London’s Royal Connections: Five Victoria Day Fun Facts

It’s no surprise for a place named after London, England, that Forest City has strong historical ties to the British Royal Family, who visit this community shortly after it officially became a city.

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It’s no surprise for a place named after London, England, that Forest City has strong historical ties to the British Royal Family, who visit this community shortly after it officially became a city. Journalist Dan Brown has the Victoria Day lowdown on how some of those trips turned out, plus other details about our penchant for things royal.

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Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip stand on the rear platform of the train in London during their royal visit in 1951. (Photo Ivey Family London Room)
Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip stand on the rear platform of the train in London during their royal visit in 1951. (Photo Ivey Family London Room)

A list of living Royals who have come to the London area would start with Queen Elizabeth II, who first visited the city as a princess on October 14, 1951, for a whistle lasting 29 minutes . “I don’t think they got off the train,” said local historian Dan Brock, author of Fragments From the Forks. She became the reigning monarch the following year. Her Majesty was last in this area in 1997, when she locked herself away for a private retreat at Redtail, the exclusive golf course north of Port Stanley. Edward, his youngest son, was in town in 1993 with his wife Sophie, and Anne, Elizabeth’s only daughter, was in Owen Sound in 1979, according to Government of Canada records.


The Prince of Wales, Albert Edward – Queen Victoria’s eldest son – was the first member of the Royal Family to visit our town, and he’s spent just enough time here to be the talk of the town. The London shutdown took place before the Confederation of Canada on September 12, 1860 – only four years after London was officially granted status as a city of 10,000 people. “The next night they had a big dance in his honor at the Tecumseh House Hotel,” Brock said. The prince’s (limited) dance card was filled out in a way that “certainly ruffled a lot of feathers”, he said, the unspoken implication being that the prince, then in his 60s, preferred to dance with younger partners than the town matrons. “They screwed it up,” Brock said, but it wasn’t the prince who took the fall, it was dance organizer Henry Beecher.

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It is probably impossible to make an exhaustive inventory of all the streets, gardens and parks which are, or have been, inspired by members of the royal family – examples such as King Street and Queens Avenue come immediately to mind, but there are many others. “We have Golden Jubilee Square (recognize Queen Elizabeth) downtown outside of Budweiser Gardens, and there are several (public) schools that reflect the royal family, such as Prince Charles Public School, the Princess Anne Public School, Princess Elizabeth Public School, et cetera,” said Jeff Shaughnessy, the municipal policy specialist at City Hall who is its “subdivision ambassador.” Shaughnessy said that, in keeping with our colonial past, the royal family is one of the historical “themes” whose names have been drawn over the decades, just as names have been drawn from the streets, buildings and neighborhoods of London, England.

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In June 1973, then London Mayor Jane Bigelow, the city's first female mayor, caused an international outcry when she broke protocol by not wearing a hat in the presence of Queen Elizabeth.
In June 1973, then London Mayor Jane Bigelow, the city’s first female mayor, caused an international outcry when she broke protocol by not wearing a hat in the presence of Queen Elizabeth. “I never wear a hat,” said Bigelow, who served from 1972 to 1978. (London Free Press Files)

Fast forward to 1973. The year before, City politician Jane Bigelow made history by becoming London’s first female mayor. If that wasn’t groundbreaking enough, the following year Bigelow bucked convention by choosing not to cover her head when she received Queen Elizabeth II on June 28, 1973. “It was in London, in Ontario at the time,” Bigelow said in 2005. “That’s why it made so much noise.” Keep in mind that this was a time when it was still controversial for women to wear pants. The infamous incident was not the result of a calculated anti-monarchist statement by Bigelow. His adult children remember Bigelow saying at the time, “I don’t wear hats. Why would I wear a hat to meet the queen?


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Brock said “without question” the biggest and grandest royal visit to our city took place in 1939, when George VI (who would later be played by Colin Firth in The King’s Speech) and Queen Elizabeth I (later to become known as Queen Mother) arrived in London on June 7 during a month-long tour of North America. They came by train. “It was the first time a reigning monarch had come to London,” Brock said. And Londoners went wild, as did surrounding communities; a reported crowd of 300,000 thronged the streets of the city to greet Their Majesties. But despite the excitement, the subtext was sobering: firming up support for England ahead of the coming World War II with Germany.

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Twitter.com/DanatLFPress

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Christy J. Olson