PUBLIC OPINION AND
THE DEPARTMENT OF
The anticipation simmered just below the surface of Quebec City on a fresh May morning in 1939. Crowds of Quebecers, leavened by a sprinkling of notables from elsewhere in Canada, focused their attention on the quay on the St. Lawrence. In the distance an ocean liner, the Empress of Australia, was heaving into sight. This was by itself nothing special: ocean liners were not strangers to the port; but today the Empress was carrying special guests. Royalty was coming to town, and not just any royalty – for Quebec had hosted princes and princesses before – but the reigning monarch of the British Empire, George VI, and his consort, Queen Elizabeth. This was a first, for no reigning British king or queen had ever visited Canada.
The royal tour of 1939 had been the focus of in-depth planning on the part of the Canadian government, and of the Canadian people, since the idea of the tour had been advanced by Prime Minister W.L. Mackenzie King at the Imperial Conference of 1937. As the yacht ferrying the king and queen made its way – majestically, in the eyes of the crowd – from the Empress to the quay, Quebec’s citizens would be the first, as the Canadian