Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

For Royals only: Special chair gets ready for spot in limelight

On eve of Prince Charles' visit, special chair gets ready for spot in limelight

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James Haggarty / Winnipeg Free Press

Princess Anne meets the public in Selkirk during the 1982 Royal Tour.

Tucked away in the legislative building behind locked doors with a blue rope draped in front of them is a chair you can't sit on.

It's reserved only for royal posteriors -- and there are small plaques commemorating almost everyone who has sat in it.

It's called the Prince of Wales chair. Dwight MacAulay, the province's chief of protocol, said it's so named because in 1860, then-Prince of Wales Albert Edward, later King Edward VII, sat in it during a visit to Saint John, N.B.

"Nobody but royalty can use it," MacAulay said as he closely watched a reporter and photographer examine it.

The ornately carved wooden and blue-leather chair, kept in the legislature's Blue Room, will likely be used during the visit by Prince Charles and Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, when they are in Winnipeg Tuesday and Wednesday.

Then, once they are gone, the doors to the lush room accessorized with a deep blue carpet, blue curtains and blue-hued furniture, will be closed again.

The room is used for other special occasions, such as when the lieutenant-governor greets visiting dignitaries. But even they can't sit in the chair.

It was imported from England by the Saint John Club of Saint John for the prince. Later, an officer of the Halifax Garrison brought it to Manitoba when he was transferred here. It is specifically used for royal functions both at the legislature and at Government House.

Around the top of the chair, and on an added wooden backing, the small engraved plaques commemorate the various Royal Family members who have sat on it. They include Queen Elizabeth, who first sat in the chair while still a princess on Oct. 16, 1951; Prince George, later King George V, in 1901; Prince Edward, later King Edward VIII, in 1919; King George VI on May 24, 1939; Prince Charles on April 29, 1975; Princess Anne on July 24, 1999; Prince Edward on July 6, 1990, and March 26, 1993; Princess Margaret on Sept. 25, 1971; and Prince Andrew and his then-wife Sarah on July 22, 1987.

***

The first Royal to visit this province was Prince Arthur, the Duke of Connaught, who was Queen Victoria's third son. The prince came to Winnipeg with the duchess as part of their 1890 tour of Canada.

The Manitoba Free Press at the time said crowds cheered their arrival at the CP Rail station and at city hall. The reports also gave a salute to the fact the prince had declined the offer of a military escort through the city because he wanted to meet the people.

It was 11 years before another Royal graced the city: Prince George, who became King George V when his grandmother, Queen Victoria, died in 1901.

When the prince came to Winnipeg in September 1901, the Free Press reported a large crowd began cheering when they first heard the royal train's whistle in the distance. The royal visitors opened the new science building at the University of Manitoba and met many people at ceremonies at city hall and Government House.

The next generation of British Royalty came when Queen Elizabeth, still a princess, arrived in 1951. She has been here six times. Her husband, Prince Philip, is the most frequent traveller to Manitoba of any British Royal, with 10 visits.

Prince Charles was 21 when he made his first visit to Manitoba, along with his mother, father and sister, Princess Anne. This will be his fifth visit to Manitoba.

***

 

Among the many treasured photographs from Pearl McGonigal's tenure as Manitoba lieutenant-governor is a photo of her with the Queen -- who is sitting in the Prince of Wales chair.

But her favourite royal memory involves cheesecake.

When the menu was being put together for the Queen's visit in 1984, McGonigal, who was lieutenant-governor from 1981 to 1986, submitted her own recipe for pumpkin cheesecake.

"I like to cook -- I always have," McGonigal said recently.

"Because the visit was going to be near Thanksgiving, and that's when pumpkins are around, I put in pumpkin cheesecake with the possible menus, which was sent to Buckingham Palace. A while later, I got a letter back. They didn't know what cheesecake was. I sent over the list of ingredients, and I later heard that's what (the Queen) chose for the menu.

"I gave the recipe to Milan Bodiroga at Dubrovnik Restaurant and he made it. When the dinner came, she had it and she liked it. It was so nice to see her eat it and enjoy it."

McGonigal treasures the Queen's reaction when she presented her with two presents: a specially commissioned horse blanket featuring red maple leafs in the corners -- a gift her husband came up with -- and two bottles of maple syrup.

"When she opened the maple syrup she said 'Oh good, we're just out of this and Philip and the children like it.'

"Then she opened the saddle blanket, and she was just delighted. The RCMP had just given her the horse Centennial, after giving her the horse Burmese, which was her favourite, a few years earlier.

"Her secretary said 'This would be for Centennial' but she (the Queen) said 'No, not for Centennial, this is for Burmese.' After that, she had our party taken down to the paddock and they brought Burmese out with the blanket. That was so special."

McGonigal also hosted a visit by Princess Anne in 1982, and she was in attendance as part of the welcome to Prince Charles in 1996.

"I had married Norm Coghlan not long before and (Prince Charles) greeted us," she said.

"But when he went by, (then-premier Gary Filmon) mentioned we were newlyweds and he said 'newlyweds?' and he came back to speak with us again for three or four minutes. He was so kind and so nice."

Earlier, when Charles came to Winnipeg in 1975, McGonigal said her teenaged daughter, Kim, was invited to a party for Charles along with other young women, all of whom were told they "couldn't have an escort," she added laughing.

"I think he will make a good king -- yes, I really do."

***

 

Because of the nature of his position, MacAulay can't divulge anything personal about the Royals he meets or what happens during the trips.

As for next week's visit, MacAulay said they're pleased Charles is going to visit the Assiniboine Zoo's new Journey to Churchill exhibit and meet Hudson the polar bear, because it links to his 1996 visit to Churchill shortly after the federal government created Wapusk National Park.

The Royals, who are in the city for 26 hours, will not be going to the soon-to-be open Canadian Museum for Human Rights, since the Queen laid the cornerstone when she was here two years ago.

But MacAulay expects a museum visit will be considered in future royal visits.

There is no shortage of ideas for places to visit. They come from all levels of government and take into consideration the special interests of the individual Royals, who give their input before the itinerary is finalized.

"You do have to have a sense of humour when you work on these trips because you have to hope everything is right all the time," MacAulay said.

kevin.rollason@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 17, 2014 A6

History

Updated on Monday, May 19, 2014 at 3:05 PM CDT: George V grandson, not son, of Queen Victoria.

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