Reflecting on past visits from the Royals

The visit of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, popularly known simply as Will and Kate, to Calgary on July 7 and 8 during the annual Calgary Stampede, has generated a considerable amount of media attention. While there is not the same attachment to the Royal Family that once existed in Canada, there is something about a royal visit that still creates widespread public excitement.

The first royal visit to Red Deer occurred almost 100 years ago on Sept. 5, 1912. His Royal Highness, Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught and Strathern, made a formal visit to the community. He was accompanied by the Duchess of Connaught and their daughter, Princess Patricia, after whom the famous Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry regiment is named.

Prince Arthur was the third eldest son of Queen Victoria. Victoria had not only been the reigning monarch until her death in 1901, but had also become the symbol of the British Empire at its height. Moreover, Prince Arthur was the Governor General of Canada from 1911 to 1916.

The Town of Red Deer went to considerable effort and expense to prepare for the Royal visit. Business owners throughout the downtown area filled their front windows with patriotic displays. They also mounted flags and bunting on their buildings. A special reception pavilion was constructed in the public park in front of the C.P.R. station. The whole area was also covered in elaborate displays of flags, bunting and examples of the produce from the district.

Unfortunately, heavy rain that day put an end to all of the outdoor events. The waiting room in the new C.P.R. station was turned into an impromptu reception hall. Moreover, because of the wet weather and recent illness, the Duchess of Connaught decided to stay on the train on which the Royal party had arrived. Thus, only Prince Albert and Princess Patricia disembarked to meet the large crowds of citizens who were crammed into the station or else stood enthusiastically in the rain for a glimpse of the Royals.

The local dignitaries, including Mayor R.B. Welliver, took advantage of the occasion to give extensive speeches of welcome. After a well delivered speech of reply, Prince Arthur and Princess Patricia were then introduced to the members of a very long reception line.

Prince Arthur, in his capacity as Chief Scout of Canada, proceeded to the north side of the station to make a formal presentation of colours to the Red Deer boy scout troop. As most people know, Red Deer’s boy scout troop had been the first one formed in Alberta, having been organized in April 1910. Also, the local boy scouts had gained international attention in June 1911 for their role in apprehending Arthur Kelly, who had shot and nearly killed Red Deer’s Police Chief, George Bell.

Unfortunately, it is unknown what eventually happened to the colours presented by Prince Arthur to Red Deer’s boy scouts.

The next Royal visit did not take place for nearly 30 years. On Aug. 13, 1941, His Royal Highness, Prince George, the Duke of Kent and brother to King George VI, made a very brief 10 minute stop at Red Deer’s C.P. railroad station. The Prince was making a whirlwind tour of Air Force training bases across Canada to boost the War effort. Therefore, he was on an extremely tight schedule.

On July 26, 1980, Her Royal Highness, Princess Margaret, sister of Queen Elizabeth, made an official visit to Red Deer to help celebrate the 75th anniversary of the province of Alberta. There was a short reception at City Hall followed by a luncheon at the Capri Centre. After a presentation of the first Princess Margaret Scholarship in the Fine and Performing Arts, the Royal party departed by helicopter to Joffre for a tour of the Alberta Gas Ethylene plant.

The grandest Royal visit to Red Deer took place on June 28, 1990, when Queen Elizabeth II made a special trip to Red Deer to open the new Pediatric Ward at the Red Deer Regional Hospital. A formal luncheon, co-sponsored by Premier Don Getty and Mayor Bob McGhee, followed at the Capri Centre. Her Majesty then returned in the early afternoon to Calgary.