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Piper defends gifts to Will and Kate as 'hardly eye-boggling'

Ottawa bagpiper Madeleine Thompson gives the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge a waistcoat and fascinator adorned with the Maple Leaf tartan during the royal couple's visit to Canada in the summer of 2011.


Ottawa bagpiper Madeleine Thompson is the "individual" behind the tartan fascinator and waistcoat gifts given to Kate and William during their Canadian visit last summer. And she's upset with the reaction of the British press to these gifts. They called them bizarre; she says they were hardly that.

St. James's Palace this week released the long list of gifts given to Prince William during his visit to New Zealand and Australia last March and those given to both he and the Duchess of Cambridge on their visit to Canada last summer, their first official tour as a royal couple.

Listed among the 150 or so items presented to the royal couple during their Canadian tour is a "tartan fascinator" for the Duchess and a "tartan waistcoat" for the Prince. It does not say who gave the plaid items to the royal couple. Rather, it simply says they were given by an "individual."

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And Ms. Thompson finds it disheartening that these tartan items were labelled by the British and overseas press as "weird" and "bizarre."

"The gifts range from the poignant (some building fragments from the wreckage of the city of Christchurch, New Zealand, which William visited following last February's disastrous earthquake) to the predictable (a wide-brimmed hat and a cricket jacket from his trip to Australia) to the frankly bizarre (the duchess received a tartan fascinator during the couple's first official visit to Canada)," The Guardian writes.

Ms. Thompson was in touch with The Globe via email on Wednesday and was unimpressed. "I'm so miffed about the way this is being reported by some of the British media outlets," she wrote. "They read 'tartan' and they assume ostentatious. Some have presumptuously called the gift 'bizarre' without having even seen it."

She also sent pictures. "As you can, it has nothing more than a small subtle tartan embellishment on the back. Hardly eye-boggling as fascinators go," Ms. Thompson said.

Fascinators, the small headpieces that can be embellished in so many clever and witty ways, became popular after William and Catherine's spring wedding.

Ms. Thompson is a piper with the Sons of Scotland Pipe Band in Ottawa, which played for the Duke and Duchess on their arrival at Rideau Hall on the first day of their Canadian adventure. And she was able to present the gifts, and chat with the royal couple, on behalf of her band.

The piper purposely chose Maple Leaf tartan as it was recognized just last year by Heritage Minister James Moore as a national emblem, she says. "The understated, unique pattern of deep greens, golds, reds and browns represents the changing colours of Canada's maple leaf through our four seasons," she said.

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In addition, the tartan is symbolic of her pipe band's "Scottish heritage and enduring kinship with Britain."

Regardless of the coverage, "it was an honour and a privilege to present those items on behalf of the pipe band and on behalf of Canada. ... And now you have the whole story on the mystery 'tartan fascinator'."

'Screaming loudly, making excuses and pointing fingers'

Bob Rae isn't letting Stephen Harper's strategists off the hook. In fact, at the Liberal Party's winter caucus meeting Wednesday he addressed the anonymous memo writers head on, acknowledging he and his party have been under attack by the Conservatives.

He wore this like a badge of honour, arguing that all of this attention means the Grits must be doing something right.

But the Tories are not letting up either. Just after he made his speech, in which he aggressively defended his record as Ontario's NDP premier in the 1990s during a severe recession, the Tories were busy with their pens.

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"Bob Rae's proven track record is higher debt, higher taxes and higher unemployment," they say in a memo sent to MPs and supporters. "Screaming loudly, making excuses and pointing fingers won't distract people from the facts."

Mr. Rae did all of that but also made the point that during his tenure his spending did not increase nearly as much as Conservative spending has since Mr. Harper took power. He joked he was a "piker" compared to Finance Minister Jim Flaherty and the Prime Minister.

Another recent missive alleges that Mr. Rae and his Liberals are "indistinguishable from the NDP." This, after the defection to the Liberals of Lise St-Denis, who was elected in May in a Quebec riding as New Democrat.

"Under former NDP Premier Bob Rae's control, the Liberals have shifted so far to the left that St-Denis won't have to change her positions on issues, despite a long history of left-wing activism within the NDP," the Tories say.

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About the Author
Ontario politics reporter

Jane Taber is a reporter at Queen’s Park. After spending three years reporting from the Atlantic, she has returned to Ontario and back to writing about her passion, politics. She spent 25 years covering Parliament Hill for the Ottawa Citizen, the National Post and the Globe and Mail. More

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