As many of you know, Queen Elizabeth II passed away last week at 96. For many Canadians, she was an icon and the only English monarch on the throne. During her time on the throne, she served with 12 Canadian Prime Ministers (the first being Louis St. Laurent when she took the throne in 1952) and 14 British Prime Ministers (the first being William Churchill) and started her reign at the age of 25 and ruled for 70 years. She holds the record for being the world’s second longest ruling monarch. The first was Louis XIV, who came to rule France for 72 years. Queen Elizabeth II did, however, become the United Kingdom’s longest reigning monarch as of 2015 when she surpassed her great-great-grandmother Queen Victoria.
Another record Queen Elizabeth II holds was the most travelled monarch. She has visited the colonies, except Rwanda and Cameroon, 180 times. That is not even including her visits when she was just a Princess. Regarding Canada, she visited the nation 22 times and took part in momentous events in Canada’s history, such as the opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway, Expo 67 and Canada’s Centennial, Montreal hosting the Olympics in 1976 (the first time Canada hosted the summer games) and the patriation of the Canadian Constitution in 1982. Canada also holds the record for most visits by Queen Elizabeth II. Manitoba has only hosted the Queen six times during these visits. Some were part of nationwide visits while others were for Manitoba events like its centennial in 1970. Her last visit to our province occurred in 2010 when she also visited Toronto, Halifax, and Ottawa and this would be her last visit to the country.
While Virden, a small rural community, may not have been the main stop for her majesty, this community has played its part in the Royal Visits. For example, for Canada’s Centennial Royal Visit, a scroll was passed around the nation and delivered to the Queen in Montreal. Virden’s 4-H Light Horse and Pony Club had the honour of aiding the delivery to Elizabeth II. The only occasion believed to be when the Royal Family visited Virden occurred on June 29th, 1959. Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip had over 7,000 visitors, and many Virden citizens got special meetings with the Royal Couple. Well-known Virdenite Myrtle Lane gave the couple a scrapbook from the Virden schools and a copy of the town’s first history book, “The Virden Story.” These gifts were presented by Virden children Brian Lambourn and Mary Bentley. They got chosen because they had birthdays closest to the couple’s children’s birthdays; Prince Charles (November 14th, 1948) and Princess Anne (August 15th, 1950). Many Virden soldiers displayed their medals proudly and wore their dress uniforms. Oak Lake also had a representative for this visit, a young Shari Johnston, who presented a bouquet to the Queen. Honourable Alvin Hamilton (the Minister of Northern Affairs and National Resources then) introduced Mayor J. C. Cory, John Thompson, and their wives to the Royal Couple. The event was a huge success, and those responsible for planning were commended for their efforts.