Wednesday, June 29, 2022
16 minutes (audio)
Erin: Welcome to the ON Parliament Podcast. Where we help spread the word on Parliament!
David: I’m happy to be back on the podcast today Erin.
Erin: And I’m so glad you’re back too David! Because I have a really great topic for us this month. In honour of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee, I thought for this episode it would be fun to take a look back at some of the Monarchs who have made an impact here at Queen’s Park.
David: Ooh I do have a soft spot for the Royals! And look, I’m practicing my wave.
Erin: Haha. Hmm… well the wave might need a little work. But in the meantime, have I got a game for you! I thought it would be fun to play under or over. I’m going to give you the name of a Monarch and a number. And you have to tell me whether you think they reigned over or under that number of years.
David: Good thing I’m caught up on watching the Crown! I think I have a pretty good shot at this game.
Erin: Well, I’m not sure the Crown will help you with this first one but you never know. Queen Anne of Great Britain was the last monarch of the House of Stuart. Her reign ended in 1714. Was her reign under or over 10 years?
David: You know, you were right. My TV knowledge isn’t going to help me with this one. Since I don’t know the answer, I’m going to have to guess and say… under.
Erin: Great guess!
David: Really?! I was right?
Erin: Yes, indeed. Queen Anne reigned for just over 7 years as the Queen of Great Britain and Ireland. Now our next Queen I know that you’ve heard of: Queen Elizabeth I.
David: I may have heard of her before, yes.
Erin: Well, let’s see how well you know her reign. Queen Elizabeth I was the last of the five Tudor monarchs. Her reign ended upon her death in 1603. Do you think her time on the Throne was over or under 40 years?
David: 40 years… Okay. I know that Queen Elizabeth I was on the Throne for quite some time back in those days. So I’m going to go with over.
Erin: Correct again!
David: I’m feeling pretty good about my chances with the next one. Who have you saved for last?
Erin: Well, last but not least, we have Queen Victoria. The last British monarch of the House of Hanover, Queen Victoria’s reign was the longest of any British Monarch up until Queen Elizabeth II. Was her reign under or over 63 years?
David: Wait a minute. That’s a trick question! Wasn’t she on the Throne for 63 year?
Erin: I can’t stump you! Queen Victoria’s reign was actually 63 years and 7 months. So I’ll give you that one although I would have accepted over too because of the extra 7 months.
David: That’s sneaky.
Erin: Well, I had to make it a little bit tricky to make it fun!
David: Oh all right. I forgive you. And I’m really looking forward to getting in to the rest of the episode now too!
Erin: Me too. And the first Royal that we have to talk about today is actually Queen Victoria herself.
David: Queen Victoria’s ties to the Legislature go back even before the current building was constructed. In September of 1860, the future King Edward VII, still Prince of Wales at the time, visited Toronto. While he was in the city, he officially opened Queen’s Park and dedicated it to his mother, Queen Victoria. Fun fact: during his visit, the Prince of Wales also laid a cornerstone for the base of a statue of his mother.
Erin: Although there was a statue of a young Queen Victoria on the grounds of Queen’s Park for a short while, the statue that we know today is not the original one planned for the site. Purchased by the province of Ontario in 1902, the monument was erected in 1903 – 2 years after her death. The statue depicts Queen Victoria later in her life, sitting on a throne holding an orb and scepter. The base is made of local granite and contains her initials, VR, along with 2 bronze plaques. The plaques are done in low relief and show Queen Victoria’s first council at Kensington as well as her lying-in-state.
David: The statue isn’t the only place that we see the initials “VR” in the Legislative Building either. We see them again on the cup of the Mace. Fun fact: the "R" in her initials stands for "regina," which means "queen" in Latin. Similarly, a King’s initials would include an “R” for "rex" which is “king” in Latin.
Erin: As we’ve mentioned before, especially in our episode on parliamentary traditions, the Mace is a very important symbol in our Provincial Parliament. It represents the transfer of power from the Monarch to the Legislature.
David: Our current Mace dates back to 1867. Coincidentally [or not] Queen Victoria was on the Throne at that time as well. Seeing as she was the reigning monarch for the time, they engraved her initials into a golden cup. The cup itself forms part of the head of the Mace.
Erin: Now if you’ve ever been to the Legislative Building, you may have had the good fortune of being able to see the Mace up close. And if you have, you would have noticed that the initials currently on the Mace are “ER VII”. So what happened?
David: The story goes that there was a plan to replace the cup in the Mace every time there was a new reigning monarch on the Throne. So, upon her death, the cup with Queen Victoria’s initials was replaced with those of her son and successor, King Edward VII.
Erin: For no apparent reason that we could find, this practice fell by the wayside after King Edward VII, so his initials are the ones that we still see on the Mace today.
David: You may be wondering what happened to the cup with Queen Victoria’s initials then. Well, the cup with her moniker was given as a gift to a retiring Member of Provincial Parliament at one point. Upon his death, his wife donated the cup to the Royal Ontario Museum, where it stayed in their collection for many years.
Erin: The question of its exact whereabouts was a mystery for some time, but eventually the original cup for the Mace was re-discovered and returned to the Assembly. Today, it remains on display beside the Mace, when it’s not hard at work in the Chamber, for all to see. Reunited at last.
David: [singing: “Reunited…] Yet, despite all of the references to her, Queen Victoria never actually visited her namesake park or the Legislative Building in Ontario. But there is another Monarch who has been here several times prior to and throughout her reign, Queen Elizabeth II.
Erin: Very true David. In fact, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II has made 4 official visits to the Legislative Assembly. Although, her first trip was in 1951 when she was still technically a Princess.
David: That 33-day tour saw Princess Elizabeth and her husband, Prince Philip the Duke of Edinburgh, travel across Canada. With a notable stop in Toronto and specifically at the Legislative Building. The itinerary for the trip has the Royal Couple stopping at Queen’s Park for a visit to the Vice-Regal Suite where the Princess had lunch with the Honourable Ray Lawson, Ontario’s Lieutenant Governor at the time.
Erin: According to reports from the time, the public were eager to catch a glimpse of the Princess – with crowds of 10 to 12 people deep appearing along the tour route. In fact, once she arrived at the Legislative Building, the crowd started chanting “We want the Princess! We want Elizabeth!” The chants were so loud and continued for so long that Her Majesty came back out to wave and smile at the crowd, not once but twice before returning back to her scheduled luncheon.
David: I sure hope she had time to eat, Erin! The visit was also momentous because it was the first time that a Royal had arrived by plane for an official visit. And planes weren’t the only interesting form of transportation that was used during the 1951 tour.
Erin: Fun fact: Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip slept on the “Royal Train” which was parked at the York siding in downtown Toronto for the duration of their stay in the “Queen City” as it was nicknamed at the time.
David: It would be a few more years before the Queen would return to Queen’s Park. In fact, the next visit was made was in 1973 - after she was officially Queen, and after the birth of her four children.
Erin: The 1973 visit was part of an extended tour of Ontario. During the tour, Her Majesty and Prince Philip opened Scarborough’s new Civic Centre, and they took tours of both Ontario Place and High Park, where the Queen released 100 tagged bass into Grenadier Pond.
David: There was also a visit organized on the grounds of Queen’s Park where Her Majesty met with the first recipients of the Ontario Medal for Good Citizenship – an award that recognizes Ontarians for outstanding contributions to their communities.
Erin: Following the award ceremony, the Queen greeted crowds of well-wishers on the grounds of Queen’s Park during a walkabout. Fun fact: Queen Elizabeth II was one of the first Royals to embrace the practice of “walkabouts,” going against the century’s old tradition of remaining at a distance from well-wishers and simply waving. Today, it’s pretty common practice for members of the Royal Family to take a casual stroll to greet individuals personally throughout these walkabouts.
David: I have a confession for you Erin…
Erin: Oh yeah?
David: I actually remember going to see the Queen during her 1973 visit to Toronto.
Erin: Wow! That’s amazing David. What was it like?
David: Well, I’m going to use the word ‘fascinating’ to describe it…almost surreal. You know it’s nearly impossible for us to remember now what the experience of seeing Royalty was like in comparison to that long ago. To give it a bit of context, today think about how much we know about the Royal family thanks to the media or TV shows like the Crown. That absolutely did not exist back in the 1970s. We didn’t have knowledge of the intimate details about the Royal family as we do today. There were rarely any specials about them on TV, no Internet or social media and so access to information about them was limited to features in magazines. Plus, the drama that unfolded for them in the 1980s and beyond hadn’t happened yet. Add it all together and the idea of getting to see them in person – wondering what their lives were like - was still very much mesmerizing.
Erin: You know, I hadn’t thought of it like that. But I totally get it. I guess it would have been before the Royal Wedding of Prince Charles and Diana too. In my mind, that was always really the start of the big changes that we saw in the Royal Family.
David: Indeed. Exactly. So for that visit in June, 1973, there was such a genuine sense of excitement that we would actually get a chance to see someone who we admired, yet still knew relatively little about…personally. My mom took us to a spot up on the official transportation route to Queen’s Park from the airport. It was on Avenue Road near Lawrence, which is just north of the Legislative Building in Toronto. Even there, there were large crowds who had lined the street to see the Royal Couple. After some time waiting, they slowly drove by in a big, open-air convertible. We were on the side of the street facing her side of the car, and I remember thinking how pleasant she looked…very relaxed and waving to the crowd and smiling. What also stood out for me was the brilliant yellow dress and hat she was wearing - I’ll never forget it, it was really magical!
Erin: It sounds magical. And like it was a really great memory!
David: It really is.
Erin: And it would have been really, really cool to have been at Queen’s Park for the Queen’s next visit too in 1984. That year, there were many things to celebrate. First, it was the 150th anniversary of the City of Toronto – the City’s original Act of Incorporation received Royal Assent in 1834 from the Queen’s great-great grandmother, Queen Victoria.
David: 1984 also saw another milestone celebration: Ontario’s bicentennial. With many events and celebrations planned throughout the city, the Legislative Building was decorated for the occasion too: the building was draped in bunting and banners with an area cleared on the front grounds for a very special ceremony.
Erin: You’re right David. The Queen took part in a tree-planting ceremony on the grounds of Queen’s Park. The Eastern White Pine tree had become Ontario’s official tree earlier that same year.
David: It’s a Fun fact time: the Queen planted 2 of them on the grounds and they can still be seen today.
Erin: Double fun fact: there is actually a third tree on the grounds that was planted earlier that same year too, to commemorate the celebration of Arbor Day in Ontario.
David: Double fun fact! I’m impressed!
Erin: Well, I try David, I try. And it was definitely too good of an opportunity to pass up!
David: I’ve got to agree with you on that one Erin.
Erin: Well, the last and most recent visit the Queen made to the Legislative Building was on July 6, 2010. For the first time since her 1951 visit when she was still Princess, Her Majesty went inside the Legislative Building itself, entering through the Lieutenant Governor’s Suite and proceeding through the lobby for a special ceremony.
David: I was also in the Legislative Building for her last visit too Erin.
Erin: Wow! What was it like seeing her again all those years later and while you were at Queen’s Park too?
David: It was an extremely warm and humid day, with temperatures hovering in the low to mid 30s. Many staff were allowed to gather in the Legislative Building lobby to witness a ceremony on the grand staircase where the Queen and Prince Philip signed an official visiting register. Afterwards, the Royal Couple stepped outside to unveil a plaque. The Queen proceeded to carry out a walkabout of the grounds and then reviewed troops that had gathered outside the Legislature…all in that tremendous heat!! She looked remarkably cool throughout the entire experience…both inside the sweltering building as well as outside in that humidity! Nothing seemed to phase her. Unlike the rest of us who melted just a little bit in that intense heat!
Erin: Haha Oh I bet! I would have been the exact same! But I do wish I could have been there. I mean, I’ve seen the pictures and the plaque but they just don’t do it justice.
David: Well, speaking of the plaque, that was the other important part of her visit in 2010. Queen Elizabeth II unveiled a plaque celebrating the 150th anniversary of the opening of Queen’s Park as a public park. It’s now situated at the south end of the Legislature’s grounds.
Erin: And if you remember, it was actually her great-grandfather, King Edward VII, [although he was still Prince at the time] who officially opened the park back in 1860. It’s crazy to think that not only was she able to take part in that ceremony as a piece of public history, but as a personal history moment for her family as well. It wasn’t that many generations removed that the park was opened in the first place.
David: And while we’re on the subject of plaques, did you know we have one on the west side of the grounds commemorating another Royal Visit? King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, who later was referred to as the Queen Mother, visited Queen’s Park in 1939. Their visit to the Legislature in May that year was part of an extensive trip across Canada and the United States.
Erin: Fun Fact: King George VI’s 1939 visit to Queen’s Park was the first time a reigning British monarch – and a monarch of Canada – ever visited the building.
David: Yes, amazing fact, Erin! There seem to be a lot of family connections to Royal Visits to the site of our provincial Parliament. And to think that we can trace that Royal Heritage back to the name of the park itself – being named after Queen Victoria, the first Queen we discussed today, and the second longest reigning British Monarch of all time. Both she and Queen Elizabeth II are truly remarkable in many ways and have each left an indelible mark on the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.
Erin: You know, I couldn’t have said it better myself, David.
David: Oh dear. It’s that time of the episode again – we’ve come to the end of another great topic. But we still need to do our fun fact count!
Erin: Very true. Well, with our very, very special double fun fact from today, I believe our countl is… 7!
David: Only 7?! It felt like so many more!
Erin: Well, I guess we’ll just have to add in some extra next time to make up for it!
David: Thanks for listening to the ON Parliament podcast. Where we help spread the word on Parliament! Okay, Erin, how’s the wave now? Is it better?
Erin: It’s absolutely perfect David.
David: Thank you!
Erin: But, we’ve got to go, I think I hear the bells.
Erin: The ON Parliament podcast is produced by Parliamentary Protocol and Public Relations for the Legislative Assembly of Ontario. Social media by Parliamentary Protocol and Public Relations for the Legislative Assembly of Ontario. Additional research provided by the Table Research Office for the Legislative Assembly of Ontario. Thanks for listening. If you enjoyed today’s episode, please support the podcast by sharing it with others and subscribing. For more fun facts about Ontario’s parliament, follow us on Twitter and Instagram : @onparleducation. Et en français : @parloneducation . Thanks again and see you next time.