Two girls who can’t be more than 13 years old dash across the lawn of Victoria’s Parliament Buildings. They’re giddy; in fact, they’re all but overwhelmed. They’ve just met the Royals—more accurately, the Royals have just breezed past them down a red carpet, on their way to the next stop on a one-week tour of B.C. and the Yukon. “What was it like?” reporters ask.
Their response: Better than Bieber.
No doubt, others in the thousands assembled to greet the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge on Saturday afternoon would have chosen a different comparative, but the sentiment was certainly the same. Why else would you line up three hours in advance, with no chair, no bathroom, nary even a Starbucks, just for a fleeting glimpse of Will and Kate?
The masses gathered outside Parliament and along Victoria Harbour got their first glimpse of their Royal Highnesses (Kate clad in a blue Jenny Packham dress and fascinator) along with little George and Charlotte, on a jumbotron, as they deplaned at Maritime Forces Pacific headquarters around 4 p.m., greeted by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Sophie Grégoire Trudeau; George may have left the PM hanging when he went for a high-five, but the three-year-old prince was a little more generous to the crowd gathered on the tarmac, throwing out a brief, enthusiastic (and utterly adorable) little wave.
It’d be another hour before the crowd at Parliament got to see Will and Kate in the flesh, rolling up on Victoria Harbour amidst a motorcade of black SUVs, police cars and helicopters. After making their way through the crowd, they were welcomed by traditional dances from the Songhees and Esquimalt First Nations, as well as a 21-gun salute from the Canadian Ceremonial Guard’s Guard of Honour.
Next, it was time for speeches from the likes of the prime minister and B.C. premier Christy Clark, before His Royal Highness took to the podium, expressing his and Kate’s delight that their children can now commence “their own lifetime of friendship with this wonderful country,” and how eager they are to meet people from “as many walks of life as we can.”
After the ceremonial signing of the Government of Canada Golden Book and the British Columbia Distinguished Visitors’ Book, they headed back down the red carpet toward their SUVs, off to private audiences with the Governor General and Prime Minister at the Government House.
“She looked right at me, actually,” marvelled Meghan, a young woman who’d travelled to the island from Surrey and lined up for hours before the royal arrival. “I was surprised they were flocked by so much press when they were walking out; they had no breathing room!”
That said, she was a little disappointed that, despite what the crowd had been told, Will and Kate didn’t spend much time meeting and greeting with their fans. “It was super-quick. They should have walked slower!... I would have [tried to get] a better view of the stage if I had known they would just be walking by.”
On Sunday morning, Will and Kate, the latter now stunningly dressed in Alexander McQueen, hit the mainland, arriving at Jack Poole Plaza, greeted by hundreds of fans waving Canadian flags and closing out their visit with chants of “Kate! Kate!”
From there, it was on to the Downtown Eastside, and a tour of Sheway, the centre that provides aid to mothers struggling with addiction and mental health concerns. Will and Kate visited with the staff and several new mothers at the facility, which was originally inspired by a Scotland’s Glasgow Women's Reproductive Health Service Unit, which William’s mother, Princess Diana, helped open in 1990.
Prince William and Kate arrive at Sheway, a pregnancy outreach program located in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver
Said one of the young mothers who met with the Royal couple inside Sheway: “It means a lot to me—a lot to us. It’s good to know they treat us the same as if we were anybody else. Because a lot of people still don’t.”
Next, Will and Kate met up with the Trudeaus for a tour of the Immigrant Services Society’s new Welcome House, sitting down with displaced families who’ve found a new home in Canada. Before leaving, the Duke and Duchess officially opened the facility’s Edith Lando playground with a plaque unveiling.
Then it was off to Telus Gardens to visit with some of Canada’s young athletes, including the Olympic women’s rugby and swimming teams; here, William took a bit of ribbing from the prime minister over Canada’s victory over England in the bronze medal match at the Rio Games. "Oh really? You trashed the U.K.?" he reportedly asked the athletes with a chuckle. Their time at the Gardens came to a close with a song from a representative of the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation, who also provided two grass baskets made specially for George and Charlotte.
At last, they arrived the Kitsilano Coast Guard Station in Vanier Park, where the Royals and the Trudeaus met with reps from the Coast Guard as well as other B.C. first responders.
After a brief chat with each branch and a few moments to greet the throngs of adoring fans who’d once again shown up hours in advance hoping for a few moments the Royals, Will and Kate boarded a Coast Guard hovercraft and headed back to Victoria, presumably resting up for the coming week, which will see them heading to Bella Bella, Kelowna, Haida Gwaii and the Yukon, as they reacquaint themselves with a country that’s more than eager to welcome them at every stop.