With the sad news of the passing of Prince Philip, many folk are going back in their memories recalling occasions of royal visits to Victoria. Certainly our area has been favoured with events where a number of Sooke people got to meet the Queen or the royal couple, such as a tea in Beacon Hill Park, and of course Prince Philip was in Canada many times due to the Duke of Edinburgh Awards.
A memorable occasion for four Sooke residents took place in August 1994, when we were invited to the Queen’s Commonwealth Banquet at Government House, in connection with the XV Commonwealth Games. Rick Kasper, MLA for Malahat-Juan de Fuca, and his wife Doni Eve were there representing the riding; not sure why my husband Jim and I were invited except that I had spent the previous three years in a volunteer administrative capacity with the Games.
Doni and I had practised our curtsies, and we all stood in line nervously waiting for our names to be called out for presentation to the Queen and the Duke. Besides the royal couple, the receiving line was composed of Prime Minister Jean Chretien, his wife Aline, Premier Mike Harcourt and his wife Becky.
My meeting with the Queen left me with the feeling that she was a caring mother just like the rest of us, worrying about her kids. The Duke, on the other hand, surprised me by appearing to me not as tall and robust as his photographs, but certainly very cordial. By then in his 70s, age was probably beginning to take its toll. After the presentations we moved on to the large banquet room, set up with round tables.
The seating plan had Jim and me seated with the Kaspers, along with a lady in waiting to the Queen, and her escort resplendent with decorations. The fourth couple at the table was Robin Blenco, minister of municipal affairs, and his wife. The atmosphere was very sociable; our table was adjacent to that of the Queen and the Duke, and this proximity led my husband, who liked to be irreverent, to tell people afterwards that the Queen had a run in her stocking. Of course that wasn’t true.
Among others we knew at the dinner besides Games president George Heller and his wife were Mel Cooper and his wife Carmella, and Carole Sabiston, the fabric artist I’d partnered with on our Commonwealth Games project, and her husband, Jim Munro of Munro’s Books. Cameras were not allowed, of course.
It was an exciting experience to share in a very small way with a royal couple whose lives were dedicated to service, and we know the Queen will miss Prince Philip greatly.
Elida Peers is the historian with Sooke Region Museum.