|The Royal Watchers|
This post is not about whether Canada should or should not retain the form of government known as a constitutional monarchy, but I will just say that I have always been a little fascinated with the British monarchy and its history, and by extension, Canadian history. I have fridge magnets of all the kings and queens of England. I have been known (as a child, of course) to dress up as the Queen and practice my royal wave and my "hem hem." I was born on Queen Victoria's birthday and my middle name is Elizabeth. I wouldn't call myself a monarchist, but this is what I think: Great Britain is one of Canada's parent nations, and there's no getting around that. Canada is like the little child that grew up under British rule, and then decided as a teenager to become independent. There was a lot of rebellion (without a large war, thankfully) and finding oneself and throwing off of the old, naturally, as Canada found its own identity as a country. And now I like to think we've grown up a bit, and Mother England is no longer an unreasonable tyrant trying to impose curfews and house rules on us. You know when you become an adult, and all of a sudden you realize you can be friends with your parents? Sure, they're not perfect, and there are some family traits you wish maybe you hadn't inherited, but they are where you came from. They're family. And you can be mature about it and have a good relationship with them. That's my tuppence.
*A Royal Watcher falls somewhere between curious onlooker and paparazzi. Closer to the curious onlooker I'd like to think, though some may beg to differ.
Ok, now that the preamble is over, we can get to the good stuff! I wrote a big long journal type document of our 24 hour adventure, but it is much too long and tedious to post here. I'm keeping it for posterity. But I will give you a few snapshots and descriptions of our Grand Royal Watching Adventure. Now get your curtseys ready...
Day 1 - Charlottetown Airport & Government House
Our adventure began at the Charlottetown Airport, where Will and Kate were due to arrive at 6:50 pm. We hadn't really planned on going to the airport, but at the last minute we decided to go and see what we could see. When we arrived people were beginning to line the sides of the airport road and the edges of the tarmac. After some quick scouting, we decided to stake out a spot near the media cameras on the far side of the terminal. And lucky for us, it just happened to be the perfect spot! We saw the big military jet land, coming in from our left, and then it turned around and nosed right into our view. The big yellow stairs came out, and then . . .
... down came William and Kate! The pipers were piping and the crowds were cheering and the cameras were snapping and the royals were waving! It was quite a thrilling little moment to see them for the very first time, live and in person.
|This little princess seemed quite taken in with all the excitement too.|
After the couple were greeted by all the officials, we quickly nabbed a spot right on the curb where the royal motorcade would soon pass by. In a line of black cars, we knew which one held the Duke and Duchess because it had little flags on the hood. Micah held the camera and I held Arden and we were right there when the car made its way toward us!
Here is the car! And there is Kate!
And THERE is William, looking and waving right at us! I could have reached out and touched the car at this point!
|The royal wave!|
I must admit to being quite excited at this point. It's one thing to watch a prince grow up on TV and quite another thing to see him smiling and looking right at you. (And more handsome in person, I might add.) It was a wonderful spontaneous sort of moment. We came to the airport with no expectations and got the royal wave from William himself.
After our first sighting, we figured we'd drive downtown on the off chance we might run into them again. We got some Dairy Queen on the way (it was either that or Burger King) and headed to Victoria Park, where we knew they would eventually retire for the night at Government House. Again, we found ourselves in the right place at the right time. Traffic had been stopped and people were lined up along the hedges.
We found a spot right in front of Government House where, if we stood on tiptoes and sort of held onto the hedge, we had a perfect view.
Within minutes the motorcade arrived and Kate and William stepped out on the front steps. They gave a little wave before disappearing into the house. A chandelier winked out of a window at us from a room to the left, hinting at the hospitality reserved only for royal guests.
We all hung about for a bit, wondering if they might come out again, but even though a small crowd kept chanting "Will and Kate! Will and Kate!" it seemed they had retired for the night. But it was a lovely sort of evening in which to hang about. It was warm, and the harbour glowed in the golden summer light. We took a stroll around the park, peeking over the fence at all the RCMP officers and security cameras stationed around the grounds.
As Will and Kate settled in for the night, someone else was getting a little sleepy too...
The sun set behind Government House, and we made our way back to the car, back to our own house on a hill where the lights were twinkling for us. I'm glad the sun sets for royalty and commoners alike.
Day 2 - Great George Street & Summerside Harbour
We had had so much fun the night before, we decided to make a day of it on Monday. We got up at 6:00 and headed into Charlottetown in the hopes of securing a front row seat near Province House, where the Duke and Duchess were set to arrive at 10:05. When we got downtown at around 7:00, there were already people lined up 3 or 4 deep along the barricades directly outside Province House. After some scouting, we did find a clear spot along the barricades on Great George Street, just up from the Basilica, and just beneath a huge screen that was set up. We also ran into some friends from church who ended up waiting and watching with us, which was a lot of fun. And of course, we had to get our pictures taken with the cut-out version of the couple!
When the couple finally did arrive out of view on the other side of Province House, this is what we saw.
|Kate in a lovely nautical dress|
We woke Arden up from her nap in the stroller just before 10:38, when Will and Kate were greeted by a singing choir and the cheering crowds up and down Great George Street.
Just as William began his speech, drops of rain began to fall, but nothing could dampen the spirits (haha) of the 20,000 or so people gathered.
And now here is where our getting up early paid off. William and Kate got into the landau, accompanied by the mounted police, and began to process down Great George Street, and right in front of us . . .
I lifted Arden up on my shoulders and we waved and shouted as Kate waved and smiled. She is truly gorgeous. Oh wait, Kate, look over here!
Yes, that's better.
They walked about for quite awhile afterward, shaking hands and such. Alas, we did not get the opportunity to meet them! We've already decided that next time we will camp out even earlier and guarantee ourselves a handshaking spot!
When they got into their car and drove off for an afternoon at Dalvay-by-the-sea, the rain really began to fall, and we trod back up the street. The crowds began to disperse, but this next sight made me laugh. . .
Yes, that is a reincarnation of Princess Beatrice's wedding hat, made out of what appears to be toilet seats!! Hilarious! Highlight of the day!
Thus ended the official appearance in Charlottetown of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. It was fun to be part of the grand crowd, the energetic atmosphere, a little bit of PEI history in the making. It was a once in a lifetime moment to see Will and Kate in their grand carriage, processing before our eyes, part of the perfectly planned celebration in their honour. But for all the grandeur and ceremony, I think I preferred our serendipitous moments stolen the night before, or maybe it was just the thrill of the first sighting.
We had already seen them three times. At the rate we were going, we might as well try for a fourth! After lunch and a nap at home, we headed over to Summerside. Will and Kate were going to arrive by helicopter at the Summerside Harbour and watch a search and rescue demonstration by the Canadian Coast Guard. (William is a search and rescue pilot, after all.)
It was almost raining in Summerside, and we were prepared with rain jackets and umbrellas. It was a carnival atmosphere down at the harbour, with live music and highland dancers and roving bagpipers and people on segways handing out Union Jacks.
We did our part and waved our flags.Then Arden and I tried out the cockpit of a Coast Guard helicopter for fun.
And Arden spent a lot of time on Daddy's shoulders, where I'm sure she got some of the best views.
The Duke and Duchess arrived by Coast Guard helicopter, sending waves of spray over the waiting crowds.
If you look very closely, you can see them off in the distance, walking toward the group of important people assembled. Kate was dressed in skinny jeans and a short trenchcoat, fitting for the mad dash out from under the chopper.
And that's about all we saw of them! Rather disappointing for the crowds, I would think. They made their way onto the ship, and there watched the search and rescue demonstration. We watched too.
It was cool to see the helicopter part of the rescue, and this time we got sprayed with saltwater!
Eventually we made our way over to the road where the motorcade would pass by on the way to the airport. We weren't too worried about getting a spot right on the curb this time, and let the folk of Summerside jostle for the best positions. We couldn't really see the couple when they drove by, but we waved anyway!
You can see us waving in the bottom left corner. And something I never noticed before - a guy dressed up with a sign saying "God Save the Bears." Random! I guess royalty brings out all sorts . . .
And that was the end of our royal watching! We walked back to the car along the boardwalk, stopping for some candy and fudge along the way, with a tired little trooper in tow.
Here she is letting us know that no matter how tired she may seem, she is not yet ready for a nap!
We drove home, satisfied with our adventure in Royal Watching. It had been quite a 24 hours following the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, and we were quite glad to get back to our own humble castle at the end of a long day.
I wondered if Will and Kate were looking forward to getting back to their own home too, if Kate makes Will haddock bubbly bake on a rainy evening, if they curl up on the couch and laugh at Beatrice's hat and the silly people who get so excited just to see plain old them.