10 of the Most Memorable Royal Visits to Canada
Although we've yet to see a royal visit to Canada in the Netflix series The Crown, the royal family has actually spent a lot of time here over the past century.
The Most Significant Royal Visits to Canada Over the Past 100 Years
In the first four seasons of The Crown on Netflix, the royal family are portrayed visiting Kenya, the Caribbean, Australia, and New Zealand—but we’ve yet to see them in Canada. In reality, royalty have been touring what is now Canada since the late eighteenth century, and Queen Elizabeth II made no fewer than 23 royal visits to Canada between 1951 and 2010. Here are 10 of the most significant royal tours of the past 100 years.
1939: King George VI and Queen Elizabeth (later the Queen Mother) become the first reigning King and Queen to visit Canada
In The Crown, the Queen Mother is the voice of tradition, reminding her family how royalty have always conducted themselves. During the 1939 Canadian tour, however, she was known for her personal charm and ability to connect with people from different walks of life. King George VI and Queen Elizabeth participated in one of the first royal walkabouts while in Canada, meeting with First World War veterans at the National War Memorial in Ottawa. The 1939 visit was one of the most successful royal tours of all time and cemented Anglo-Canadian relations prior to the Second World War.
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1957: Queen Elizabeth II becomes the first monarch to open Canada’s parliament
The future Queen Elizabeth II first visited Canada in 1951 with her husband, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh (a tour left out of Season 1 of The Crown), but the 1957 tour was her first visit to Canada as reigning monarch. The Queen opened parliament and delivered a radio address to Canadians. As shown in Season 2 of The Crown, the Queen’s speaking voice had been criticized by Lord Altrincham earlier in 1957 and journalist Clark Davey at the Globe and Mail speculated that “many listening Canadians would be measuring her performance against the recent criticism of Lord Altrincham and others of her speech mannerisms.”
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1958: Princess Margaret celebrates British Columbia’s centennial
Princess Margaret’s love life is a key theme in The Crown, but there’s actually a Canadian royal romance that is not mentioned in the series. In 1958, journalists covered every stop of her Canadian tour from the official opening of Princess Margaret Hospital in Toronto (now Princess Margaret Cancer Centre) to a mock atomic battle at Canadian Forces Base Gagetown, New Brunswick. The press was most interested, however, in how, as reported in the Toronto Telegram, “Princess Margaret sat in the moonlight…in an intimate tête-à-tête with a young bachelor-lawyer”— future Canadian Prime Minister John Turner—“at a secluded table on the lawn of the HMCS Discovery naval base” in Vancouver after dancing together at ball. In 1966, Princess Margaret wrote to a friend, “It will seem so funny [to see him] as we haven’t met since I nearly married him.”
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1967: Royal tours in honour of the 100th anniversary of Canadian Confederation
The 100th anniversary of Canadian Confederation was celebrated with three royal tours in 1967. The Queen and Prince Philip visited Ottawa and Montreal and the Queen famously waved to crowds from the monorail at Expo 67. Princess Margaret also visited Expo 67 with her then-husband Lord Snowdon, while the Queen’s cousin Princess Alexandra (who is not shown in The Crown) undertook an extended tour of western and northern Canada where her wardrobe was compared to that of Jacqueline Kennedy.
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1976: Queen Elizabeth II opens the Montreal Olympics and Princess Anne competes in equestrian events
The Crown shows Princess Anne as an accomplished equestrian but leaves out her participation in the Montreal Olympics as part of the British equestrian team. The 1976 Canadian royal visit was a rare example of the Queen and Prince Philip travelling overseas with all four of their children: Prince Charles, Princess Anne, Prince Andrew and Prince Edward. Anne suffered a fall from her horse and did not win any medals in 1976, but she would one day present a silver medal to her daughter Zara Phillips who was part of the British equestrian team at the London Olympics in 2012.
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1983: Diana, Princess of Wales celebrates her 22nd birthday in Edmonton
Just three months after the tour of Australia and New Zealand by Charles and Diana, Prince and Princess of Wales, which is dramatized in Season 4 of The Crown, the royal couple toured Canada for the 200th anniversary of United Empire Loyalists arriving in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. Diana endeared herself to crowds with her combination of glamour and vulnerability, crouching down to speak eye-to-eye with children and people in wheelchairs. In Edmonton on July 1, 60,000 people sang “Happy Birthday” to Diana. “It is the birthday of my dear wife,” Charles said in a speech, “Not only that, but she had the good sense and the excellent taste to be born on Canada’s national day.”
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1991: Charles and Diana tour Ontario with Princes William and Harry
Diana’s public displays of affection for her sons William and Harry and her determination to bring them on royal tours are dramatized in Season 4 of The Crown. In 1991, Charles and Diana visited Ontario with nine-year-old William and seven-year-old Harry. By that point, the royal marriage was breaking down and the couple undertook mostly separate itineraries. One of the most famous photos of Diana depicts her embracing her sons on the deck of Royal Yacht Britannia in Toronto Harbour on this tour. (Charles also hugged his children on the yacht but received little publicity for doing so.)
2010: The Queen and Prince Philip celebrate Canada Day on Parliament Hill
The Queen’s most recent visit to Canada took place over Canada Day in 2010 (though the Duke of Edinburgh would make a subsequent brief visit to Toronto and receive the Order of Canada in 2013). At an official dinner at the Fairmont Royal York Hotel in Toronto, then-Prime Minister Stephen Harper presented the Queen with a gift of hockey souvenirs including the puck she dropped at a 2002 game in Vancouver and praised the monarch as “Canada’s Most Valuable Player.”
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2011: William and Catherine, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge visit Canada in their first overseas tour as a married couple
Just two months after Prince William married Catherine Middleton, the royal couple visited Canada for their first overseas tour as Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. They celebrated Canada Day on Parliament Hill with a crowd of 800,000 people, became the first royal couple to attend a Canadian citizenship ceremony, then visited Quebec, Prince Edward Island, the Northwest Territories and Alberta. In 2016, William and Catherine returned to Canada, visiting British Columbia and the Yukon with their children Prince George and Princess Charlotte.
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2017: Prince Harry opens the Invictus Games in Toronto—and makes his first public appearance with Meghan Markle
Prince Harry made numerous private visits to Toronto during his relationship with Meghan Markle, and they made their public debut as a couple at the Invictus Games, an initiative of Prince Harry for injured, wounded or sick armed services personnel. The couple married in 2018 and returned to Canada with their baby son Archie for Christmas 2019. They would spend another few months on Vancouver Island in 2020 after stepping back from their positions as senior members of the royal family.
Next, find out what The Crown gets wrong about the royal family.