Canadian Royal Heritage Trust

A National Educational Charity

Ottawa – Canada’s Royal Capital

By virtue of its status as the national capital, Ottawa can lay claim to more royal connections than any other Canadian city. Indeed, Ottawa (originally named Bytown, after Colonel John By of the Royal Engineers) was chosen to be Canada’s capital city by none other than the Queen-Empress Victoria herself (the great decision is commemorated in Ottawa’s coat of arms by the inclusion of a representation of St. Edward’s Crown).

During their flawless tour of Canada in 2011 the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge laid wreaths at Canada’s National War Memorial. Did you know that every member of the Royal Family always lays a wreath at the memorial when they visit Ottawa?

The memorial was unveiled by Prince William’s great-grandparents, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth (later Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother) in May 1939 to honour the fallen of the First World War — no one knew that the Second World War would start just over 3 months later. The unveiling of the National War Memorial was also the occasion of the first ever Royal Walkabout. Queen Elizabeth, having heard Scottish voices in the crowd, broke with protocol and walked over to the adoring spectators to converse. Thus Ottawa can claim to be the birthplace of one of the greatest of royal traditions.

When Prince William attended the Canada Day celebrations on Parliament Hill (which, coincidentally, was the 50th anniversary of his mother’s birth) he sat on a stage in front of the Centre Block of the Parliament Buildings, the original cornerstone of which was laid by his g-g-g-grandfather, King Edward VII (then Prince of Wales, and after whom Ottawa’s major thoroughfare of King Edward Avenue is named). To Prince William’s far right was a statue of his g-g-g-g-grandmother Queen Victoria and to his far left was a statue of his grandmother Queen Elizabeth II (upon her favourite horse, Centennial, a gift from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police).

Had HRH ventured into the Centre Block he would have found another statue of Queen Victoria (as a young queen) in the library as well as a brand new “Diamond Jubilee” stained glass window honouring both Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth II, as well as a carved corbel also honouring his grandmother. Outside the entrance to the Senate (the Senate chamber containing royal thrones, which have been occupied by his grandparents and great-grandparents) HRH would have found portraits of all of the Canadian Monarchs since Confederation; and in the nearby Francophonie room are portraits of all of the French Monarchs of Canada — to whom HRH can also lay claim to some relationship (however distant).

Whilst in Ottawa The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge slept at Canada’s Government House (Rideau Hall). There too HRH would have seen paintings of his grandparents and great-grandparents and a stained glass window honouring his grandmother. Rideau Hall is a building in which a great many of the Duke of Cambridge’s ancestors and relations have also slept, dined and socialized. Aside from all of his immediate family (parents, aunts, uncles, grand-parents) we can also mention his great-grandfather King George VI, his great-grand-uncle King Edward VIII and his great-great-grandfather King George V, along with various other great-aunts and great-uncles too numerous to mention.

Ottawa, a city of gothic towers once known as “Westminster in the Wilderness”, is a city with a proud royal heritage. Indeed, although a small city by global standards (1 million metro), Ottawa’s traditions make it arguably the city most similar, or perhaps familiar, to ceremonial London and, therefore, a city which the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge could regard as a home away from home.The Canadian Grenadier Guards and the Governor General’s Foot Guards mount ceremonial duties in Ottawa, including the Changing of the Guard. Wearing their bearskins and red tunics, these guards might easily be mistaken for the guards who perform the same function for the Sovereign in London. The House of Commons and the Senate are modelled almost exactly on the British House of Commons and House of Lords, and the architecture, traditions and ceremonies are clearly adapted from the Mother of Parliaments.

“Royal” is a designation that may only be granted with the permission of the Sovereign. Ottawa is home to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the Royal Canadian Mint, the Royal Ottawa Hospital, the Royal Heraldry Society of Canada and the Royal Ottawa Golf Club, to name a few.

Ottawa is a dynamic and youthful city, which can lay claim to the second highest quality of life in North America. Yet it is also a city steeped in tradition and history. The royal city and the modern royal family would seem to make a perfect fit.

— Rafe Heydel-Mankoo