In 1986 the World’s Exposition (or Expo 86 as it was commonly known) came to Vancouver and the whole took a long indulgent glance at British Columbia. Expo 86 opened British Columbia’s windows to the world and an ensuing warm breeze blew in, filling every corner of our province. Although Expo 86 was centred in Vancouver it was truly a British Columbian celebration as many of the festivities were shared across the province.
Expo 86 received over 20 000 000 visitors during its six month run, visitors travelled from home and abroad to partake in the festivities. It seemed like everyone was there. The most notable presence at Expo 86 had to be The Prince and Princess of Wales who were on hand to open the ceremonies and tour the province. This tour brought the Royal Couple to my hometown of Nanaimo, in what was to be the last Royal visit to date.
They came to Nanaimo to dedicate the new harbourfront park Swy-a-lana Lagoon and proclaim Nanaimo the “Harbour City.”
I was only four-years-old when I witnessed this historic visit and although time has blurred many of my memories from this day there are still a few images that remain.
My own encounter with The Prince and Princess of Wales was ever so brief and fleeting and I remember more about what people were wearing than who was in attendance. Most of the men were wearing antiquated top hats and the women sported equally ridiculous headwear.
The whole town came out to the new park to welcome the Royal couple, although people of all ages came out it seemed that the taller people were afforded with a better glimpse of the visitors. Long legs and camera tripods obscured my view of the Royal Couple for most of the day. However, I managed to squeeze through these obstacles for a second and my effort was rewarded by a brief smile and nod from The Prince of Wales and The Princess of Wales.
During his visit to Nanaimo The Prince of Wales demonstrated an avid interest in the history and economy of Nanaimo. At one point he brought up the possibility of reopening the long dormant coalmines and made reference to his predecessor, Edward VIII (later the Duke of Windsor) who made a visit to Nanaimo in 1919 when he was still the Prince of Wales.
The Prince of Wales engaged the crowd with thoughtful, concerned questions and comments about their own personal lives without a hint of condescension or pretension. He left the impression of an intelligent, worldly gentleman who demonstrated genuine concern for his mother’s people.
It has been almost twenty years since that memorable day on the shores of Vancouver Island and since that time I’ve taken an avid interest in the role of the Monarchy in Canadian society.
The popular media has capitalized on the suffering of our Royal Family through extensive coverage and speculation over the various scandals and tragedies. However, there have been many happy events in recent years that are a firm testament to the Royal Family’s resilience and viability in the twenty-first century.
The Royal Family has demonstrated that it is vulnerable to the turmoil and strife that afflicts so many families. They are not a better family but a different kind of family, one that in its best embodies the spirit of the nation and the Commonwealth. They unite us and give us hope in times of hardship and add an air of jubilation and dignity during times of celebration and thanksgiving.
Both The Prince of Wales and Mrs Parker Bowles have lived rather tumultuous lives, the pain and anguish from which are subject to intense public scrutiny. Despite this intrusion they have both remained unwavering in their commitment to their various obligations.
In addition to his public obligations, The Prince of Wales is the patron or president of over 360 charities and in 2004 he helped to raise approximately £100 000 000 for charity. Mrs Parker Bowles has been a tactful and vocal advocate for people with osteoporosis. She has been an avid supporter of the National Osteoporosis Society since her mother died of the disease in 1994, she was made a patron of the Society in 1997, and president in 2001.
I send The Prince of Wales and Mrs Parker Bowles my good wishes for a long and happy marriage.