Wednesday, November 24, 2010

# 13 ~ Toronto's Imperial Russian Connections, Then and Now

Fifty years ago today, on November 24, 1960, Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna of Russia ~ the youngest sister of Nicholas II, the murdered Russian Tsar ~ died in Toronto.  She is buried in Toronto's York Cemetery.  The fact that she spent the last twelve years of her life in the Toronto area is a little known part of Toronto's multicultural tapestry.

Many people may not make a connection with the court of Imperial Russia that existed before the First World War, and a modern city like Toronto.  The popular image that we have of Russian immigrants to the New World may be that of poorer, somewhat threadbare emigres.  We tend not to think of the Royal members of Tsarist Russia as good candidates for refugees.  However, Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna of Russia, the youngest child of Emperor Alexander III of Russia, and the second sister of Tsar Nicholas II, escaped the revolution that took place at the end of the First World War.  She lived for a time in Denmark, but between 1948 and her death in 1960, she lived in and around the Toronto area.  Following her death fifty years ago today, on November 24th, 1960, she was buried in Toronto's York Cemetery, just to the west of Mel Lastman Square.

Her story was one of riches to rags, a sort of modern Cinderella, tragically told in reverse.  Instead of rising from poverty, her life began surrounded by almost unimagineable wealth, only to end in relative fortunelessness.  She saw her family murdered and persecuted, her nation ruined, and her way of life destroyed.  She went from being a member of what was certainly one of the wealthiest families on earth, spending each year moving from palace to palace, until she ultimately passed away in a small flat situated over a beauty parlour on Gerrard Street, in Toronto's east end.

Grand Duchess Olga, or О́льга Алекса́ндровна Рома́нова in Russian, was born on June 13, 1882, and was raised in Gatchina Palace outside of St. Petersburg.  The palace at Gotchina, which had hundreds of rooms, was just one of the properties that were owned by the Romanovs, the Russian Royal Family.  The Romanovs ruled Russia for over 300 years, from 1613 until the Communist Revolution of 1917.  They took advantage of three centuries of absolute power, and amassed great wealth and power.  By the time that Grand Duchess Olga's brother, Nicholas II, became Tsar, the family's worth was estimated to be about $30-billion, and they controlled 10% of the word's landmass.  By comparison, the Canadian monarchy of today would seem almost like "poor relations".  Last year, Forbes Magazine estimated the net worth of Queen Elizabeth II at about $450-million, but a report issued by Buckingham Palace in 1993 said that an appraisal of even £100 million would be an overestimate.  Today, the Queen does not personally own most of what she enjoys the benefits of.  Residences like Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle, along with all that artwork and jewellery, are not owned by the Queen ~ she cannot sell them ~ but are instead technically owned by the people.  By contrast, the Romanovs of a century ago lived as autocrats, in a world of wealth and priviledge that is almost impossible for even the weatlhiest among us to comprehend.  Certainly, by the middle of the nineteenth century, when Queen Victoria reigned over both Canada and the United Kingdom, her powers were curtailed, and she was subject to constitutional law.  In the early 1900s, the Romanovs enjoyed much more absolute power than all the other monarchies of Europe; theirs was the last Royal House to be seen as ruling by "Divine Appointment", annointed by the very Hand of God ~ something that went out in England by the end of the 1600s.

NOW : The Gatchina Palace today, outside Saint Petersburg, where Grand Duchess Olga was principally raised as a child.  The palace contains over 900 rooms, and was just one of the many palaces that formed the day to day live of the Romanovs, Russia's Imperial Dynasty for over 300 years.  Grand Duchess Olga, the last remnant of the ruling family of Romanov, died in Toronto in 1960 and was buried in York Cemetery.

Such was the caste that Grand Duchess Olga was born into.  She was the youngest child of Tsar Alexander III, and the only one of his children to be "born in the purple", while her father was reigning as Tsar.  All of her older brothers and sisters had been born before Alexander III came to the throne.  Olga's mother was the Empress Marie, the daughter of King Christian IX of Denmark, and the sister to Queen Alexandra, the wife of King Edward VII.  Grand Duchess Olga did not enjoy a close relationship with her mother, but apparently was much closer with her father, the Tsar. 

THEN : Grand Duchess Olga with her father, Tsar Alexander III.  Behind are, from left to right, Grand Duke Michael, Olga's mother, the Empress Marie, Grand Duke Nicholas (later, Tsar Nicholas II), Grand Duchess Xenia, and Grand Duke George.  Grand Duchess Olga had a somewhat distant relationship with her mother, but was said to be her father's favourite child.

Alexander III only become heir to the Russian throne following the unexpected death of his older brother in 1865.  His father, Alexander II, was a liberal ruler, who actually worked to reform Russia and emancipate the serfs.  Russian rule at the time was like something out of the Dark Ages.  At a time when the Royal Courts of Europe were modernizing, Russia was still an autocratic nation, devoid of liberty, but Alexander II worked to change that.  Nonetheless, he was still the target of numerous assassination attempts.  The revolutionaries of Russia finally had their way in March of 1881.  On that Sunday morning, Alexander II, Olga's grandfather, was travelling through the streets of Saint Petersburg to review troops.  An assassin threw a bomb at the carriage in which Alexander II was travelling, killing one guard and severely wounding the Tsar's driver and several innocent bystanders.  The Tsar, uninjured, stepped out of the carriage, only to be attacked by a second bomber.  A second bomb landed right at the feet of Alexander II, mortally wounding him.  He was taken up in a sleigh to the Winter Palace, where nearly twenty years to the day before his assassination, Alexander II had signed a law freeing the serfs of Russia.  The Tsar was bleeding to death.  His face was disfigured, his stomach was ripped open, and his legs had been blown off.  Various members of the Romanov Dynasty gathered at his deathbed, including Olga's brother, Nicholas II, who would become the last Tsar of all the Russians.  What must Nicholas have thought, as he looked at the mangled body of his grandfather, the victim of assasins, and watched him die?  This act of violence would set in motion two generations of violence and reprisal, which would ultimately end in the Revolution of 1917, which ended Russia's Imperial history.

NOW : Saint Petersburg's "Church of the Saviour on the Spilled Blood", built on the site where Tsar Alexander II was assassinated in 1881.  The church was built between 1883 and 1907.  Among other features, the church contains over 7,500 square metres of mosaic tiles, more mosaic than any other church in the world.

After the death of her grandfather, both Olga's father, Alexander III, and her brother, Nicholas II, would become more autocratic.  After all, Alexander II had tried in vain to make concession to revolutionaries, and his reward had been murder.  They decided to rule with an iron fist.  The bomb thrown by the revolutionary that killed Alexander II also ended any hopes for Russian democracy.  As soon as Alexander III came to the throne, he reversed several of the reforms that had been begun by his murdered father.  Further, as soon as he came to power, he made it clear that he had no plan to diminish the autocratic and absolute power that had been handed down to him through his Romanov forebearers.  Faced with the growing number of revolutionaries in Russia, Alexander III felt that the way to deal with them lay not in giving out liberal concessions, but rather in imposing a harsher regime than his father.  Alexander III felt that his father had been too liberal, and decided to make amends.  He enforced the traditions of autocracy instead of allowing for freedom of assembly, and helped to steady the old aristocracy and the Russian Orthodox church.

In 1881, at the start of the reign of Alexander III, state sponsored persecution of certain minorities took place, and there was a rise in Anti-Semitism in Russia.  Both Alexander III and Nicholas II would impose severe restrictions on Russia's Jewish population, and openly encouraged them to leave the country.  It was at this time that a large number of Russian Jews began to come to the west, and in fact here in Toronto many Jewish people began to settle around "the Ward", where Nathan Phillips Square is today (see my article posted September 30th, 2010 for more information and historic photographs of this part of Toronto's history).  Canada's first census, takein in 1871, there were only 1,115 Jewish people living in Canada.  409 of these lived in Montreal, 157 lived in Toronto, 131 lived in Hamilton, and the rest were spread out through small communities up and down the Saint Lawrence River.  However, with the persecution of Jewish people in Russia, and the rise of Anti-Semitism in Europe, the Jewish population of Canada grew to over 150,000 between 1880 and 1930.  According to the Canadian census of 2001, there were over 325,000 Jewish people living in major Canadian urban centres, with the largest population ~ approximately half of that ~ living here in Toronto.  Canada has the fourth largest Jewish population of any nation in the world, after the United States, Israel and France, with a large population of them still of Russian origin, 130 years after the Anti-Semitic policies of Olga's father, Alexander III.

Alexander III would reign for less than fifteen years.  In 1894, he became ill, and died on November 1 at the Livadia Palace, in the Crimea.  Thus ended the reign of Olga's father, and her eldest brother, Nicholas II came to the throne in 1894.  For just over two decades, he would reign as Emperor and Autocrat of all the Russians.  When his father died at an unexpectedly young age, Nicholas found himself in a position of absolute power, and he was perhaps unprepared to reign.  However, he was determined to resist the desires of those who wished to develop Russia into a constitutional monarchy.  When he came to the throne, he issued a statement in which he concluded, "I want everyone one to know that I will devote my strength to maintain, for the good of the whole nation, the principle of absolute autocracy, as firmly and as strongly as my late lamented father."  These were the words of the Tsar, who coming to the throne in 1894, had watched had stood over the bomb mangled corpse of his grandfather, Alexander II, in 1881.

There were many disasters during the reign of Nicholas II.  At the time of his coronation in 1896, a crowd of thousands of peasants had gathered on a field in Moscow to receive the gifts that were handed out by the Tsar's officials, to mark the occasion.  According to some estimates, there were as many 500,000 people that gathered on Moscow's Khodynka Field to receive free food and other commemorations of the Tsar's coronation.  A panic ensued, and it turned into a riot.  Over 1,300 people were trampled to death and the same amount again were injured in what became a massive public brawl.  That night, Nicholas II was due to attend a ball in his own honour.  He hesitated at first, but several of his advisers convinced him to attend.  It damaged his reputation with the people to be seen as dancing the night away after the death of such a large number of people.  Nicholas II was also involved in the continued persecution of the Jewish peoples of Russia.  Thousands of Jews were attacked across Russia, and in some cases, the riots against the Jewish population was officially sanctioned by the Tsarist Regime.  In cases where the perpetrators were brought before the courts, they were usually granted clemency by Royal decree.

THEN : The aftermath of the riot that broke out in Moscow's Khodynka Field, following the Coronation of Nicholas II.

Between February of 1904 and September of 1905, Russia entered into a war with Japan.  The Japanese one, and shocked the world at their ability to beat an "advanced" European nation.  The Russian defeat brought not only humiliation but discontent at home.  In 1905 and 1906, Nicholas II faced revolution.  A general strike shut down the whole country, and people started to riot.  Nicholas' uncle, the Grand Duke Sergei, was assassinated by a bomber.  Nicholas himself began to fear for his life, his family and his throne.  Near the end of January, 1905, a large group of protestors marched through the steets and converged on the Winter Palace in Saint Petersburg.  By all accounts, it was a peaceful protest ~ they were even singing the Russian Imperial anthem ~ but when they arrived, the soldiers opened fire.  The official record states that 92 people were killed, and hundreds were injured.  The event became known as "Bloody Sunday" and Tsar Nicholass II was given the nickname "Bloody Nicholas".

THEN : Grand Duchess Olga's brother, Tsar Nicholas II, blesses Russian troops before battle.  At the start of the twentieth century, Russia's Royal Family were still seen as being sent by God, to rule with Divine Authority.

His reign would continue for another twelve years.  Consumed with the fighting of the First World War, Nicholas II and the Romanov Dynasty were faced with two revolutions at home, in 1917.  The February Revolution of 1917 brought about the abdication of Tsar Nicholas II, and the October Revolution of 1917 brought in Bolshevik rule, and started old Imperial Russia on the road down to the USSR.  The Tsar's reign was over, and his life, as well as the lives of his family and anyone who had been in authority during the Tsarist Regime, were endangered.  Various members of the extended Russian Royal Family did manage to escape.  Nicholas II wanted to take his immediate family ~ his wife, his son and heir, and his four daughters ~ to the United Kingdom.  Initial preparations for the escape to England were drawn up, but were eventually put to a stop.  Although there was no where near as strong a sense of revolution amongst the British as their had been among the Russians, there was still fear that the presence of the Romanovs in England may fuel an overthrow of the House of Windsor.

THEN : Tsar Nicholas II, left and King George V, right.  The two were practically identical, in terms of appearance.  George V denied Nicholas and his family refuge in England, as he feared that the exiled Romanovs may haved caused a British revolution.

Nicholas II and his family were captured and held as prisoners.  Initially, in the late summer of 1917, they were imprisoned but in relative comfort, and were being held in a former Govenor's mansion.  But by October, the Bolsheviks had taken power across the country.  In the spring of 1918, Nicholas and his family were moved to the town of Yekaterinburg.  They were kept as captives in a two storey house that had belonged to Nikolay Ipatiev, a military engineer.  The house, which had been known simply as "Ipatiev House" began being referred to more ominously as the "house of special purpose".  Their provisions were reduced, and the family, especially Nicholas' daughters, were taunted by their guards.  The end came at about 2 o'clock in the morning of July 18, 1918.  The family were woken in the middle of the night, and gathered together in a room in the basement.  There, Nicholas II, his wife, his son, his four daughters, the family doctor, the Tsar's valet, and a maid were all executed by a squad of ten men.  This group of bloodthirsty assasins shot again and again, killing not only the tsar, but a group of innocent women and children.  Some of the victims were also bayoneted after having been shot.  After, their bodies were taken to an abandoned area outside town, where they were dumped down a well, and covered in acid, to make identification impossible.

THEN : Ipatiev House, "the house of special purpose", where Nicholas II and his immediate family were kept as prisoners until their execution in July of 1918.

THEN : The basement room where Russia's last Tsar, Nicholas II, was murdered with his family.  No one was spared, not even the Tsar's young children.  Even the staff that were with the family were killed ~ so much for Bolshevik equality and freedom.

But what had happened to the Tsar's youngest sister, Olga, in the years leading up to the revolutions that overthrew the Romanovs?  Unlike her brother, who was off ruling with an iron fist, she enjoyed a certain amount of lavish Royal obscurity.  Born in 1882, she was a young girl of only 12 when her brother became Tsar, and her first marriage took place in 1901, when she was not yet out of her teens.  This first marriage was to Duke Peter Alexandrovich of Oldenburg.  Her wedding dress was worth more than 50,000 roubles, and the rest of her wardrobe at the time that she was married was estimated at over 339,000 roubles.  In her diary, Olga complained of the weight of the diamond crown she was made to wear to her wedding ceremony.  Her dowry was said to have been one million roubles.  All of this was at a time when a farmer could buy a dozen cattle for less than 50 roubles, if only he could scrape together such a sum of money.  After the wedding in August of 1901, and subsequent honeymoon, they lived in a palatial home of 200 rooms in Saint Petersburg.  Peter was nearly 14 years older than Olga, though, and in historical retrospect, is believed to have been homosexual at a time when it would not have been outwardly acceptable.  According to some accounts the marriage was never consumated, and by 1914 the couple were living separate lives to such an extent that they were not even living under the same roof.  The couple remained married until 1916 when, in the middle of the First World War, the Grand Duchess Olga was given an annulment by her brother, the Tsar, and she was free to marry again. 

THEN : A portrait of Grand Duchess Olga, rendered in 1893.

As early as 1903, Grand Duchess Olga had met an officer in the Guards by the name of Nikolai Kulikovsky.  A passion developed between the two, and they saw one another as often as possible, and exchanged frequent letters.  More than a decade before the annulment of her first marriage in 1916, she had approached her first husband, and asked him for a divorce, but he would not acquiesce.  However, he did agree to take on Kulikovsky as an aide-de-camp, so his wife could be nearer to the man she really loved.  It seems strange that Olga's first husband would make such a strange suggestion, but perhaps in being denied at least a public sanction of his own desires, he could not stand in the way of Olga's happiness.  The affection between the Grand Duchess and Kulikovsky grew into a life long passion.  Their relationship was of course unknown to the general public, but it was a matter of gossip in the highest social circles.  Olga's family regarded Kulikovsky as a commner, and disapproved of the affair.  Nonetheless, the two were married at the end of 1916, with only Olga's mother, brother-in-law, and a few of Kulikovsky's fellow soldiers in attendance.  Olga had managed to convince her brother, the Tsar, to let things go ahead, by using the rational that the chaos of the First World War would distract the interests of the general public.

Olga did not enjoy a close relationship with her mother, and much of Olga's early life was spent in an attempt to get free of her mother's influence.  She did, however, become close with her oldest brother Nicholas, the Tsar, and spent a great deal of time with his immediate family.  Olga doted on all four of Nicholas' daughters, but was especially close to his youngest daughter, the famed Anastasia.  Her devotion to Anastasia would be called upon after the Revolution and massacre of the Imperial Family, when a number of impersonators claimed to be Anastasia.  Olga would later be asked to identify whether any of these impersonators truly were survivors of the bloody assassination.

After Olga's brother, Tsar Nicholas II, was deposed in 1917, Grand Duchess Olga, her mother, and a few other relations fled to the Crimea.  There, they were put under house arrest.  It was while the Grand Duchess Olga and her husband Nikolai Kulikovsky were living under these conditions that Olga gave birth to their first child, a son, named Tikhon.  He was born on August 12, 1917.  Olga, her husband and son, and any members of the Romanov Dynasty who had fled to the Crimea were sentenced to death by the Yelta revolutionary council, but fortunately, the death penalty was not immediately carried out.  In March of 1918, German troops had advanced on the area, and they overthrew the revolutionary guards who were holding Olga and the others as prisoners.  In November of 1918, the First World War ended, the German soldiers withdrew, and were replaced by Allied troops who were sympathetic to letting the imprisoned Romanovs escape.  Olga's mother fled aboard to Denmark, along with other family and friends, but Olga and her husband decided to stay in Russia. 

Olga and Nikolai, along with their son Tikhon, lived for a while in the Caucasus, where the loyal White Army had cleared out the revolutionary Bolsheviks.  Here, in a farmhouse that had five rooms, Olga gave birth to her second son, Guri, on April 23, 1919.  However, by the end of 1919, Olga and her husband had given up hope that the Romanov Dynasty would be restored to Russia.  They accepted the conclusion that Olga's brother, Tsar Nicholas II, and his immediate family were dead.  The Bolsheviks were coming, and Olga and the others had to escape.  The family made a harrowing escape, taking shelter in the Danish consul before being shipped to a refugee camp near Istanbul, then heading to Belgrade before finally departing for Denmark.  The family joined Olga's mother in Copenhagen on Good Friday, 1920.  They were safe, at least for a while, but the Grand Duchess Olga, daughter and sister of Tsars, would never set foot in Russia again.

THEN : An undated photograph of Grand Duchess Olga.

 Grand Duchess Olga, her second husband Nikolai, and their two children would live in Denmark for nearly thirty years, from 1920 to 1948.  One of her visits abroad took place in 1925, when she travelled to Berlin to meet Anna Anderson, who claimed to be Olga's niece, the Grand Duchess Anastasia.  She claimed that she had survived the murder of her fellow family members, and fled through Bucharest to safety in Germany.  Anderson's claims would arouse both sympathy and scepticism for years, and it was just a few short years ago that DNA testing, along with other more recent forensic testing, has shown us that Anastasia did sadly perish with the rest of her family, in the "Ipatiev House", in the summer of 1918.  Those who had known Anastasia in life were called upon to meet Anna Anderson, and to make public their verdicts on whether or not she really was Anastasia.  Olga was not fooled for a moment, and though it would be over eighty years before modern science proved that she was correct, she said this, after meeting Anna Anderson :

"My beloved Anastasia was 15 when I saw her for the last time, in the summer of 1916.  She would have been 24 in 1925.  I thought Mrs. Anderson looked much older than that.  Of course, one had to make allowances for a very long illness.  All the same, my niece's features could not possibly have altered out of all recognition.  The nose, the mouth, the eyes, were all different ... I knew I was looking at a stranger ... I had left Denmar, with something of a hope in my heart.  I left Berlin with all hope extinguished."

With a hope in her heart, indeed.  After just five years of exile in Denmark, it's heartbreaking to think of the kind of memories that would have gone through Olga's mind.  Her way of life had been lost, her brother, her nieces and nephew had been violently murdered.  It must have been heart wrenching for her to make that trip to Berlin, and even more painful to realize that Anna Anderson was, in fact, an impostor.

THEN : Anna Anderson, who claimed to be the niece of the Grand Duchess Olga.  Olga travelled to Berlin in 1925 to meet Anderson for herself, and declared Anderson a fraud.  Despite decades of speculation, Olga was eventually proven correct by modern science, just a few years ago.
THEN : The real Grand Duchess Anastasia, who was tragically murdered along with her parents, her sisters, and her brother.  It was only within the last few years that DNA testing has confirmed that the remains that were found were that of Anastasia.

Grand Duchess Olga and her family faced danger and uncertainty again, with the outbreak of the Second World War.  Denmark was invaded by the Germans in the spring of 1940, and was occupied for the remainder of the war.  Olga's two sons, Tikhon and Guri, were officers in the Danish Army, so they were made prisoners of war by the Germans.  Some Russians who had escaped the Communist Revolution, though, were eager to join the Germans just so they could fight against the Soviet Regime.  After the war, the Soviet government put pressure on the Danish government to repatriate all former Russian or Soviet citizens.  Many feared for their lives if they were to return, and fall under the power of the Soviets, and naturally, Olga and her family were no exception.  After nearly thirty years in Denmark, it was once again time to flee.  In the summer of 1948, they fled across the Atlantic to the safety of Canada.

Their trip to their new home in Canada included a stop over in London, where arrangements were made for them to travel across the Atlantic as agricultural immigrants.  Grand Duchess Olga's party sailed on the "Empress of Canada", departing from Liverpool on June 2, 1948.  Olga and her husband Nikolai Kulikovsky were joined by their older son Tikhon, his wife Agnete, their younger son, Guli and his wife Ruth, and the two children of the youngest couple.  They were also joined by Olga's devoted maid and companion, Emilia Tenso.  The crossing was a tough one, but they eventually arrived in Halifax.  They bought a 200-acre farm near Campbellville.  They lived simply, as farmers, having acquired some experience in this capacity by living and working as farmers during their last years in Denmark.

Within a few short years, though, the farm had become too much for Olga and Nikolai.  They were both more advanced in age, and Nikolai in particular was suffering from deteriorating health.  Their sons and grandchildren had moved away.  They sold the farm, and moved to 2130 Camilla Road, in what was then Cooksville, but what is now part of Mississauga.  Olga's long time companion, Emilia, known as "Mimka" to the family, suffered from a stroke, and died at the end of January, 1954.  Nikolai lived another four years, but his illness left him with nearly total paralysis, and he died in August of 1958, at the age of 76 years old.

Olga was devastated by the loss.  Theirs had been a marriage of passion that was nearly impossible or unattainable to someone born into her high standing.  At the start of the twentieth century, the sister of the last Tsar and the common born military man had struggled for years to be together, and faced great resistance and disapproval from Olga's family.  However, Olga was supported by friends and visitors of all ends of society's spectrum.  She became a focal point for the community of Russians who had escaped to live as emigres in Canada, but she was also visited by various Royal dignitaries, including Princess Marina, the Duchess of Kent, in 1954, and Louis Mountbatten and his wife, Edwina, an uncle and aunt of Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, who visited Olga in 1959.  In June of 1959, a little less than 18 months before the Grand Duchess Olga died, Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, made a Royal Visit to Canada.  On a stop in Toronto, they hosted the Grand Duchess Olga aboard the Royal Yacht Britannia.

With her health quickly deteriorating, Olga was hospitalized in the spring of 1960, at Toronto General Hospital.  She was no longer able to take care of herself.  She went to stay with a Russian emigre couple who were friends, in a small flat above a beauty parlour on Gerrard Street East, just east of Broadview Avenue.  She fell into a coma on November 21, and died a few days later, on November 24, 1960.

THEN : Gerrard Street East, near Broadview Avenue, 1960.

THEN : Gerrard Street East, near Broadview Avenue, 1960.

THEN : The back lots behind Gerrard Street East, near what would become the final home of Grand Duchess Olga.

TODAY : Grand Duchess Olga died in a tiny apartment, upstairs, above this Beauty Salon on Gerrard Street East.  It is located just east of Broadview Avenue.  When I went to the house recently, to take a photograph, the entire building seemed abandoned, without any kind of sign of activity.  Both businesses on the ground floor seemed closed.  This small flat was a long way from the Imperial splendour that Olga would have known in her childhood and early years.

Her funeral was held on November 30, 1960, at Christ the Saviour Russian Orthodox Cathedral, in Toronto, on Manning Street, near Bathurst and Dupont.  The church was full of mourners.  She was buried in Toronto's York Cemetery.  Because of the large Russian community located near York Cemetery, the Grand Duchess Olga has been interred with a large number of fellow Russian emigres.

One wonders if, in the last few years of her life, there was anything about her Imperial life in the Court of the Romanovs that she missed.  Both in her early life, and in her later years, she gave no outward indication, and seemed happy to live in rather rustic conditions, both while an exile in Denmark and here in Canada.  Neighbours in both countries describe her as seeming happy just to live a simple life, and indeed, with her poor relationship with her mother, and her unhappiness in her first marriage, she seemed to have gone to great lengths to escape the trappings of Royal life.  There was every indication that she did not enjoy the ceremonial life at court that she was forced to endure as a younger woman.  Certainly, the terror and violence that she suffered at the hands of the Bolsheviks during those years of revolution must have been an overwhelmingly unhappy experience.  She lost so much ~ her riches, her country, her home and her family.  But she seemed to be a resilient woman, who took comfort where it was given to her.  She outlived the two great architects that had seen the overthrow of her family.  Lenin died in 1924, and Stalin, the Great Dicatator who put together the greatest genocide of twentieth century history, died in 1953.  In contrast to these mass murdering founders of the Communist Regime, Grand Duchess Olga's greatest legacies was her love of art.  From childhood, she loved to paint, and in the course of her life she produced about 2,000 paintings.  Some of them now reside in the collections of Queen Elizabeth II and also that of King Harald of Norway.  Ballerup Museum, in Denmark, owns about one hundred of her works.

According to a 2001 survey, Russian is the fourteenth most popular first language in Toronto, with 47,590 people claiming it as their mother tongue.  Today, there are thousands of stories to be found amongst Toronto's Russian population, just as there are in any of the cultures that make up Toronto's multicultural tapestry.  However, the story of Grand Duchess Olga, one of the last remnants of Russia's Imperial history is both a fascinating and overlooked part of Toronto's history.  Her story combines both the grandeur and tragedy of a grand Imperial history, the mystique and the exotic nature with which we, in the west, seem to view Russian history, and the impossible and Quixotic nature of one of the last, great powerful European dynasties that did not survive contact with the modern twentieth century.

NOW : The gravesite of Grand Duchess Olga and her husband at York Cemetery, Toronto.

NOW : The plaque at the base of Grand Duchess Olga's gravesite, that tells of her life.

NOW : Detail of the gravesite of Grand Duchess Olga and her husband, Colonel Kulikovsky.

NOW : Below the names of Grand Duchess Olga and her second husband is that of their son, Captain Tihon Kulikovsky Romanoff, who is buried along with them.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

# 12 ~ The Royal Family in Toronto, Then and Now

NOW : The announcement that H.R.H. Prince William of Wales will marry Miss Catherine Middleton will hopefully raise public curiosity about Canada's Royal Family and the Monarchy in Canada.

With the recent announcement, made on November 16th, that His Royal Highness Prince William of Wales is officially engaged to Miss Catherine Middleton, I thought it was a good time to post an article on the history of Royal associations with the City of Toronto.

Although I am a monarchist, I am not a "royal watcher".  In my humble opinion, there is a fine distinction between the two.  A monarchist is someone who supports the constitutional monarchy as a system of government, as being superior to a republican form of goverment.  A "royal watcher" is someone who is caught up in the gossip, which always seems to have the unfortunate odour of the supermarket tabloids about it.  I have never been particularly interested in royal gossip, I don't really have a "favourite" member of the Royal Family.  To me, the only benefit of royal gossip is to draw attention to the positive roles of the Royal Family in society, and the political and cultural benefits of having Canada retain its constitutional monarchy.  So, unfortunately, I know next to nothing about Miss Catherine Middleton, other than she is now engaged to Prince William ~ and even with that, the only way that I heard about it was by reading the facebook status of various "friends" a few days ago.

As a monarchist, I believe that Canada's status as a constitutional monarchy is both a safer form of national government than a republic, and provides us with more cultural and historical value than we would find if the monarchy in Canada was ever abolished.  There are a multitude of reasons to come out in favour of retaining our constitutional monarchy.  In Canada, our Head of Government and our Head of State are two separate individuals, and therefore, there is no single person in Canada with total and complete power.  It's hard to imagine having some crackpot dictator in Canada, who would attempt to annul elections and set himself (or herself) up in a lifelong position as total head of the country.  However, if it ever happened, our Head of State ~ currently, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II ~ has the power to dissolve government, and bring in the military to back up free elections, if required.  Our police and our military take an Oath of Allegiance to the Queen, and not to the Prime Minister.  In the event of a national emergency, this would keep the head of our government, who is after all only a temporary leader, in check.  Although it's hard to imagine a crisis of this nature ever taking place in Canada, most people never imagine that a fire will start in their kitchens either, but the smart ones keep around a fire extinguisher, just in case.

It's worth noting, too, that the most socially progressive countries in the world are constitutional monarchies.  Nations like Sweden, Denmark, the United Kingdom and Canada are all thought of as progressive, with a lack of capital punishment, and the promotion of sexual, gender and racial equality, and free and easy access to most forms of healthcare.  They are all also constitutional monarchies.

In Canada, the monarchy has a cultural significance, too.  It represents hundreds of years of history, under both French and British governance.  But as Canada developed and became independent, throwing off the chains of colonialism, our monarchy developed, too, and it's become distinctly Canadian.  Some republicans wish to abolish our monarchy here because they say it's "unCanadian".  Well, I would defy them to point out a system of government that is more Canadian, since monarchy is the only form of government that we've ever had.  A President of Canada?  Now that sounds unCanadian.  Many other nations had to fight bloody revolutions for their independence and freedom; Canada is one of the only countries on earth to talk its way into independence.  And we kept a safe, democratic and culturally significant form of national government in the process.  If it's not broke, why fix it?

So, to go along with the news that Prince William of Wales, who one day, God willing, will become a future Canadian King is getting married, I thought that I would share with you this list of Royal Associations with Toronto.  Just in case you are a "royal watcher", and you do have a favourite member of the Royal Family, I've broken my list down by individual reigns, from 1793 to present, and then listed the children of the present Queen according to age.

Born 1738, Reigned 1760 to 1820

THEN : His Majesty King George III, during whose long reign Toronto was established as the Town of York, in 1793.

When Toronto was founded as the Town of York, in 1793, King George III was just over half way through his sixty year reign.  Now, nearly 200 years after his death, there are mixed opinions of his reign.  History has on occasion been unkind to George III, especially if it is history written by Americans.  After all, it's good publicity for them to undermine his reputation.  He was the king that they revolted against to become a nation, but it's worth pointing out that while most of the American Founding Fathers were slave owners, George III was married to Queen Charlotte, who had Black ancestry mixed in with her Portugese lineage.  And while we're on the topic of their marriage, it's also worth pointing out that theirs was a long and happy one.  George III never had a mistress, and their union supplied fifteen children, nine sons and six daughters.  King George III is a good example of kingship in that he provided his subjects with a sense of stability and continuity in a time that brought ample conflict and change.  During his reign, the American Revolution took place, as did the war against Napolean.  It was also during his reign that the beginnings of the Industrial Revolution took place.  Poor King George III suffered from porphyria, a blood disorder that can cause the appearances of madness.  Although George III was still nominally king, this illness required that his eldest son take over for the last ten years of the old king's life, and the period between 1811 and 1820 became known as "the Regency".  The Prince Regent, who eventually reigned as George IV, was much less popular than his father had been, and the two did not have a close relationship.

Toronto began as the "Town of York" in 1793, while King George III was on the throne.  The most significant association with King George III and Toronto is King Street, which takes its name from him.  It was the original "high street" in the old town, and a majority of our oldest landmarks were built along King Street.  At the time, Yonge Street was nothing more than a military highway, and during the reign of King George III it would have been King Street which was the commercial centre of town.

THEN : This early painting of King Street, by noted architect John Howard shows the city square at the time, with the old jail on the left and the courthouse on the right.  The courthouse and jail buildings were constructed in 1822, and lay bewteen modern day Toronto Street to the west and Church Street to the east.  Such was the centre of old Toronto during the days of King George III.

THEN : The south side of King Street East, between Yonge and Church streets, looking east, in 1856.
THEN : The southeast corner of King Street, looking east from Yonge Street, in the 1950s.  The King Edward hotel can be seen to the east, in the back of the photograph.

NOW : King Street today.

Born 1762, Reigned 1820 to 1830

THEN : King George IV in 1822.

The eldest son of King George III, George Augustus Frederick served as Regent during his father's illness, from 1811 until 1820, and then reigned as King from 1820 to 1830.  Father and son did not have a close relationship, and George IV was much less popular than his father had been.  He had a fashionable, extravagant lifestyle, and would not curtail his spending, even in times of war.  This was naturally a cause for anger amongst the taxpayers.  His reputation was further damaged by his disastrous relationship with his wife, Caroline of Brunswick, particularly because it must have contrasted with the long, happy marriage that his father and mother enjoyed.  George IV had married Caroline in 1795, before coming to the throne.  They stayed together long enough to produce one child, a daughter named Charlotte, but after she was born in 1796 the couple separated and remained apart for the rest of their lives.  George IV came to the throne in 1820, and his coronation was held the following year, on July 19, 1821.  That same day, his estranged wife Caroline fell ill, and she eventually died a few weeks later at the end of the first week of August.  She had become delirious and suspicious, claiming that she had been poisoned.

King George IV did leave behind a modest legacy in Toronto.  George Street, one block east of Jarvis Street, was named after him. 

NOW : "Old Town Toronto" George Street sign.

THEN : A view of the Toronto Harbour from the foot of George Street, photographed in the 1890s.

THEN : Ormsby Steelworks, George Street south of Queen, 1913.

THEN : Number 9 George Street, 1913.

THEN : Looking east along Dundas Street from George Street in 1923.

NOW : Looking south down George Street from just above King Street today.

Also, Sherbourne Street was originally known as Caroline Street, after the estranged wife of King George IV.

NOW : "Old Town Toronto" Sherbourne Street sign.
THEN : Sherbourne Subway Station, photographed shortly after it opened in 1966.  Sherbourne Street was formerly known as "Caroline Street", after Caroline, the estranged wife of King George IV.

On March 15, 1827, King George IV formally issued a Royal Charter, founding King's College.  This new college would slowly grow and evolve into the modern University of Toronto.

THEN : King George IV gave the Royal Charter that established King's College, which would eventually evolve into today's University of Toronto.  The original King's College building was built on the site of what is now "Queen's Park", the Legislative Assembly.  The old King's College building was abandoned by 1860, but converted into the University Asylum for the Insane.  The asylum was demolished at the end of the 1880s, to make way for the new home of the provincial government for Ontario, which officially opened on the same site in 1893.  This photograph shows the old King's College / Asylum building about 1888 or 1889, as they are preparing it for demolition.

Second Son of King George III
Born 1763, Died 1827

THEN : The Duke of York and Albany, the man whom the "Town of York" was named after, in 1788.

Although he never reigned as king, the second son of King George III is notable to us in Toronto, since he gave his name to the early town.  When John Graves Simcoe, the British military leader, first Lieutenant Govenor of Upper Canada (Ontario), and founder of Toronto heard the actual name "Toronto", he didn't like it.  It sounded too exotic and wasn't suitably British.  He was known for giving places in the wilds of early Upper Canada good sounding British names, and decided to change the name from "Toronto" to "York", thereby establishing the future City of Toronto as the Town of York in August of 1793.  We would remain the Town of York until our incorporation as city, and our reversion to the name Toronto, on March 6, 1834. 

The old name of "York" still resonates in many modern Toronto place names.  We have York University, of course, as well as the Fairmont Royal York hotel, and others.  Not to mention "Muddy York Walking Tours" (

THEN : The Royal York Hotel, which opened in 1929, carries on the name of the Duke of York and Albany, and the old Town of York.  In this photograph taken from the Toronto Harbour in 1930, the Royal York Hotel is seen dominating the Toronto skyline.

There were several old Toronto street names that were derived from the Duke of York, as well.  Adelaide Street was formerly known as "Duke Street", with some stretches of the street still bearing the name of Duke up until the 1950s, or later. 

THEN : Looking west down Duke Street, now Adelaide Street, to Sherbourne Street in 1933.

THEN : Duke Street, now Adelaide Street, between George and Frederick streets, in the late 1960s.

NOW : Adelaide Street, formerly Duke Street, between George and Frederick Street today.  The building to the left of the photograph is the Bank of Upper Canada building, constructed in the 1820s.  Further towards the right of the photograph is the 1833 Post Office building.  This block of buildings was miraculously saved after a fire in 1978, and restored.  The "Toronto's First Post Office" building was reopened in 1983, a century and a half after it was originally built in 1833, during the reign of King William IV.

NOW : The sign on the front entrance to the Toronto's First (1833) Post Office building.  The contemporary address is 260 Adelaide Street East.  You can see that this reproduction of the sign gives the "Duke Street" address.

In much the same way, Ricmond Street was originally known as "Duchess Street".  The Duchess for whom the street was named was the wife of the Duke of York and Albany, Frederica Charlotte of Prussia. 

THEN : Numbers 73 to 79 Duchess Street, 1917.

THEN : Duchess Street laneway, 1938.

THEN : Number 14 Duchess Street, 1943.

THEN : Duchess Street west from Parliament Street, 1960.

Frederick Street, which is two blocks to the east of Jarvis Street, takes its name from Frederick, the Duke of York and Albany, as well.

NOW : "Old Town Toronto" Frederick Street sign.

THEN : By 1900, the centre of downtown Toronto had shifted to around Yonge and Queen streets.  The homes that still  remained in the Old Town of York had become threadbare, and the district had become very industrial.  There was a garage for streetcars belonging to the Toronto Railway Company, a predecessor of the TTC, on Frederick Street, and it is shown here in this photograph from 1927.  Perhaps appropriately, there is an Iron foundry located right next door.

THEN : One of the Model D Toronto Railway Company streetcars outside the Frederick Street garage, sometime between 1902 and 1912. 

THEN : Inside the Toronto Railway Company's garage on Frederick Street, 1924.

THEN : Frederick Street Steam Plant, 1925.

Born 1765, Reigned 1830 to 1837

THEN : A painting of the future King William IV from about 1800.

William Henry, the third son of King George III, inherited the throne when his older brother, King George IV, died without any children living.  He was 64 years old when he became king.  As a young man, William IV had served in the Royal Navy, making it all the way to ports in North America and the Caribbean.  William IV was more removed from government than his father or brother had been, but he did actually bring in several reforms.  He made better laws to protect the poor, officially abolished slavery throughout the British Empire in 1834, and cut back on child labour.  Unlike his brother George IV, William was capable of holding down a long term relationship.  In the summer of 1818, he married Princess Adelaide of Saxe-Meiningen.  He was in his fifties, and she was a more tender twenty-five years old, but despite the age gap they had a happy marriage of nearly twenty years, until his death in 1837.  Apparently, William kept no mistresses during his two decades of marriage.  Sadly, the couple only had two children, a daughter named Charlotte who died when she was less than a week old, and Princess Elizabeth, who died when she was less than three months old.  Despite his fidelity while married, William had conducted an affair before "settling down", with an Irish actress named Dorothea Jordan.  The couple had lived together for about twenty years before William's marriage of 1818, and did mange to leave behind eight of the ten children he'd had illegitimately with Mrs. Jordan.

Perhaps the single most significant achievement to take place in Toronto during the reign of King William IV was the foundation of Toronto itself.  It was during his reign, on March 6, 1834, that the City of Toronto was incorporated out of the old Town of York.  The more British sounding name of "York" was cast aside, and after much debate both for and against, our municipal forefathers decided to revert to the ancient aboriginal name of "Toronto". 

THEN : The old Town of "Muddy York" was incorporated as the City of Toronto on March 6, 1834, during the reign of King William IV.  In this drawing, inhabitants of the new city celebrate with a party on the frozen harbour.  To the right is the windmill that was once located on the grounds of the Distillery District.  Standing between sixty and seventy feet high, it was the tallest structure on the Toronto skyline in 1834.

THEN : Adelaide, the consort of King William IV.

Duke Street, which was named after the Duke of York and Albany, was eventually renamed for Adelaide, the wife of King William IV.  It would be the 1960s before the entire street was renamed.

THEN : Adelaide Street, at Yonge Street, illuminated at night in the 1930s.

THEN : Housing on Adelaide Street West in 1936.

THEN : Adelaide Street West at Sheppard Street, one block west of Yonge Street, in 1946.

THEN : The old Bank of Upper Canada building, on Adelaide Street, formerly Duke Street, at George Street, about 1970.


Born 1819, Reigned 1837 to 1901

THEN : The portrait of Queen Victoria from her coronation in June, 1838.

When most people think of Queen Victoria, they picture a rather prudish older woman, in perpetual mourning over her husband.  However, she came to the throne as a young woman of only 18 years old.  She married Prince Albert in 1840, and by all appearances she was madly in love with him.  The word "Victorian" has become synonymous with a rather repressed idea of virtue.  However, there is every indication that Victoria and Albert enjoyed a rather unrepressed love life and while she wasn't as prolific as her grandfather, King George III, she did manage to have nine children, which is still a pretty good showing.  Her long reign saw many innovations.  The Industrial Revolution made its full sweep across the globe during her reign, and technological innovations changed everyone's lives.  Photography came into more common use by the end of her reign, and for the first time in mid-nineteenth century Toronto, there were photographs taken of our city.  Just a few years before the end of her reign, photographs had been strung together and made to move, so during the Victorian era we saw our first "movies", though sound would come decades later.  Likewise, science progressed during Victoria's long reign.  In 1859, Charles Darwin published his great work, "On the Origin of the Species", though it would be several decades before it was universally accepted.  In Canada, of course, it was under Victoria's reign that we became a nation, in 1867.  Sir John A. MacDonald, George Brown, and the others were our "Fathers of Confederation", but Victoria has been nicknamed the "Mother of Confederation" by some historians.

Sadly, Victoria was not big on travel, and she never crossed the Atlantic, although her father, Prince Edward, the Duke of Kent lived for a period in Halifax.  Though she was never here in person, many people across Canada became obsessed with Queen Victoria, and Toronto was certainly no exception.  We have more streets, cities, schools and parks named after Queen Victoria in Canada than in any other nation in the world, including England.  It was during Queen Victoria's long reign that Toronto evolved from a colonial backwater into one of the major Imperial cities in the old Empire.  It would be a daunting task to itemize all of the various locations and objects, even around all of Toronto, that are named in her honour or affiliated with her somehow, but here is a list of the most obvious ones.

Queen Street was named after her, in 1844.  Until then, it was known as "Lot Street", because it was north of here that all the rural farm lots were laid out, north of Toronto.  This was the northern boundary of Old Toronto, back when rural thoroughfares like Dundas Street or Bloor Avenue were like heading up to "the 905". 

THEN : The old Auditorium Theatre at 382 Queen Street West in 1910.  It was shortly before the end of Queen Victoria's reign that Yonge and Queen became the centre of Toronto.  Also, shortly before her death in 1901, short silent movies began to appear in old vaudeville houses.  Silent movies and vaudeville would continue for another few decades, before the arrival of talking movies in Toronto at the end of the 1920s.

THEN : The Queen Street Viaduct at the Don River in 1911.

THEN : Looking east along Queen Street East from River Street, in 1911.

THEN : Old carriage tracks along Queen Street in 1913.

THEN : People swarm a Queen Streetcar in 1918, as word of the end of the First World War reaches Toronto.

THEN : Looking east along Queen Street from James Street to Yonge Street, Christmas Eve, 1924.

THEN : Queen Street, east of Victoria Street, in 1926.

THEN : Queen Street East, 1941.

THEN : Queen Street West, 1952.  This photograph was taken the year that Queen Elizabeth II came to the throne.  Since Queen Victoria's reign started in 1837, our two female sovereigns (Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth II) have managed to reign for over 120 years in total.  The reigns of the four male sovereigns who have ruled since Queen Victoria's death in 1901 (King Edward VII, King George V, King Edward VIII and King George VI) have totalled just over 50 years.

THEN : Queen Street West, 1953.

In 1844, the same year that Lot Street became Queen Street, "Victoria Street" was also renamed after Queen Victoria.  It had been formerly known as "Upper George Street", after either her grandfather King George III or her uncle, King George IV.  In the east end of modern Toronto, Victoria Park Avenue also commemorates Queen Victoria.

THEN : Victoria Street, south from Shuter Street, in 1911.

THEN : Reed's Auto and Taxi Livery, Victoria Street, 1911.

THEN : Victoria Street slums, circa 1911.

THEN : Victoria Street, north of Queen Street, 1928.

THEN : Victoria Street, south of Adelaide Street, 1913.

THEN : Victoria Street, south from Queen Street, 1916.

Queen's Park was named after her.  During her reign, the old King's College building, which had been founded during the reign of George IV and built on the site of present day Queen's Park, was replaced by a new academic institution, called University College.  The old King's College building was abandoned until it was eventually converted for a new purpose, becoming "the University Asylum for the Insane".  The asylum lasted until for nearly 30 years, until it was eventually demolished between 1888 and 1889.  The new legislative assembly building was put up and officially opened in 1893, having been renamed "Queen's Park" in honour of Queen Victoria.  Yes, our provincial parliament buildings in Ontario are built on the site of a former insane asylum.

THEN : Construction of the "Queen's Park" Ontario parliament buildings in 1891.  The "Queen" in "Queen's Park" was Queen Victoria, who was replacing her uncle, King George IV, following the demolition of "King's College" which had been named for him.

THEN : Construction of the "Queen's Park" Ontario parliament buildings in 1891.

THEN : Construction of the "Queen's Park" Ontario Parliament buildings in 1891.

THEN : Queen's Park draped in mourning for the death of Queen Victoria in 1901.

THEN : The statue of Queen Victoria undergoes cleaning in 1920.  Although plans for the statue were drawn up for Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee in 1897, it was not completed until after her death.

THEN : Annesley Hall, on the grounds of Victoria College, on Queen's Park Crescent, just south of Bloor Street.  In a way, it is a double commemoration of Queen Victoria, as Victoria College was named in her honour, and it stands on Queen's Park Crescent.  This photograph dates from the 1930s.

THEN : Queen's Park, in 1912.  One of Toronto's oldest municipal parks, it was opened in 1860 by the Prince of Wales, the eldest son of Queen Victoria, and the future King Edward VII.  During the Royal Visit of 2010, Queen Elizabeth II rededicated the park for its 150th anniversary.

THEN : A southbound train enters Queen's Park subway station, shortly after it opened in 1963.  Note that it is marked as going to "Eglinton" subway station.  Originally, Eglinton was the northern end of the line on the Yonge Street subway.  Finch subway station was not opened until 1974.

One of the many benefits to be found in the development in science was improved healthcare.  The Victoria Hospital for Sick Children got its start on College Street in May of 1892.  It was the first hospital in Canada that was intended to specifically treat children.  It was an innovative instituion, and the hospital was using x-ray equipment in 1896, and was pasteurizing milk by 1909.  The building continued as a hospital until 1951, when the new Hospital for Sick Children opened up on its current location on University Avenue.

THEN : The Victoria Hospital for Sick Children, on College Street, sometime in the early 1900s.  The hospital would eventually move to University Avenue in the 1950s, and become today's Hospital for Sick Children.

TODAY : The original carving over the College Street entrance to the Victoria Hospital for Sick Children remains.  Today the building is home to the Candian Blood Service.


Born 1841, Reigned 1901 to 1910

THEN : The official coronation portrait for King Edward VII.

During his mother's long reign, Edward often lived in her shadow.  She prevented him from taking on most of the duties that would train him for kingship, so he dedicated his life to leisure.  He became a man of great appetites, both for food, and for other pursuits.  He was rumoured to have had dozens of mistresses; his relations with some of them were fleeting, and others lasted longer.  Although he did his best to be uphold discretion, there were a number of young women with whom he was more reliably connected, including actress Sarah Bernhardt, the singer Hortense Schneider, and several noblewomen including the Countess of Warwick, and Lady Randolph Churchill, the mother of Winston Churchill.  Nonetheless, he maintained a stable married relationship with his wife, Princess Alexandra of Denmark, who he married in 1863.

THEN : Four generations of monarchs.  King Edward VII is on the right, his son the future King George V is on the left, and his two grandsons who would reign as King Edward VIII and King George VI are in the middle.  The two Edwards and the two Georges of the twentieth century would make up just over fifty years of Canadian Kingship.
For a time, Queen Victoria looked down upon her son, and saw him as irresponsible, careless and volatile.  At one point, she wrote to her eldest daughter, Edward's sister, saying that she "never can, or shall, look at him without a shudder."  And yet, despite his shortcomings, he used his outgoing and charming personality to hold the peace in Europe.  It helped, of course, that most of Queen Victoria's other children had married into the various other Royal Families of Europe, and that running the continent was, in a way, like a "Family Business".  Yet Edward VII's personality charmed those both at home and abroad.  While still a young man, he toured North America in 1860 and became the first heir-apparent to the throne to visit both Canada and the United States.  His visits to Canada included a stop in Toronto, where a dinner was held in his honour at Osgoode Hall.  He also attended a reception in Saint Lawrence Hall, at King Street East and Jarvis Street, where a bust of him still stands, and opened up Queen's Park, which he dedicated to commemorate his mother. 

THEN : A pass to the dinner held at Osgoode Hall for the Prince of Wales, the future King Edward VII, during his Royal Tour of Canada in 1860.

NOW : The bust of the Prince of Wales at Saint Lawrence Hall, commemorating his 1860 visit to Toronto and the reception held at the hall in his honour.  Many dignitaries and celebrities appeared at Saint Lawrence Hall, including Sir John A. MacDonald, George Brown, famed singer Jenny Lind, and noted American abolitionist Frederick Douglass.

NOW : The statue of King Edward VII in Queen's Park.  As Prince of Wales, he opened the park in commemoration of his mother, Queen Victoria, in 1860.  The park was rededicated by Queen Elizabeth II, during her 2010 Royal Visit, a century and a half after it was originally opened by her great-grandfather.  The statue of King Edward VII once stood in India, but was removed when they became an independent republic in 1947.  It has graced downtown Toronto since the 1960s.

The King Edward Public School, near College and Bathurst streets in Toronto, was also named after King Edward VII.

THEN : The King Edward Public School in the 1920s.

Alexandra, the wife of King Edward VII is also well commemorated in Toronto.  The Royal Alexandra Theatre, which opened in 1907, is named after her, and is the oldest legitimate theatre in North America.

THEN : Troops outside the Royal Alexandra Theatre in 1930.

NOW : The Royal Alexandra Theatre today.

The Alexandra Gates, at the top of Philosophers Walk at the University of Toronto, were also named for her.  They were opened by her son and daughter-in-law, the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall and York, on a visit in October of 1901.  The Duke and Duchess of Cornwall and York would later on become King George V and Queen Mary.

NOW : The cypher of Queen Alexandra on the Alexandra Gates.

NOW : The plaque commemorating the unveiling of the Alexandra Gates in 1901, by Their Royal Highnesses the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall and York, who would become King George V and Queen Mary in 1910.

THEN : This photograph from 1930 shows how the Alexandra Gates once stood at Avenue Road, on the south side of Bloor Street.  Avenue Road was eventually widened and the gates were moved to their present location at Philosophers Walk.

In later life, particularly during his reign, he held together the various leaders of Europe, holding off war that had been simmering with strained international relations.  Sadly, when Edward VII died in 1910, the good relations with which he held the "Family Business" of European politics together disintegrated, and by 1914, the First World War raged across the globe.

THEN : A ceremony at Queen's Park to mourn the passing of King Edward VII in 1910.

THEN : A ceremony at Queen's Park to mourn the passing of King Edward VII in 1910.

THEN : Thousands of Torontonians gather at Queen's Park to mourn the death of King Edward VII in 1910.


Born 1850, Died 1942

THEN : The Duke of Connaught as Governor General of Canada in 1915.

Prince Arthur, the Duke of Connaught, was the seventh of nine children born to Queen Victoria and her consort, Prince Albert.  With the exception of his eldest brother, who became King Edward VII on the death fo their mother in 1901, Prince Arthur was no doubt the one amongst Victoria's children who made the largest contributions to Canadian society.

When he was sixteen years old, Prince Arthur was enrolled in the Royal Military College, and when he graduated, he became a lieutenant in the British Army.  He gave forty years of service in the British Army, and it took him all around the world ~ at least, all throught the British Empire ~ including a stop in Canada.  Various Canadian authorities were so impressed that they wrote back to London, suggesting that Prince Arthur would be a model candidate for Governor General.  It would be some years before this was accomplished, but finally he was appointed as Governor General of Canada in 1911, by his nephew, King George V.  He served as Governor General until 1916, right through the first half of the First World War.  His viceregal role meant that he was the Canadian representative of the King, who was also the Commander-in-Chief of the Canadian military.  Prince Arthur's military experience helped him perform well in this regard, and he took a great interest in the Canadian military.  He stepped out of the mould of a "figurehead" and insisted that he be consulted, and in turn, be allowed to give his own advice, on matters pertaining to the Canadian military.  He returned to the United Kingdom in 1916, and retired from official life in 1928, but continued to take a strong interest in military matters.  He was still keeping active in this capacity, right up until his death in 1942, during the Second World War, at the age of 91.

THEN : Toronto's Duke of Connaught Public School in 1919.

THEN : Toronto's Prince Arthur Road in 1928.
THEN : The Duke and Duchess of Connaught in 1912.

THEN : The Duke of Connaught on the grounds of the Canadian National Exhibition in 1912.

THEN : The Duke of Connaught at Toronto's High Park in 1913.  In the back to the right of the photograph is Sir Henry Pellatt, of Casa Loma fame.

THEN : The Duke of Connaught greets fellow veterans in Toronto.

THEN : The Duke of Connaught in front of the statue of his mother, Queen Victoria, at Queen's Park in 1911.


Born 1865, Reigned 1910 to 1936

THEN : King George V in his Coronation Regalia, 1911.

George V gave every appearance of being a wholesome, family focused ruler, and was something of a departure from his father.  He put a human face on the qualities of duty and of stability, which were popular a century ago, as his reign started.  Perhaps his popularity as a stable national figure can be explained because of all the things that became more common during his reign.  Socialism, communism, and fascism all stretehced the political spectrum during his reign.  It was a revolutionary time, and society was changing.  Limited rights to vote were given to women as far back in 1884, when widows and unmarried women were allowed to vote in municipal elections in Ontario.  But it wasn't until 1919, nearly a decade into the reign of King George V, that the vote was extended to all women federally by the Canadian parliament.  Each province quickly followed, with the exception of Quebec, which did not bring in the vote for women until 1940.  It's hard to believe, in a way, that the rights that we take for granted these days began less than a century ago, but it must have seemed revolutionary at the time, and King George V, with his simple life at home supplied Canadians with a stable national image in a time of change.  Also of importance to national politics was the Statute of Westminster, which in 1931 recognized those former British colonies with Dominion Status, like Canada, as separate and autonomous kingdoms within the Commonwealth of Nations.  This means that today, over 75 years later, the Sovereign reigns over Canada independently.  If (heaven forbid) all the other nations with which we share a monarch ~ the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Jamaica, Barbados and all the rest ~ were to become republics, and abolish their own monarchies, Canada would still retain its monarchy.  The 1931 Statute of Westminster, brought in under George V, was an important development on the road to Canadian independence.

George V was of course king during the First World War, as well.  Canadians often speak of that great conflict as being a sort of crucible in which our nationhood was forged.  After the war, it was King George V who officially granted us the national colours of red and white.  Red represented the blood that Canadians shed during the war, and white represented the peace that we helped to secure.

With his wife, the future Queen Mary, he visited Canada in 1901.  The couple toured as the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall and York, visiting Toronto.  To mark their visit, temporary arches were set up along the streets of Toronto, and buildings were illuminated at night.  This would have been quite a spectacle to a generation just getting used to accessible electricity.

THEN : A temporary "Royal Arch" was built to welcome the future King George V and Queen Mary to Toronto in 1901.  This arch stood on Bay Street at Richmond Street, just south of the City Hall, which can be seen in the background.

THEN : Another view of the arch at Bay and Richmond streets for the 1901 Royal Visit.

THEN : Onlookers start to line Bay Street in the hopes of catching a glimpse of the Royal Couple in 1901.
THEN : During the 1901 Royal Visit, another arch was constructed at the southern entrance to Queen's Park, looking south down University Avenue.  The statue of Sir John. A. MacDonald can be seen next to the arch.

THEN : The Queen's Park arch was lit up at night.
THEN : Queen's Park illuminated for the 1901 Royal Visit.

THEN : Queen's Park illuminated for the 1901 Royal Visit.

THEN : Osgoode Hall illuminated for the 1901 Royal Visit.

THEN : Osgoode Hall illuminated for the 1901 Royal Visit.

THEN : A crowd of spectators gathers to await the arrival of the Royal Couple at Queen and Terauley (now Bay Street) during the Royal Visit of 1901.

King George V was King during the First World War.  After the war, Hart House was opened at the University of Toronto, to serve as a recreational centre for students.  The interior design of the building was influenced by the timing of its opening, just after the peace that ended the First World War.  In the Great Hall of Hart House, the various coats of arms of Universities throughout the British Empire, and those of our allies around the world, are shown on the walls.  In the centre are the Royal Arms of King George V.

THEN : King George V visits Canadian soldiers at Vimy Ridge during the First World War.

THEN : Hart House in May of 1928.

NOW : A panoramic photograph of Hart House today.

NOW : The Great Hall, Hart House, University of Toronto.

NOW : The Royal Arms of King George V, in the Great Hall at Hart House.

King George V celebrated his Silver Jubilee in 1935.  There were many commemorations both in Canada and around the world.  In Toronto, buildings were decorated for the event, and a stained glass window was unveiled at the Cathedral Church of Saint James.  Illuminating St. George's Chapel, it is known as the "George Window".  King George V died in 1936, the year after his Silver Jubilee.

NOW : The Cathedral Church of Saint James, at King and Church streets, is the second tallest church in Canada.

NOW : "The George Window", unveiled at the Cathedral Church of Saint James to commemorate the Silver Jubilee of King George V in 1935.  After a difficult illness, the king died the next year.


Born 1894, Reigned for about 10 months in 1936

THEN : King Edward VIII in 1936.

As domestic minded monarchs go, King Edward VIII was the most notable exception in a century of rulers who were otherwise more or less devoted to their lives at home.  It proved to be his downfall, at least superficially.  Many may be familiar with the story of the smitten King, who gave up his throne in order to marry Wallis Simpson, an American who had already been twice divorced.  The consensus on his decision seems to be divided ~ either is was a terribly romantic gesture, or he was just patently silly.  Through his young adulthood, Edward had always been associated with older, married women.  There were other questions regarding his suitability to reign as king, though.  Although he travelled extensively across the globe and throughout the old Empire, he held a low regard for many people of foreign birth, including those that were at the time subjects of the British Empire.  He was underprepared intellectually for the role of sovereign; he had attended university for eight terms without accomplishing any academic credentials, at all.

Those who knew enough to be concerned about whether he was fit to reign were only those within the closest government circles.  Before his reign and subsequent abdication, he did enjoy an immense popularity with the public.  He went on many Royal Tours, visiting Canada, and Toronto, on more than one occasion, and he was always well received.  He spoke up for the plight of veterans both during and after the First World War, which made him extremely popular with those who had faced combat.  His position as future king, his good looks, and the fact that he was single made him immensely popular.  At the height of his youth and popularity in the 1920s, he was amongst the most photographed celebrities in the world.

He abdicated in December of 1936, leaving the throne to his next younger brother, who would reign as George VI.  He was created a Royal Duke, the Duke of Windsor, and died in Paris at the end of May, 1972.  Because of his short tenure as King, there are very little physical reminders of his reign.  One of the few buildings around the globe to actually be adorned by his cypher is in Toronto.  It's a postal station, on Montgomery Avenue and Yonge Street, just north of Eglinton Avenue.  Other than this, there only really remains the photographs of his various tours through Toronto.

NOW : The Postal Station on Yonge Street, just north of Eglinton Avenue, is one of the few buildings around the world to display the Royal Cypher of King Edward VIII over the doorway.  In this photograph it is seen above the door to the left, slightly above the Royal Beasts, the Lion and the Unicorn.

NOW : A detail of the Royal Cypher on the Postal Station.


THEN : Toronto's City Hall illuminated for the Prince's 1919 Royal Visit.

THEN : The decorations on City Hall as seen in daytime.

THEN : Constructing the viaduct across Bloor Street in 1917.  Prince Edward would officially open the bridge in 1919, and it would become officially known as the Prince Edward Viaduct.

THEN : The Prince of Wales tours through the streets of Toronto during his 1919 Royal Visit.

THEN : The Prince of Wales tips his golf caddy during the 1919 Royal Visit.


THEN : For his return visit to Toronto in 1927, the Prince of Wales was accompanied by his brother, George, Duke of Kent.  In this photograph, the Prince of Wales is in the centre, cutting the ribbon, and the Duke of Kent can be seen to his left.  Here they are seen officially unveiling the new gates to the Canadian National Exhibition, which are still today known as the Princes' Gates.

NOW : The Princes' Gates today.

THEN : The Prince of Wales, left, and the Duke of Kent, right, attend a ceremony in Toronto's Riverdale Park, 1927.

THEN : The Prince of Wales inspects troops, City Hall, 1927.

THEN : The Prince of Wales at the opening of Toronto's Union Station in 1927.  At the opening ceremony he quipped "You build your train stations like we build our cathedrals".


Born 1895, Reigned 1936 to 1952

THEN : The Coronation of King George VI in 1937.  He appears with his two daughters, Princess Margaret and Princess Elizabeth (the future Queen), and his wife, Queen Elizabeth.

At the time of Edward VIII's abdication crisis of 1936, his younger brother, the Duke of York, was to most an unknown quantity.  It was Edward who had lived in the public spotlight, who had enjoyed immense global popularity, and who had been expected to take on the mantle of kingship.  George VI, though, had lived in relative obscurity, although he had taken on some public duties after the end of the First World War.  In 1923, he had married Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, who according to popular legend had previously declined the union.  She rejected his marriage propossal twice, and over a period of two years was reluctant to marry him.  This was, apparently, because she understood what went into being a member of the Royal Family, and felt unprepared for the demanding changes that would be required of her.  And this was before there was any indication that her future husband would become king.

The fact that she eventually agreed would turn out to be a miracle of sorts.  Known as "Bertie" to his family, the future King George VI was a shy man, who suffered from a stammer.  At the end of October, 1925, he was required to give a speech to close the British Empire Exhibition.  It was an excruciating experience, both for him and for those who had to listen.  He became dedicated to overcoming his stammer, though, and with the help of his wife, he sought out an Australian speech therapist named Lyle Logue.  "Bertie" and his wife Elizabeth worked with Logue until 1927, by which time the future king was speaking much more confidently, with only the occasional hesitation.  He managed to open the Australian parlaiment in Canberra in 1927 without a stutter.  Logue worked with the King after his succession in 1936, and their association continued into the 1940s.  A new film, entitled "The King's Speech", chronicles the experiences that the Duke of York, his wife Elizabeth, and Lyle Logue shared in helping to overcome the future king's speech impediment.  It was screened at the 2010 Toronto International Film Festival, where it won the People's Choice Awards.  It is due out for wide release in cinemas at the end of the year.  It is, by all accounts, full of charm, humour and poignancy.  You can view a trailer of the film here :

On his succession in 1936, King George VI was unexpectedly pushed out into the limelight.  He was expected to quell the unrest caused by his brother's abdication.  Then, less than three years later, the various realms of which he was king found themselves at war with Nazi Germany, and as King he was expected to rally the spirits of the people.  He used the new technology of radio, and his growing confidence as a speaker, to address the peoples of the Commonwealth and of the world.  The first Royal Broadcast took place in 1932, during the reign of King George V, who was initially reluctant to give such an address.  This first address was heard by 20-million people in the nations around the Commonwealth, including the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, South Africa, India and Kenya.

 Eventually, it became an occasional tradition for the King to broadcast at Christmas; the next Royal Broadcast was done by King George V in 1935, on his twenty-fifth anniversary as king.  However, George V died shortly after, and there was no broadcast in 1936, as Edward VIII had abdicated shortly before Chirstmas.  King George VI gave his first Royal Christmas broadcast in 1937, thanking his various subjects around the globe for their support during his first year as king.  There was no broadcast in 1938, but perhaps the most well known of King George VI's Royal Broadcasts took place in December of 1939.  The King and Queen had just returned from a tour of North America in the spring of that year ~ the first reigning King and Queen to visit Canada ~ and later in the year, the Second World War had begun.  King George VI used the broadcast to galvanize the people of the Commonwealth, and prepare them for what would be a long war.  The speech would go on to become famous.

You can find information on King George VI's 1939 Christmas broadcast, including a radio clip, on the CBC archive website at :

You can find texts of King George VI's most popular speeches at :

The closing of the Second World War saw a changing world.  The United States and the Soviet Union became the dominant world powers.  The Commonwealth chaged, too, with India and Pakistan becoming republics in 1947, and the establishment of the Republic of Ireland in 1949.  The old Empire was cast off, and fully developed into today's Commonwealth of Nations.  Today, Canada is the senior Dominion within the Commonwealth, and the second most senior nation within it, second only to the United Kingdom.  As implausible as it seems, should the United Kingdom ever leave the Commonwealth of Nations, Canada would take over as the institution's head country.

THEN : King George VI opens Canada's Parliament, Ottawa, 1939.

The health of King George VI declined after the end of the Second World War.  Some say that the strains of kingship itself, including his time as a war leader, took their toll on this quiet, retiring family man.  His daughter and heiress, Princess Elizabeth, took on an increasing number of Royal duties, and began her training as Sovereign.  King George VI violated the advice of his doctors, and went to see Princess Elizabeth off from the airport on January 31, 1952.  She was off on a Royal Tour of Kenya and Australia.  On February 6, 1952, King George VI died in sleep, as the result of a coronary thrombosis, at the age of only 56 years old.  When his eldest daughter flew back to England from Kenya, she did so as Queen Elizabeth II.


When King George VI and Queen Elizabeth visited Canada in 1939, they became the first reigning Royal Couple to do so.  The visit cemented the bonds of friendship between the peoples of Britain, Canada and the United States, just months before the start of the Second World War.  Below are some images of their visit in Toronto during the 1939 Royal Tour.

THEN : Toronto's City Hall is prepared for its Royal Visitors during the 1939 Royal Visit.

THEN : Toronto's City Hall is decorated for the Royal Visitors.

THEN : City Hall prepared for the Royal Visit, 1939.

THEN : City Hall prepared for the Royal Visit of 1939.  Thousands of Torontonians have gathered in anticipation of the arrival of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth.

THEN : King George VI and Queen Elizabeth arrive at City Hall, 1939.

THEN : The King and Queen ascend the steps of City Hall to address the crowds.

THEN : The King and Queen on stage at Toronto's City Hall.

THEN : The King and Queen address an audience of thousands of Torontonians at City Hall.

THEN : Canada's Royal Couple at Toronto's City Hall in 1939.

THEN : King George VI and Queen Elizabeth drive past the Toronto Star building on the northwest corner of King and Bay streets during the 1939 Royal Tour.  There, they passed a large image of themselves, along with their two daughters, which is visible at the top left of the photograph.

THEN : The King and Queen arrive at Toronto's Woodbine Racetrack in an open landau.

THEN : The King and Queen arrive at Woodbine Racetrack.

THEN : Their Majesties proceed along the ceremonial route to Queen's Park in Toronto.

THEN : Their Majesties at a reception at Hart House, at the University of Toronto.

THEN : Their Majesties at a reception at Hart House, at the University of Toronto.

NOW : A bust of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth at the Henderson Tower, Trinity College, at the University of Toronto.

NOW : A bust of His Majesty King George VI at the Henderson Tower, Trinity College, University of Toronto.


Born 1900, Reigned as Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth from 1936 to 1952, and known as Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother from her husband's death in 1952 until he own death in 2002

Although she came to prominence because of her marriage to the future King George VI, Queen Elizabeth lived for half a century after his death as Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother.  It's hard to believe that even the most ardent of republicans would deny her charms.  Even during periods of intense criticism of the institution of Monarchy itself, and the Canadian Royal Family in particular, she remained a popular figure.  She became a regal matriarch of sorts, both within her family and on a national level.  She maintained her popularity while never giving a private interview, and while refusing to curtail her way of life.  She was a progressive figure, given the generation she grew up in and the fact that she was born in 1900.  She is said to have enjoyed a close friendship with Noel Coward, giving him support and acceptance at a time when others were unwilling to accept his homosexuality.  She shocked those who were conservative minded in the early part of the twentieth century, when she attended public receptions with Noel Coward in close company.  Once, at a gala, she was walking up a flight of stairs with him.  The staircase was lined with Guards, and when she noticed him briefly turn to subtletly examine them, she commented "I wouldn't if I were you, Noel  They count them before the put them out."  As recently as the 1970s, a Conservative government official  advised her to dismiss any of her staff members who were known to be gay; she flatly refused.

She abhorred any kind of racial discrimination, and expressed her opinion that the apartheid in South Africa was "dreadful".  When a courtier made comments supporting a segregation between white and non-white nations of the world, she commented "I am quite keen on the Commonwealth.  They're all like us".  She was known for her common touch, and her way of speaking to people in all levels of the society as equals.  In 1975, she accepted an invitation that had been extended by the Shah to come and visit Iran.  The Shah was shocked by her custom of stopping to talk to anyone, regardless of their rank within society.  Four years later, the Shah was deposed, but the Queen Mother remained a popular figure for the rest of her life.

In 1939, her and her husband visited Canada.  They were the first reigning King and Queen of Canada to do so.  There was a reciprocal amount of affection between her and the Canadian people; she would make several return visits to Canada, both in an official and unofficial capacity.  A story is told of one of her first encounters amongst a crowd of Canadians.  She had been born in Scotland, and she was greeted a Canadian Second World War Veteran, who asked her, "Are you Scottish, or are you English?"  She replied, "I am Canadian".  She would go on to become just as popular a figure in Canada as she had been around the world. 

THEN : Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, with Ontario Premier Bill Davis and Ontario Lieutenant Governor John Aird in Toronto in 1981.

She survived her youngest daughter, Princess Margaret, who died in February of 2002, little more than fifty years to the day after the death of King George VI.  The Queen Mother died about six weeks later, on March 30, 2002, at the age of 101, with her one surviving daughter, Queen Elizabeth II, at her side.


Born 1926, Reigned since 1952

THEN : Queen Elizabeth II with Coronation Regalia in 1953.

Along with that of her father, George VI, the personality and devotion to duty of Queen Elizabeth II has proven to be one of the greatest arguments in favour of the Canadian Monarchy throughout the twentieth century, and its continuity into the next.  She has made nearly two dozen visits to Canada between 1951 and 2010.  On February 6, 2012, in a little more than a year, she will celebrate sixty years as Queen of Canada.  Indeed, their are dwindling numbers of Canadians who can claim to have lived as adults in a time before she was our Head of State.  During her sixty years, she has overseen an evolution and modernization of the Canadian Monarchy, just as she has witnessed all of the progressive changes in Canadian society, itself.  She has acquired a wealth of insight into political change ~ her first Canadian Prime Minster was Louis St. Laurent, and she has had ten Prime Ministers since ~ and it is a shame that current leaders of the Canadian government do not call on her more often, as she could offer them the advice built on nearly six decades of political observation.  Even Trudeau, who seemed to give some very public indications that he was a republican, had positive things to say about the Queen.  He was quoted as saying "I was always impressed not only by the grace she displayed in public at all times, but by the wisdom she showed in private conversation."  It's only a shame that so many of our Royal Canadian symbols disappeared from the public eye during his time as Prime Minister.

Perhaps the most difficult time for the Canadian monarchy was during the 1990s, when there was scandal relating to the marriages of her children.  This culminated in the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, in 1997.  However, the popularity of the Monarchy was restored by 2002, when Queen Elizabeth II celebrated her Golden Jubilee, marking fifty years as Queen.  Street parties, concerts, a long Royal Tour and other events marked the commemoration.  It was a time of both official events and spontaneous "home spun" celebrations that helped to revive an interest and a respect for the role of the Queen and the institution of Monarchy.

The Queen's most recent visit to Toronto took place in 2010, and it was received positively.  The Queen, who was 84 at the time of her visit, was accompanied by her husband, His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh, who was 89.  They undertook a rigorous schedule in sweltering summer heat, and didn't seem particularly phased.  I happened to be at the Fairmont Royal York Hotel, while the Royal Couple were staying there, during their time in Toronto.  There was a large crowd outside the hotel, some of whom were there to observe and some who were there just to get back inside of their rooms.  I happened to be standing next to a group of people up from Texas for a convention, and they seemed to be delighted to have encountered Canada's Monarch ~ even if it meant standing out on a crowded sidewalk in the humid heat of a Toronto summer.  The Queen's 2010 visit was a pleasant reminder of our national heritage, and a positive event for Toronto to host, after the  madness of the G20 Summit that had taken place just prior to the Royal Visit. 

Sadly, there has been a diminished Royal commemorations around Toronto during the reign of Queen Elizabeth II.  In fact, it's almost as if there has been an attempt to remove the role of Canada's Monarchy from the sight and memories of those who live in and visit Toronto.  What we really need are more plaques, statues and other public works to serve as public reminders of the role of the contemporary Crown in Toronto.  The Queen has certainly held up her end of the bargain, by visiting Canada so often.  But someone in my line of work has an enthusiasm for public commemorations, and what is clearly required is more of a visual public reminder of the existence of Canada's Royal Family.

THEN : Princess Elizabeth and His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh visit Canada in 1951.

THEN : Elizabeth became Queen in 1952, and her Coronation was held the next year, in 1953.  Here, Eatons Department Store, in Toronto, is decorated for the Coronation.

THEN : Queen's Park decorated for the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth in 1953.

THEN : A detail of the Coronation decorations at Queen's Park in 1953.

THEN : The Whitney Block decorated for the Queen's Coronation in 1953.

THEN : The Queen visits Sunnybrook during the 1959 Royal Visit.

THEN : Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh drive down Bay Street during the 1959 Royal Visit.

THEN : Queen Elizabeth II at Toronto's Exhibition Stadium, 1959.

THEN : The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh (far left) at Woodbine Racetrack, 1959.

THEN : The Queen at Woodbine Racetrack, 1959.

THEN : The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh drive down Yonge Street in 1959.

THEN : The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh at Toronto's Royal Ontario Museum, 1984.

THEN : The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh at the Cathedral Church of Saint James, 1997.

THEN : The Queen at the Cathedral Church of Saint James, July 4, 2010.

THEN : The Queen accepts a bouquet of flowers from a child outside the Cathedral Church of Saint James on July 4, 2010.  While at the Cathedral, the Queen rededicated the George Window that had been unveiled to commemorate the Silver Jubilee of her grandfather, King George V, in 1935.

THEN : The Queen outside the Cathedral Church of Saint James, July 4, 2010.

THEN : The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh arrive at Woodbine Racetrack to attend the 151st running of the Queen's Plate.  The mile-and-a-quarter horse race is the oldest in North America.  It's was the Queen's fourth visit to the racetrack.

THEN : The Queen, stil vibrant at 84 years old, at Woodbine Racetrack, July 4, 2010.

THEN : The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh meet veterans as they leave the Research in Motion factgory in Kitchener, July 5, 2010.

THEN : The Queen is shown a handheld communications device at the Research in Motion factory, Kitchener, July 5, 2010.  In the past few years, the Royal Family has embraced modern technology by launching their own website, starting a facebook group, and posting to their own youtube channel.

THEN : The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh are shown a 3D camera at Pinewood Studios in Toronto, July 5, 2010.

THEN : The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh watch a 3D movie at Pinewood Studios in Toronto.  A number of Canadians started to buy televisions to watch the broadcast of the Queen's Coronation in 1953.

THEN : The Queen is presented with a gift of a hockey jersey, complete with her cypher, "E II R", at a dinner given in her honour by the Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, at the Fairmont Royal York Hotel, July 5, 2010.

THEN : Canada's Head of Government applauds Canada's Head of State during the 2010 Royal Visit.

THEN : The Queen addresses guests at a dinner given by the Canadian Prime Minister, in her honour, July 5, 2010.

THEN : The Queen attends a dinner at the Fairmont Royal York Hotel in Toronto, Canada, July 5, 2010. As a tribute to Canada Her Majesty wore a gown decorated with interlocking crystals in the form of maple leaves. The dress was originally worn to a State Dinner in Trinidad and Tobago in the autumn of 2009 and had been decorated with the country's national birds - the scarlet ibis and cocrico.

THEN : The Duke of Edinburgh arrives for dinner at the Fairmont Royal York Hotel, July 5, 2010.  During the 2010 Royal Visit, Toronto was in the midst of one of its hottest summers in recent memory, and yet the 89 year old husband of the Queen handled it all with great resilience.


Born 1948, Became Heir Apparent upon the Accession of his mother as Queen Elizabeth II in 1952
Created Prince of Wales in 1958 and Invested as such in 1969

THEN : From left to right, former Canadian Governor General Michaelle Jean, Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales, and the Duchess of Cornwall.

Having just turned 62, on November 14, 2010, Prince Charles has reached the age where most people are contemplating retirement.  However, his mother, the Queen, is 84, and shows every indication of good health, and fair prospects of continuing her reign for several more years.  His father, Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh will turn 90 in June of 2011, and still carries out an astounding average of 300 public engagements each year, and is one of the most active members of the Royal Family.  Prince Charles may be at retirement age, but if the lives of his parents are any indication, he still has decades of work ahead of him.

Prince Charles was born just a few years before the television became common place in households around the world.  Today, with instant access to news available not just through television, but the internet and other social media, the children and grandchildren of Queen Elizabeth II find it increasingly difficult to lead lives with any amount of privacy.  This became evident throughout the 1990s, when the personal lives of Prince Charles and his first wife became public scandal.  It seemed like not a day would go by without some new story splashed across the front pages of tabloid magazines, or blared across television screens on gossip talk shows.  It was no doubt the most difficult decade in the life of the Heir to the Throne.

However, he has drawn a certain amount of controversy because of his commentary on other issues, including architecture and municipal planning, environmentalism, alternative medicine, and diversity in religion.  Despite criticism, he has actually had many positive accomplishments, both in Britain and here in Canada.  He is the patron of hundreds of various charities and benefit organisations, and his various Royal Tours just through Canada alone have helped to raise awareness for the environment, the arts, education, medicine, the elderly, the disabled and disadvantaged, and the conservation of both the natural environment and built heritage.  Since the mid 1990s, he has worked with the Department of Canadian Heritage to establish a trust to help preserve heritage buildings within the urban centres of Canadian cities.  In 1999, Prince Charles partnered with the Heritage Canada Foundation to create the "Prince of Wales Prize for Municipal Heritage Leadership", which is awarded to various Canadian municipalities who have shown a great commitment to saving historical spaces.  In 2001, Prince Charles launched the Canadian Youth Business Foundation while on a visit to an inner city school in Regina.

Prince Charles has also taken a strong interest in humanitarian activities.  This was incorporated into an interest in the Canadian north, when he visited the Northwest Territories in 1975. He has become associated with the various aboriginal peoples of Canada, and has spent time meeting and talking with them.  Because of his interest in various religious beliefs, he also spent time in meditation with varous aboriginal leaders.  In 1996, Cree and Ojibway youth in Manitoba conferred him with the the name "Leading Star", and five years later, he was given the aboriginal name "Pisimwa Kamiwohkitahpamikohk", which roughly translates as "the sun looks on him in a good way", when he paid a visit to aboriginal communities in Saskatchewan.  That same year, in 2001, Prince Charles was also given the Inukitut name of "Attaniout Ikeneego" while on a visit to Nunavut.  This aboriginal name roughly translates as "the Son of the Big Boss".

Prince Charles is also Colonel-in-Chief of no less than seven Canadian regiments, including the Toronto Scottish Regiment, and is the Air Commodre-in-Chief of the Air Reserve Group of Air Command.  Among many other aviation and nautical qualifcations, the Prince of Wales is also qualified to fly a vintage World War Two era Spitfire.

If Prince Charles becomes King after September 18, 2013, he would become the oldest monarch in the history of either Canada or the United Kingdom to do so.  With Prince Charles' present age of 62, only William IV was older than Prince Charles is now when he became sovereign in 1830.  During the turmoil of the 1990s, a misconception gained popularity that Charles right to become King has somehow been forfeit, and the Crown will pass directly to his son, Prince William of Wales.  This remains only a misconception; there is no legal or constitutional barrier preventing Charles from becoming our next sovereign, and in fact, it is his duty to do so.  His mother has indicated that she will carry out her duties so long as she is able, because she took a vow to do so, and it seems that this same sense of duty runs in the family.

THEN : The Prince of Wales and his first wife, Diana, Princess of Wales on a Royal Visit to Canada in 1983.  Always known for her sense of style, the Princess of Wales seemed fond of wearing red and white during Canadian homecomings.

THEN : The Princess of Wales, with Prince William and Harry of Wales, visit the Cathedral Church of Saint James in Toronto in 1991.
THEN : The Prince of Wales, as Colonel in Chief, inspects the Toronto Scottish Regiment, November 5, 2009.

THEN : The Prince of Wales, as Colonel in Chief, inspects the Toronto Scottish Regiment, November 5, 2009.

THEN : The Prince of Wales at Ricoh Coliseum, November 2009.

THEN : The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall with Prime Minister Stephen Harper, 2009.

The Queen's other three children, Princess Anne, the Princess Royal (born 1950), Prince Andrew, the Duke of York (born 1960), and Prince Edward, the Earl of Wessex (born 1964), have also had associations with Canada, and have paid visits to Toronto on various occasions. 

THEN : The Canadian Royal Family gathers in Lac-Brome, Quebec in 1976.  It is the only time that the entire Royal Family has appeared together outside of the United Kingdom.  From left to right, the Duke of Edinburgh, Princess Anne (now the Princess Royal), Mark Phillips, Prince Edward (now the Earl of Wessex), the Queen, Prince Andrew (now the Duke of York), and Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales.

THEN : Princess Anne, the Princess Royal is the Queen's second child and only daughter.  She participated in the Olympics held in Montreal in 1976, and has often been an advocate in helping Canada in its bid to host various Olympic Games.  Among other activities, she has shown a keen interest in equestrian sports.  In a visit to Toronto in 2007, she spent time raising money for the March of Dimes.

THEN : Prince Andrew, now the Duke of York, attended Lakefield College School, in Ontario, in 1977.  Like his nephew, Prince William of Wales, it has often been suggested that Prince Andrew would make an ideal candidate for the Governor General of Canada. 

THEN : A visit by Prince Andrew, the Duke of York, to Toronto in 2009, included a visit to the Hospital for Sick Children, originally started with the patronage of his great-great-great-grandmother, Queen Victoria.

THEN : Prince Andrew, the Duke of York, on a visit to the Hosptial for Sick Children, in Toronto, in 2009.

THEN : The Queen's youngest child, Edward, Earl of Wessex, has been a frequent visitor to Canada.  Since his wedding in 1999, he has often been joined by his wife, Sophie, the Countess of Wessex.  They are seen here, in 2006, unveiling a plaque in front of the Toronto Dominion Centre, with former Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, Lincoln Alexander, who until recently was the Chairman of the Ontario Heritage Trust.


From the foundation of the Town of York in 1793, there has been over two centuries of history ~ including associations with various members of the Royal Family ~ in Toronto.  Although my listing here may seem somewhat exhaustive, there are of course omissions.  Nonetheless, hopefully the announcement of the engagement between Prince William of Wales and Miss Catherine Middleton will serve as celebratory inspiration for the exploration of Canada's Royal heritage.

To watch a 17-minute interview with Prince William of Wales and Miss Catherine Middleton, please visit the following link :

To watch a 4-minute clip of Prince William of Wales and Miss Catherine Middleton at a press call when their engagement was announced, please vsiit the following link :

To visit the personal profile page of Prince William of Wales, please visit the following link :