Prince Charles and Camilla arrive Sunday in Nova Scotia for a four-day tour of three provinces that will see them have tea with war brides in Halifax, admire woolly sheep in Pictou, listen to young people in Charlottetown debate the work of the Fathers of Confederation and feed a polar bear in Winnipeg.
Canada is familar territory for the 65-year-old Prince. This is his 17th visit to Canada – but his third since 2009 after a nearly nine-year absence – as he continues to introduce Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, to the country. For Camilla, this is her third visit – but her first to Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Manitoba.
The Queen, who celebrated her 88th birthday in April, is restricting her international travel. So, more regular visits from the other royals are anticipated, including the superstar couple, Prince William and Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge, who officials hint may be coming to Canada next year.
The theme of this tour is "Canadian achievement, commemorating our past and celebrating our future." And like all royal visits, it is tightly scripted and steeped in symbolism, with layers upon layers of meaning woven into each stop Prince Charles and Camilla will make.
"The Prince of Wales knows this country very well … he really wants to get down and dare I say, get his hands dirty and get into these issues and meet Canadians," says Kevin MacLeod, the Canadian Secretary to the Queen. "He is very much, 'Let's get on with the job' … and that means talking with Canadians."
So, no swank and sparkly state dinners. Rather, Prince Charles and Camilla will be meeting Second World War veterans, military families, entrepreneurs, students and business leaders in an eclectic series of events. The Prince will walk a new wilderness trail in PEI's Bonshaw Provincial Park and challenge CEOs in Winnipeg to create jobs for disadvantaged youth. There will also be a chance for ordinary Canadians to shake their hands during the popular walkabouts.
The trip is low-key compared to those by the Queen or Prince William and Kate, whose nine-day tour of Canada in 2011 attracted 1,300 accredited media. Their recent three-week tour of New Zealand and Australia, with their son George, is being credited for support for a republic being at its lowest in 30 years in Australia.
On this tour, 300 media are accredited, including eight British media.
Prince Charles, who was last in Nova Scotia and PEI in 1983 with his late wife, Diana, will make four speeches during the visit; the Duchess will not make any public remarks, although she will make separate visits to a housing program in Halifax for women who faced domestic violence, a Christian school in PEI and the Royal Winnipeg Ballet.
The theme of the tour explains the couple's visit with the war brides at Halifax's Pier 21 – now the Canadian Immigration Museum at Pier 21, where these English women first arrived in Canada more than 50 years ago – and the PEI youth debate in the legislature, on Canada 50 years from now.
In PEI, too, the Prince and Duchess will watch fireworks at Victoria Day celebrations and help commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Charlottetown Conference, which led to Confederation.
"It's very much about nation builders past but, also, part of all royal tours we undertake have a strong focus on youth," says Mr. MacLeod. "So we are really saying to young people, 'you are the future nation builders … so you tell us what kind of country you envisage in 50 years'."
The woolly lambs, meanwhile, are from Lismore Farm in River John, N.S. They will be visited by the Prince and Duchess on Monday as part of a Celtic celebration at the Hector Heritage Quay, where a replica of the Hector, the ship that brought Scottish immigrants to Nova Scotia in 1773, is located. (The event is also in Justice Minister Peter MacKay's riding; he is part of the official welcoming party. The Prime Minister will not meet the royal couple until the Manitoba leg of their trip.)
The sheep are a nod to the Prince's interest in agriculture and his global Campaign for Wool that promotes the use of wool as a sustainable fibre that supports rural economies. Models will be wearing woollen items from Holt Renfrew and Joe Fresh, the Canadian retail partners for the wool initiative.
In Winnipeg on Wednesday, the Prince visits the International Polar Bear Conservation Centre at the Assiniboine Park Zoo and feeds Hudson the polar bear.
Mr. MacLeod left Friday on a Canadian Airbus –RCAF 1 – to pick up the Prince and Duchess at an air force base not far from Highgrove House, the couple's estate in Gloucestershire.
"Canada is the only country left that flies them in on our own aircraft because it is vitally important, the message is that they are here as members of the Canadian royal family," explains Mr. MacLeod, who has lost track of how many royal visits he has co-ordinated, but believes it's more than 20. "The two Canadian police officers, the Canadian doctor and the Canadian secretary bring them into Canada."
He and his team take the lead from the Prince's British officials as the aircraft crosses into Canadian airspace.
Mr. MacLeod notes that Prince Charles' affection for Canada was sparked by his late grandmother, the Queen Mother, who said that her grand tour of Canada in 1939 with her husband, King George VI, "made us."
The Prince will be honouring the 75th anniversary of that highly successful tour. In Halifax on Monday, for example, he is planting an English oak in Halifax Public Gardens, not far from the mighty oak tree that his grandfather, George VI, planted in June of 1939. He will be using the same shovel that his mother, the Queen, used to plant an oak tree at Government House in Halifax during her visit in 2010.