Majesty in Canada: Essays on the Role of Royalty

By Colin M. Coates | Go to book overview

The Invention of Tradition?:
The Royal Tours of 1860 and 1901 to Canada

PHILLIP BUCKNER

On July 23, 1860, the future Edward VII, then Prince of Wales and heir apparent to the throne of Great Britain, arrived at St. John’s, Newfoundland, to begin a fifty-eight-day tour across British North America. Just over forty years later his son, the heir apparent and future George V, then Duke of Cornwall and York, arrived at Quebec City on September 16, 1901, to begin a thirty-five-day royal progress that would involve crossing Canada twice. To contemporaries the importance of these tours was self-evident. In 1901, as the Toronto Telegram reported, the streets were “aglow with happy boys and girls, who will ever remember the visit of the Duke of Cornwall, as their parents remember the visit of his father to Toronto 41 years ago.”1 Both tours were important media events, exhaustively covered by the Canadian and British press and the subject of several instant books. Indeed, for two generations of Canadians these tours were among the most important public events to take place in their lifetimes. Yet one looks in vain for even a brief mention of either tour in most modern studies of Canada.2 In part this lack of interest reflects the increasing irrelevancy of the monarchy to most present-day Canadians. But it also reflects the obsession of Canadian historians with the evolution of a Canadian national identity. Particularly since the 1950s Canadian historians have been concerned with documenting the transition of Canada from colony to nation and the creation by Canadians of a set of national symbols distinct from those of the United Kingdom. Since the popularity until comparatively recently of the British royal family and of royal symbolism among Canadians would seem to raise questions about the validity of this

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