A Royal Visit
By Trevor Lundy
On Wednesday May 5, 1971, a chilly wind and the occasional drop of rain caused nearly 8,000 visitors to Fort Steele Heritage Town to huddle together, waiting in anticipation for a once-in-a-lifetime visitor.
The crowd had started to gather around 8 a.m., with people coming from as far away as Invermere and Montana in hopes of catching a moment with Her Royal Highness, Queen Elizabeth II.
The Queen, her husband Prince Phillip, and Princess Anne were visiting British Columbia as part of its centenary anniversary of joining Confederation. Their visit also took them to Victoria, Vancouver, Tofino, Williams Lake, and many other stops throughout the province. Cranbrook, and more specifically, Fort Steele was one of the first stops on their very busy itinerary.
The Royal Party had arrived at 11:30 a.m. at the Cranbrook Airport, where they were officially welcomed by the mayors of both Kimberley and Cranbrook before proceeding to Fort Steele. Along the route, thousands of spectators lined the road. The motorcade slowed so that onlookers could get a better view of the Royals.
Upon arrival at Fort Steele, they were welcomed with cheers and applause as the Cranbrook Girls’ Bugle Band (pictured above) marched around the gazebo to welcome them. The Queen seemed relaxed and happy as she was introduced to many dignitaries such as area Mayors, Members of Parliament and two young ladies who were selected to present the Queen and Princess Anne with flowers (although the flowers were somehow missing when the time for their presentation arrived).
The highlight of the day for the thousands in attendance was when the Royal Party walked from the gazebo to the International Hotel for a specially prepared lunch that included roast wapiti, creamed pheasant and a “Shuswap Canoe of B.C. Fruits.” Walking along the boardwalks of Fort Steele, the Queen, Prince and Princess stopped to speak with many members of the adoring crowd, asking where they had travelled from or paying special attention to anyone wearing a badge or medal.
After their lunch, the Royal Party was treated to a tour of the museum (where the missing flowers were found and finally presented to them) before heading up to the train station for a ride on the famed Dunrobin.
The Kimberley Pipe Band was gathered at the station to welcome them as they boarded. The train took the Royals on the loop and stopped at the lookout so the Queen could view the valley and the river below before returning to the station. Prince Phillip took the opportunity at the lookout to head up to the engine for the ride back (although he declined taking the controls, according to engineer Robert McTavish).
The Queen then signed the plaque mounted on the engine of the Dunrobin that had previously been signed by King Alfonso of Spain, King Edward VIII, Princess Louise Margaret (daughter of Queen Victoria), King George V, Kaiser Wilhelm and Neville Chamberlain.
Now, 45 years later, it has been announced that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Prince William and Kate Middleton, will visit British Columbia. While the young Royals’ itinerary has not been announced, one has to wonder if they might consider following in the footsteps of William’s grandparents and taking a stroll down the boardwalks of Fort Steele as they Explore Yesterday…Today.
– Trevor Lundy is head of marketing at Fort Steele Heritage Town.