A regal mystique - Macleans.ca

A regal mystique

Princess Diana steals the show


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    A regal mystique


    The princess steals the show

    At the end of a day during which each of her appearances had been meticulously planned weeks in advance, Diana, Princess of Wales, ignored the royal plan—and a burst of heavy rain—to charm a small group of royal-watchers in Sudbury, Ont. On Oct. 24, the first full day of their week-long Canadian tour, Diana and her husband, Prince Charles, had paid a 4½-hour visit to the industrial city 350 km north of Toronto. Then, as the princess arrived back at Sudbury airport shortly before the prince, she stepped out of her limousine, opened a blue umbrella and unexpectedly walked over to a crowd of about 150 people standing behind a six-foothigh chain-link fence. She chatted and shook hands with many of them through the fence (“It’s like a zoo,” she said with a smile) before boarding the Canadian Forces aircraft that was

    waiting to take the royal couple to Toronto. “She looked right at me and smiled,” said a wet but ecstatic Janice Skinner, 39, who was there with her husband, Charles, and two of their four children. “Her eyes were beautiful.” Apart from tight security, the royal couple’s heavy schedule during the tour, which was to end on Oct. 29 in Ottawa, rarely permitted a departure from the script or a moment of spontaneity. Indeed, federal and provincial officials said that the royal visit really amounted to two separate tours because Charles and Diana had so many separate appearances to make. While Charles went to an Inco Ltd. smelter and a community college in Sudbury, Diana visited cancer patients and a shelter for battered women. Tour officials said that the schedules were designed to reflect the couple’s interests in social causes and their determination to take

    an active role in public life. Said Andrew Morton, the London-based author of Inside Buckingham Palace and six other books on the monarchy: “Charles is a royal revolutionary. He is doing things no other Prince of Wales has ever done.”

    But despite the official emphasis on substance rather than ceremony, thousands of Canadians who saw Charles and Diana in Ontario appeared to be mesmerized by the mystique of royalty. In Sudbury, an estimated crowd of 4,000, including hundreds of schoolchildren, waited patiently under grey skies and the threat of rain for the royal couple to appear. Marc Robinette, 23, and his friend Gregory Hancin, 24, both students at Sudbury’s Laurentian University, arrived at the site of the provincial government’s official welcoming ceremony at 3 a.m.—nine hours before the royal couple was due to arrive. “We were a little overzealous,” said Robinette. “Nobody else got here until 6.”

    The tour also attracted a group of 15 American monarchists from states including North Carolina, Massachusetts and Ohio. Linda Melvin, 39, of Harrington, Del., said that the members of the group, all veterans of previous tours, arranged to meet in Toronto and stay at the Royal York Hotel. They then travelled to Sudbury for the official welcome, and said that

    they planned to follow the couple to Kingston and Ottawa. Maryanne Postlethwait, a 38year-old mother of two from Jane Lew, W. Va., said proudly: “This is the eighth tour I’ve been on. We just love Diana.”

    The royal couple arrived at Toronto’s Lester B. Pearson International Airport at 6 p.m. on Oct. 23, precisely as scheduled, aboard a Canadian Forces Boeing 707. They were greeted by Gov. Gen. Ramon Hnatyshyn, his wife, Gerda, Secretary of State Robert de Cotret and his wife, Diane. Then, the group walked into an Air Canada hangar, normally used to service DC-8s, for a half-hour ceremony. During their stay in Toronto, Charles and Diana spent their nights aboard the royal yacht Britannia, along with their children, William, 9, and Harry, 7, who arrived in Canada a day ahead of their parents. The luxuriously appointed 412-foot yacht, painted royal blue and with a crew and staff of 276, was moored at the Toronto waterfront.

    After spending the afternoon in Sudbury, the couple entertained about 50 invited guests at a private dinner aboard the Britannia that evening. The select group included Hnatyshyn, Ontario Premier Bob Rae, jazz pianist Oscar Peterson and Canadian film director Norman Jewison. Although it was dark, and a hard rain was falling, hundreds of royal-watchers gazed from a distance as the limousines pulled up to the Britannia with the dinner guests.

    The couple, along with their children, were scheduled to attend a Sunday-morning service at St. James Anglican Cathedral in downtown

    Toronto on Oct. 27 before departing for Kingston at noon aboard the Britannia. The highlight of the royal visit to Kingston was to be a speech by Prince Charles to the Queen’s University convocation ceremony as part of that institution’s 150th-anniversary celebrations. The Ottawa schedule for the prince and princess included lunch with the Hnatyshyns at Rideau Hall and dinner at 24 Sussex Drive with Prime Minister Brian Mulroney and his wife, Mila.

    Starting with their afternoon in Sudbury, and continuing throughout their visit, Charles and Diana made numerous individual appearances that reflected their personal interests. The prince, who has tried to convince business leaders in Britain and elsewhere that they must be more sensitive towards the environment, officially opened a new Inco smelter. It is part of a $600-million project aimed at cutting the company’s emissions of sulphur dioxide, a component of acid rain, by 60 per cent by 1994. And on Oct. 26, Charles hosted a symposium on sustainable development (a theory that ties economic growth to environmental protection) at the Royal Canadian Yacht Club in Toronto. He invited a diverse group of prominent Canadians, ranging from Thomas Bata, chairman of Toronto-based shoe manufacturer Bata Ltd., to Ovide Mercredi, national chief of the Assembly of First Nations.

    While her husband focused on business and environmental issues, Diana was more preoccupied with social and medical concerns. She visited Casey House, a Toronto hospice for AIDS patients, most of whom have only a short

    time to five. Earlier, in Sudbury, the princess also made an appearance at the YWCA’s Genevra House, a shelter for battered women. In one of her most touching gestures, Diana spoke individually to a number of cancer patients at the Northeastern Ontario Regional Cancer Centre in Sudbury. “They were all beaming as she left the room,” said one woman who was present.

    According to some close observers of the royal couple, Charles and Diana now are far more involved in public affairs than they were during their previous visits to Canada, in 1983 and 1986. “The prince is a practical idealist,” said Robert Davies, chief executive of International Business in the Community, a Londonbased charitable organization that arranges forums between business executives and various social advocacy groups on behalf of Charles. Added Davies: “He believes very strongly that business must be more responsible in its use of resources. He’s honest, he’s a good communicator and he's very committed.”

    Others contend that Diana’s personality and commitment to such high-profile issues as AIDS have catapulted her to the forefront of the Royal Family. “She has developed personal qualities that can quite properly be described as charismatic,” said Morton. “She is not just another player on the stage. She has star quality.” And from the cheers and the smiles that followed the princess wherever she went, it was clear that she is the star attraction of the tour.

    D’ARCY JENISH in Sudbury

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