From the Archives: Royalty at Royal Roads

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Jenny Seeman
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Queen Elizabeth has tea with cadets

You may have seen the recent newspaper article about how Hatley Park was once considered a suitable Canadian home for the King and Queen. They visited the property in 1939, had a picnic on the lawns, wandered through the gardens and thoroughly enjoyed the experience, so the story goes. While neither George VI and his wife Elizabeth, nor the king’s troublesome brother, Edward, ever did move here, Royal Roads has hosted a number of visits from royalty. On October 22, 1951, Princess Elizabeth, Duchess of Edinburgh and husband Philip, Duke of Edinburgh visited the Military College. An inspection of the Cadets was hastily moved to the gymnasium because bad weather made the parade ground unsuitable. 

Princess Margaret also visited Royal Roads, received by Rear Admiral Rayner, and on October 17, 1955, Princess Mary opened the Nixon Block. As with all royal visits, the day was planned down to the minute, as can be seen from this memo circulated to senior staff shortly before the ceremony. 

In 1977, the cadets from Royal Roads provided an honour guard for Prince Charles on his arrival in Victoria and on March 8, 1983, Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip once again visited the college.

The Dunsmuirs also entertained royalty. As the province’s Premier, James entertained the Duke and Duchess of York (later George V and Queen Mary) in 1901. It was for this occasion that lights were strung to outline the Parliament Buildings at night, and they have remained there ever since! On this same trip, the Duchess enjoyed an afternoon with Laura and her daughters at Burleith, the Dunsmuirs’ home at the time on the fashionable Gorge waterway. 

When the eldest son of George V, (later Edward VIII) visited Victoria in 1919, he stayed with James and Laura at Hatley Park. He took the opportunity to play some golf at James’ club in Colwood and enjoyed himself so much that he later became patron of the Colwood Golf Club. It is this patronage that allows the golf club to use the prefix ‘Royal’ and is one of only six golf clubs in Canada with that designation.

William and Kate may not have made plans to visit Royal Roads University this time but this property has certainly seen plenty of royalty. If you have any royal stories to share or questions about the history of Hatley Park, contact Jenny Seeman in the archives, ext. 4122.