Cold and rainy weather could not dampen the spirits of royal watchers this morning, as they made their way to Grand Parade next to Halifax’s City Hall, since 6:30am, for the official welcoming of The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall to Canada and Nova Scotia on this, their third Canadian tour in four years.
An impressive military parade entertained the large crowds gathered around the Cenotaph – the empty tomb in honour of those whose remains are not present – as the motorcade made its way into the historic military square.
On behalf of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Minister of Defense and Attorney General of Canada Peter Mackay welcomed the royal guests, and led them through a receiving line of dignitaries, military members and Aboriginal elders.
Their Royal Highnesses were greeted with full military honours including a heart-pounding “21-gun salute and the breaking of His Royal Highness’s Canadian Flag,” as The Prince inspected the soldiers, sailors and airmen of Her Majesty’s Canadian Armed Forces.
Though chilled to the bone without the benefit of warm coats, the grade 5-9 students who came from all parts of the province to make up the 140-member Children’s Chorus of Nova Scotia performed a heartwarming rendition of the royal anthem to the Royal Couple’s delight.
Following an Aboriginal blessing delivered by Elder Doug Knockwood of the Shubenacadie First Nations, rendering speeches were made to highlight the strong ties between Canada and the Royal Family.
Governor General David Johnston highlighted the many anniversaries that coincide with the royal visit, including the 150th anniversary of the Charlottetown Conference which led to Confederation, the centennial of the beginning of the First World War, the 75th anniversary of the Royal Winnipeg Ballet and the 100th birthday of “Winnie the Bear, the Canadian cub that inspired A.A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh.”
“Your visit means a great deal to us. Even in this age of instant global communications, there is no substitute for a smile, a greeting, or a moment of shared humanity. Our personal ties are the foundation of our smart and caring society,” he said.
“The Crown occupies a central place in the life of this country, and I want to thank you, Royal Highnesses, for the role that you play within our constitutional monarchy.”
The Honourable Peter Mackay spoke of the Mother Country’s role in the evolution of Canada:
“This city and this province’s connections to the Crown have played a defining role in our history and our evolution as a province and a nation. (…) But even as we have grown and evolved from a colony, to a province, to the strong and united Commonwealth nation of Canada, we have retained the proud institutions and traditions we inherited from Britain.”
In the first of four speeches to be delivered during the royal tour, Prince Charles, who has not been feeling well in recent days due to a nasty cold, poked fun at the inclement weather marking Victoria Day’s unofficial beginning of summer.
He also fondly reminisced about his first visit to the Halifax harbour as a young naval officer due to a ‘malfunction':
“I have fond memories of coming to Halifax forty-two years ago, when I was then serving in the Royal Navy. On that occasion, I have to admit, my visit was due to an act of God: mechanical failure of the ship in which I was serving. In fact, a fishing net and miles of rope and cable round the propellor shaft. (An American net, of course!). I’m glad that I was invited this time!”
“Halifax has borne witness to so much of Canada’s modern history,” he continued. “The magnificent cenotaph before us on Grand Parade reminds us of Canada’s involvement in two World Wars when Canadians sacrificed so much to protect their cherished freedoms.”
His Royal Highness recalled how “nearly 60 years ago, almost half a million Canadians departed from (Pier 21) to serve overseas during the Second World War, a most extraordinary contribution coming from a country whose population was, at the time, far lesser than it is today.”
“In Normandy next month we will be standing alongside Canadian veterans at Juno Beach, commemorating the remarkable service and sacrifice of all those Canadians who fought to liberate Europe, many of whom left from right here in Halifax.”
Praising the warmth and hospitality of Canadians, the future heir expressed gratitude, saying:
“Being with you here today, my wife and I can only feel Nova Scotians and Canadians have offered us what I can only describe as a thousand welcomes.”
After laying a wreath on the cenotaph in remembrance of those who served in the two Great Wars and the Korean Conflict, the Prince and his wife signed their first names in the Government of Canada Golden Book and the Nova Scotia Guestbook. To cheers of jubilation, the Royal Couple indulged the large crowds with a surprise walkabout before departing for the Halifax and Region Military Family Resource Centre.
The H&R MFRC is the only charity of its kind, serving over 20,000 servicemen and their families as it works to promote the health and social well-being of individuals, families and communities who share the unique experience of military life.
Working in partnership with local Canadian Armed Forces leadership, the H&R MFRC supports families during deployments and long separations with a common belief that military families are strong, capable and proud.
The royal couple were introduced to some of their activities and programmes which include providing mental health and wellness resources; small business, entrepreneurial development programmes and spousal employment; and family activities to enhance and improve quality family time, including gardening and ball hockey.
The Prince was especially keen to witness the synergy between the Military Family Resource Centre’s “Entrepreneurs Club” and The Prince’s Operation Entrepreneur, a uniquely Canadian programme run by the Prince’s Charities Canada that provides transitioning military personnel with the education, mentorship and financing needed to start a business.
His Royal Highness had the opportunity to meet with current and prospective military entrepreneurs supported by his programme, as well some of the academic and student leaders who support it.
Please keep an eye on Royal Central for continuing coverage of the day’s events on both our website and on Twitter at @RoyalCentral.
Photos with thanks to The Department of Canadian Heritage