Queen’s receives royal visitors
Given its regal name and its creation through royal charter, it should come as no surprise that Queen’s has been a frequent stopping place for royalty. Kingston has long been a centre of Loyalist sentiment. And its location at the foot of the St. Lawrence River made it a natural attraction in the age of steamships and railways.
From the 1800s until the Second World War, the campus saw more than its fair share of royals:
- In 1879, Governor General the Marquess of Lorne and his wife Princess Louise visited the campus, laying the cornerstone of Theological Hall
- In 1901, the Duke of Cornwall and York (the future King George V) performed a similar cornerstone duty at Kingston Hall before receiving an honorary degree and praising Queen’s for “placing higher education within the reach of all”
- In 1919, George’s son Edward, the Prince of Wales, received an honorary degree in Grant Hall
- In 1939, George VI (who had succeeded Edward in the abdication crisis of 1936) arrived in Kingston on a sleek blue and silver royal train.
The current English monarch, Elizabeth II, first visited Kingston as a princess in 1951. As Queen, she returned in 1959 to open the seaway; in 1967 for Canada’s centennial; in 1973 for Kingston’s tercentenary; in 1976 for Olympic sailing; and in 1984 to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the coming of the Loyalists.
Perhaps the most memorable visit of all came in 1991 when Prince Charles and Diana, Princess of Wales, charmed the campus for its 150th anniversary. Like his forebears, Prince Charles received an honorary degree, using his acceptance speech to applaud Canada’s cultural diversity.
It is not just British royalty who have been attracted to Queen’s. From 1978 to 1981, Prince Takamado Norihito, first cousin to Japan’s Emperor Akihito, studied law at Queen’s. A plaque on the lawn of Summerhill commemorates that royal connection.
In the late 1980s, the Queen’s community debated about the presence of religious elements in the convocation ceremony, such as prayers, hymns and benedictions. Eventually, graduation was brought into line with secular values, but one “element” remained: “God Save the Queen” is still central to the ceremony.