Royal fans are in a frenzy ahead of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s arrival in Victoria on Saturday. Will and Kate will be joined by their children Prince George and Princess Charlotte for an eight-day tour of B.C. and the Yukon.
Sarika Bose, royal watcher and lecturer of Victorian literature in the UBC department of English, explains the significance of the visit and how the Royal Family is re-inventing itself to stay relevant.
Will and Kate are bringing their children Prince George and Princess Charlotte to Canada, marking their first royal tour as a family. Why is this significant?
Bringing the kids is one of the strategies that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are using to connect to ordinary people. Not only does it demonstrate on a very basic level that they are parents, just like many Canadians, but it also says that they are such loving parents that they cannot bear to be far away from their children. It doesn’t hurt that the children are also attractive, and provide a point of conversation with others.
Bringing them also helps to support the domestic image of the Royal Family, firmly established by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert in the 19th century to counter previous images of the monarch as frivolous and distant from ordinary lives and interests. The picture of the happy and closely-bonded family that is emphasized in many images of Prince William with his wife and children, is a reminder of the Queen’s own childhood experiences of a close-knit family. The children are also a concrete reminder that the monarchy has a long-term line of succession that is ready for the future.
The institution of monarchy continues to be questioned, both in England and in Canada, as does the legacy of colonialism. How is the Royal Family adapting to fit the role of the monarchy in the world today?
There are certainly many Canadians who are indifferent to a couple they identify as being mere celebrities, and others who are actively opposed to the system of monarchy. There are Canadians who are uncomfortable with the colonialist legacy of Britain and indeed, with what appears to be a continuation of colonialism in royal tours to commonwealth countries. Conversations about colonialism need to continue.
However, the role of monarch seems to be in the process of being re-written. Many Canadians are interested and have a positive reaction to a royal visit. Younger people respect the work the Duke and Duchess do to support charities and bring greater awareness to a wide range of causes. They are also continuing to modernize by offering a carefully constructed ideal that represents both traditional and current values.
For example, Prince William has a job, just like a member of the public. It’s not an easy job either. His training as a search-and-rescue pilot, and job as air ambulance pilot, shows he’s willing to place himself in dangerous situations for the good of others.
What is the purpose of a royal visit?
Canada has a long history of royal visits. These visits help many Canadians today feel connected to the experiences of their ancestors, and to the general history of the country. For the many Canadians who turn up to see members of the Royal Family, the interest comes from the opportunity to see representatives of a living tradition and to see a famous figure in person. Members of the Royal Family often function as conduits to escape ordinary life for a little while.
In addition, these visits to charities and other organizations boost the visibility of many local and international causes. This royal tour, for example, will include a visit to Sheway, a women’s organization that supports women in crisis in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. They will also visit the Kitsilano Coast Guard Station, which is particularly dear to the heart of William, who is an air ambulance pilot. This is the station that had been closed by the previous government, so the royal visit is particularly meaningful. Their Royal Highnesses will also visit some of the beautiful natural sites of B.C. and the Yukon, not only to draw attention to conservation issues, but to start on the path to conversations with indigenous communities on a level more significant than before on royal tours.
Visiting indigenous communities and keeping a spotlight on conversations about reconciliation demonstrates that the Duke and Duchess are cognizant of the very serious issues that exist as a legacy of colonialism, and that they are ready to support improved relationships between communities.