness for the lovely country of my birth as I do!