Queen Elizabeth II celebrates 70 years on the throne on June 5, and her legacy as the longest serving English and Canadian Monarch, during her Platinum Jubilee.
And although the Jubilee celebrations in Calgary might be subdued compared to those in England, Calgarians still have the opportunity to take in some pomp and ceremony this week.
The City of Calgary will be participating in her international initiatives, displaying artifacts and archived letters from her prior visits to the city, and an official acknowledgement next week in Council Chambers.
The events are among the dozens happening throughout the nation this week.
“I think anytime you have someone who has dedicated their entire life to service, and in case of the Queen—70 years on the throne, over 90 plus years—I think it’s just something to to be celebrated and to be commemorated,” said Josh Traptow, CEO of Heritage Calgary.
Tree and flower beds have been planted in Confederation Park as part of the international Queen’s Green Canopy Initiative.
The program, which began in the United Kingdom in 2021 as a way to create a legacy gift for the Queen’s Jubilee, has grown to Commonwealth nations worldwide. Among the aims is to plant sustainable native trees and to protect forests.
The City of Calgary’s tree is located near where the flags of Confederation are flown on 10 Street NW.
Landmarks such as the Calgary Tower, Art Commons, Olympic Plaza, Stephen Avenue, Telus Spark, and other city buildings and bridges will be lit in the regal purple on June 2.
Council will be making a formal acknowledgement of the Platinum Jubilee on Tuesday, June 7, in chambers.
The Queen’s lasting legacy
Traptow said that it is good to see Calgary is celebrating the Queen’s overall commitment to a lifetime of service.
“I think it’s great to see—I think anytime the city can can officially celebrate these sorts of things, it just makes it more real,” he said.
Queen Elizabeth II has visited Calgary six times throughout her reign. First in 1951 as Heir Presumptive, and then again in 1959, 1973, 1990, and in 2005 as Queen.
He said for many Calgarians, Queen Elizabeth II is the only monarch of Canada they’ve known.
“You know, there’s probably very few that were here for the 1939 royal visit when King George VI and Queen Elizabeth came through on the train,” Traptow said.
Traptow was referring to Queen Elizabeth, the mother of Queen Elizabeth II.
Bruce Hallsor, a spokesperson for the Monarchist League of Canada, said that it would be hard to imagine the Western Canadian experience without the influence of the monarchy.
“Look at the names of our cities and our streets and, and throughout history I think the people that founded all of our provinces and set up our system couldn’t have imagined anything else,” he said.
Within Calgary, the Queen has been a visitor to the Stampede and Spruce Meadows. Her Majesty has taken in her famed love of horses through chuckwagon races and show jumping.
She met frequently with Indigenous, civic leaders, and provincial leaders, inspected the troops at then Canadian Forces Base Calgary and opened the Museum of the Regiments. She even made a royal stop at McMahon Stadium.
“Whenever the Queen, or any member of the royal family, frankly, has come to Western Canada, they’ve always been met with large crowds, supportive crowds,” said Hallsor.
The Queen was last in Calgary to celebrate its centennial year, where she shared the centennial celebration of western heritage with 17,000 other Albertans.
Political importance of crown to Western Canada
Traptow and Hallsor both said that Canadians have been largely appreciative of the monarchy, and of the Queen.
According to a recent Angus Reid poll, Queen Elizabeth had a 63 per cent favourable and 21 per cent unfavourable views by Canadians. Prince William, had 60 per cent favourable and 23 per cent unfavourable.
Prince Charles, Heir Presumptive to be King of Canada, is viewed by 54 per cent unfavourably.
“When the Queen eventually does pass away, and Charles becomes King, I think it always bears having a conversation about whether a constitutional monarchy is still the right thing for Canada. I think those types of conversations are always healthy,” said Traptow.
Hallsor pointed to the Queen’s longevity as monarch as an important value to Canadians in onto itself.
“I mean, think, think of what the world was like 70 years ago, and all the institutions that have disappeared from our life: Churches, our military values, even the nuclear family. Things that were bedrocks of society that have all changed dramatically. And yet, the Queen, not only the monarchy as an institution, has remained constant,” he said.
“In some ways, I think that has made it easier for us to adapt to the dramatic changes that we our society has undertaken, because we have that constant figurehead there who is a reassuring figure for us.”
Yet that seemingly constant island of stability is also reflected in having outdated values. The Angus Reid poll showed 49 per cent of Canadians associate the monarchy with having outdated values, and only 5 per cent with having modern values.
Hallsor also pointed to the Queen as an important figure in Canadian politics, as someone that Canadians could look to that isn’t a temporary politician and is beholden to no political party.
“When the Prime Minister or Premier bows to the monarch, they bow to all Canadians, and they acknowledged that they are temporary custodians of whatever power they have,” he said.
“And in our system, they are not absolute, they are not the figurehead. We don’t confuse patriotism with adherence to a temporarily elected person, and I think especially in Western Canada, that’s a very important value.”