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Royal Visits

The first official Royal Visit to what is now Ontario dates back to 1860, when Albert Edward, Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII) officially opened the City of Toronto's newest park, on land adjacent to the University of Toronto. On September 11, the Prince, "a charming youth who was setting all the maidenly hearts of Toronto aflutter" in the words of one observer, was watched by thousands as he laid a foundation stone for a memorial to his mother, Queen Victoria, and planted a silver oak. The Prince christened the site Queen's Park, in honour of the monarch he was not to succeed on the Throne for another 41 years.

In 1901, the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall and York (later King George V and Queen Mary) completed the first transcontinental Royal Tour, on a special royal train provided by the Canadian Pacific Railway. For denizens of Queen's Park and its vicinity, a visible reminder of the visit remains the stone and iron Alexandra Gates, which are now located on Bloor Street at the north end of Philosopher's Walk. The Gates were inaugurated by the Duke in honour of his mother, Queen Alexandra.

The Royal Tour of 1939, the first occasion when a reigning monarch visited Canada, included a stop at Queen's Park. King George VI and Queen Elizabeth (subsequently Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother) reached Toronto on the royal train (once again supplied by the Canadian Pacific Railway) on May 22, five days after their arrival at Quebec City. In honour of the occasion the Legislative Building was festooned with innumerable Union Jacks as well as banners and flags bearing the Royal Monogram and the crosses of St. George or St. Andrew. Inside a lavishly redecorated Chamber, Premier Mitch Hepburn presented eight winners of the Victoria Cross, as well as his cabinet and official opposition leader George Drew, to their King and Queen.

The royal couple then moved upstairs for a meeting the press and newsreels had eagerly been trumpeting for weeks. There, in the music room of the Lieutenant Governor's suite, the King and Queen were presented with five little girls from Callander, the world famous Dionne Quintuplets. In the words of one historian of the Royal Tour, the girls' renown "gave their encounter with royalty the aura of a summit meeting." That afternoon the King and Queen attended the 80th running of the King's Plate at Woodbine. This venerable competition, the oldest consecutively run thoroughbred race in North America, had been formally established by Queen Victoria in 1859, with an annual plate or gift of 50 guineas. Though not the first member of the Royal Family to attend the race, King George VI was the first reigning monarch to present the traditional purse to the winner. His Queen, whose dazzling smile and easy manner did so much to make the Royal Tour a complete success, attended the Queen's Plate (as it became known after her daughter acceded to the Throne as Queen Elizabeth II), twice more, in 1979 and finally, in 1989, on her fiftieth anniversary tour of Canada.

Queen Elizabeth II In October, 2002, Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh visited Ontario as part of Her Majesty’s Canadian visit in honour of her Golden Jubilee commemorating the 50th anniversary of her accession to the Throne.

More recent royal visits to Queen’s Park have included the Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Philip in 2013; Princess Anne in 2013; the Prince of Wales, Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall in 2012; and Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip in 2010.