When the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge visit Kelowna next month, long-time resident Marie Ablett hopes to be front and centre.
“I’m really pleased they’re coming—they’re a nice example of the royal family,” said Ablett, a member of the local branch of the United Empire Loyalists, a group whose members celebrate their British family ancestry.
The Sept. 27 arrival of William and Kate, and their children George and Charlotte, will be a bit of a Kelowna tradition for Ablett.
“I saw Princess Margaret when the (Okanagan Lake) bridge opened in 1958,” said Ablett. “She was so tiny. Barely five-feet and under 100 pounds. You don’t expect the royal family to be so small.”
The next time she saw the royals was when Princess Diana and Prince Charles arrived in Kelowna May 3, 1986, just a few days before the opening of Expo ’86.
An estimated 25,000 people turned out to see Charles and Diana, but Ablett, her husband and her son managed to get quite close.
“We were only 20 feet away from them,” she said. “We stood for an hour before they arrived. But it was absolutely wonderful.”
Ablett said Charles and Diana drove through town in a cavalcade, then they walked to the podium in City Park, near the rose Gardens.
Mayor Walter Gray introduced the couple, referring to Prince Charles as Prince Phillip.
“It didn’t matter, we knew who he was,” said Ablett.
Since those visits, approval of the royal family has waxed and waned both in England and on this side of the pond. Ablett thinks, with her age group in particular, that they may be currently be on an upswing, in terms of popularity.
“I think a lot of people in my age group still respect it,” she said. “We were annoyed with Charles, back in the day… but we’re welcoming the chance for William and his wife to come and give the monarchy a family presence.”
Ablett isn’t the only one who is excited to have the royals touch down in Kelowna.
“As the only Canadian-British immigrant on council, I’m excited about royalty coming to Kelowna,” he said.
It will be a chance to show off the city, he said, pointing out there will be international news coverage of their visit and that’s bound to cast Kelowna in a positive light.
The eight-day royal trip starts Sept. 24 in Victoria, with B.C. stops in Vancouver, Kelowna, Bella Bella and Haida Gwaii. There will be Yukon stops in Whitehorse and Carcross, a remote First Nations community just north of the B.C. border, according to a release Monday from Heritage Canada. William and Kate, along with their children Prince George and Princess Charlotte, will end their trip back in Victoria.