The Royals: Just grin and bear it -

The Royals: Just grin and bear it

The Queen has been subjected to some tour-planning gaffes, including a memorable day in Winnipeg



The nightmare for royal tour organizers is how easily months of exquisitely precise planning can unravel, especially when obvious problems aren’t foreseen. On their 2002 Canadian visit, Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip went to an outdoor event. In October. In the coldest big city in the world—Winnipeg. Beside the Red River. Naturally, the temperature plunged to just above freezing.

The royal couple was seated on an exposed platform without so much as a lap rug to keep them from shivering in the wind as they listened to the droning tones of politicians. To add insult to injury, their boat conked out on the Red River and had to be towed to the other shore. “That was interesting,” Elizabeth II said to Gary Doer, then premier. The Times of London translated that queenspeak into “I am not in the least amused.” After that frigid adventure, the monarch decided not to rely on the foresight of tour organizers. At that evening’s event—again outdoors—she wrapped herself in a thick mink coat.

Sometimes it isn’t the planning that goes wonky but the guests. Our sovereign and her husband barely escaped a Montreal ballroom intact in 1959. The Canadian Press reported on a mob of “ladies in elaborate evening gowns and men in white ties [who] perched on tops of chairs” and jostled waiters to get a look at the dancing royal couple. It got so dangerous that the Mounties formed a protective phalanx around them and guests were asked to leave. One observer was stunned: “These people are supposed to be the leaders of society and they acted like bobby soxers trying to get a look at Elvis Presley.”

Then there is overly-effusive-politician syndrome. During the 1983 visit by Charles and Diana to New Brunswick, premier Richard Hatfield’s bizarre speech had the royal couple squirming in embarrassment—“We have heard and read the lies. Your royal highness, the Princess of Wales, as it always is, today it was wonderful to meet and know the truth.” Everyone, especially the British tabloids, assumed he was drunk.

Given how susceptible travel itineraries are to glitches, it is no surprise the Queen has experienced more than her share of chaos over the years. A tour of Asia in 1972 had a trifecta of transportation snafus. First, Elizabeth and Philip were stranded by the side of a road on the outskirts of Bangkok after their car broke down following a formal evening function. Then they arrived at a reception in Brunei in a vast chariot, pulled by 48 soldiers, only to discover the steps wouldn’t descend. It took a swift kick from Philip to free them. Finally, in Malaysia, a strong river current nearly swept the couple’s royal barge downstream. Five accompanying canoes were swamped in the wash of the flotilla and one paddler nearly drowned.

Perhaps organizers should bear in mind the mandate given by Britain’s Home Office to bureaucrats planning Her Majesty’s Silver Jubilee celebrations back in 1977: “You must not bore the public. You must not kill the Queen.”


The Royals: Just grin and bear it

  1. Some of the links in the "Related Articles" box seem to be broken.

  2. The Queen epitomizes the very British trait of dry wit and sarcasm. Maybe it stems from her younger years particularly during WWII, when the British nation were encouraged to "keep your chin up", during the darkest days of the War?

    Unfortunately this article although whimsical, seems more and more irrelevant to a Canadian nation whose cultural identity seemingly identifies less with the British monarchy, as Canada's own identity matures. Nevertheless, 'God bless the Queen' and I hope her trip to Canada is less 'eventful' than previous.

    • I'm not pro Monarchy, but many years ago when Charles and Diana were visiting here on the QE2, (IIRC) in the harbour, I and many associates were attending a function' on a 'tourist boat' in the harbour. Having had 2 many glasses of wine, after stuffing our faces, we all sang Hail Britannia into the late evening hours. Of course, security was tight so we couldn't get near them, but am sure our loud voices were heard, In today's world we would have been confined to the dock..

  3. Re Winnipeg incident: not to worry, lots of VSOP Cognac available to ward off the royal agues. Her boat ? Must be that world reknowned
    British Engineering. It' s a tough job but there's many would be willing to do it.

  4. Sorry I have better things to do than follow the happenings of a bunch of inbred foreign poodles.

    • A reminder that the queen is our Head of State ; a fact we should be proud of. The only alternative would be a republic similar to the US . As a Canadian who has lived in the US for a number of years in the past , I guarantee you we are far better off with the situation as it is. The tradition gives us a link to the past , which is significant for a lot of good reasons ; not the least of which is the fact that so many Canadians lost their lives in the major conflicts of the 20th century , for 'King/queen and country.' Thousands of us have pledged allegiance to Her Majesty , her heirs and successors , and did so on a Bible. When she is here in Canada , she is not considered a guest , but she's considered to be in residence.

      • Agreed. There is nothing that should make a modern democracy more proud than having an hereditary monarch as Head of State. With any luck, it won't be long before we return to the feudal system.

      • Saying that the only alternative is a system like the United States is quite a bit of an exaggeration. Plenty of countries have republican systems without having a system like the US. Germany, for instance, has a figurehead president appointed by Parliament, but government is controlled by a chancellor with the support of the lower house of the legislature. It would be very easy to implement the same sort of system in Canada without dramatically changing the political system by simply renaming the Governor General "President" and not changing her duties/responsibilities at all.

        Not that that is an argument against the monarchy (which is an entirely different question); just a recognition that there are simple things we could do to change the system without becoming the United States 2.0.

  5. "Loyal She Began, Loyal She Remains." Go learn our proud, BNA and UEL history. These were the builders of our country since 1763. Not this phony, revisionist lie, this bilingual, multicultural, 2 founding nations, linguistic duality lie, spin that we've been living since Trudeau forced this upon the nation. "Loyal She Began, Loyal She Remains." Happy Dominion Day.