Farewell to the Queen

The 22nd Royal Tour of Canada ends

The last day of the 22nd Royal Tour of Canada began with a warning by a security official to journalists huddled outside of Queen’s Park in Toronto for the farewell ceremony: dare to move beyond the sanctioned area once Her Majesty arrives and, “you’ll be arrested.”

A sudden jerk or a surge forward, the officer explained yesterday, could cause someone to startle or fall—read: Queen Elizabeth II or the Duke of Edinburgh (they are, after all, 84 and 89, respectively). The group was told this would be “embarrassing” for everyone.

No calamity occurred, save for scrapes sustained by a few people (stealthy members of the public squished in with media?) snapping photos. “How are your legs on that tree?” one asked another knee-deep in a bush. “A little prickly, eh,” came the reply.

Instead, as the nine-day tour came to an end, the Queen and Prince Philip made an elegant entrance; the shiny black car in which they were chauffeured featured a red rear license plate boasting a gold crown emblem.

Her Majesty emerged in a bright pink and green floral dress and matching millinery. A woman yelped something along the lines of “She looks beautiful,” at which point the Queen looked over, in appreciation or not, it’s unclear. The Duke was dapper in a dark suit and tie—royal blue, of course.

They scaled the red-carpeted stone stairs leading inside the provincial building, and were greeted by Ontario Lieutenant Governor David Onley. The Queen and Duke were then passed onto Premier Dalton McGuinty for the presentation of the Ontario Medal for Good Citizenship to four recipients.

A quartet (three violins, one cello) played “God Save the Queen” and “O Canada.” During his remarks, McGuinty, who had accompanied Her Highness on a few excursions, quipped, “I can’t believe the size of the crowds I’ve been drawing.” The royal pair smiled politely.

Next, the Queen and Duke stepped outside to rededicate a plaque commemorating the 150th anniversary of Queen’s Park, which was officially opened by the Prince of Wales. Her Majesty tugged on a white rope, and a blue velvet cloak slipped off. She and the Duke gestured to the plaque discretely, while thousands of onlookers clapped and cheered.

The crowd’s enthusiasm beckoned the royal couple to begin their walk about, meandering along a paved path and chatting intermittently with spectators who were variously primped—fancy chapeaus mingled with chintzy red-and-white cloth top hats. Someone was inexplicably dressed up as a grizzly and waving a “God save the bears” sign.

Eventually, the royal pair made their way to acknowledge giddy dignitaries, including Toronto mayor David Miller and federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty. Governor General Michaëlle Jean, wearing bubble-gum pink, matched the Queen (they must have coordinated; both wore pale yellow in Halifax on Day 1).

The Queen moved to the lawn to inspect soldiers from five Ontario regiments that she and the Duke command. Despite the heat—around 32 degrees—these soldiers, decked out in boots, heavy green garb and gloves, exhibited stoic reverence. One however, seeming to have nearly fainted, had to be hauled off for water and shade.

The farewell reached its climax when the 21-gun salute accompanied the military band like a thunderous metronome. The crowd whooped as the Queen and Duke walked towards a convoy that took them to Pearson airport. They got in, and drove off, and almost simultaneously, the onlookers dispersed.

As Royal watchers abandoned Queen’s Park, another crowd was assembling downtown—this time for the Shriner’s parade, which was happening in the afternoon.

One spectacle ends and another begins.