B.C. saluted Queen Elizabeth II with ceremonies and a march through its capital city Monday after she was laid to rest in England.
The U.K.’s longest-reigning monarch and Canada’s long-standing head of state died at the age of 96 on Sept. 8, capping an unprecedented reign of seven decades. The week has seen the world celebrate her consistent stoic presence, while many reflect on the institution of the monarchy, its place going forward and the associated consequences of colonialism.
Dignitaries, celebrities and members of the public from around the world attended the Westminster Abbey service before a military procession began escorting the Queen’s coffin en route to Windsor Castle in front of an estimated one million people lining the streets.
In Victoria, the Queen was honoured with a 21-gun salute and the Netherlands Centennial Carillon chimes ringing 96 times to mark her life. But the biggest showing was the procession of military personnel from the Royal Canadian Navy and the Maritime Forces Pacific, along with Lt.-Gov. Janet Austin, Premier John Horgan, and other various government leaders. The process made its way from the legislature grounds and through downtown to where some members of the public had already gathered at the Christ Church Cathedral.
Among the women near the front of the line to enter the church was Nicola Steiniger.
“We all agree she meant a lot to us,” the Oak Bay schoolteacher said.
Her crown connections run deep, thanks to sharing a birthday with the Queen and Steiniger’s mother being a royalist. If work and other life circumstances were different, she would’ve instantly been off to the U.K. to pay her respects.
The church ceremony began with a land acknowledgement for the Indigenous Peoples across the province, who loved, protected and stewarded the lands now making up B.C., from Very Rev. M. Ansley Tucker.
Horgan said the occasion brought “true sorry and sadness” in his heart, but the Queen was “a steadfast reminder of what brings us all together.”
The royal lived by a simple vow to serve and kept the promise she made at her 1952 coronation to do so, Horgan said. Her face, he added, was both commonplace and familiar like a comforting grandparent.
“I recall as a young boy, finding money that had a man on it and I thought it wasn’t as valuable as that that had the picture of my grandmother,” he quipped.
Her unparalleled sense of duty marked her service, yet the Queen’s passion for people gave onlookers confidence “that although she was our monarch, she was also a human being – filled with joy, and sorry, filled with all the challenges that each of us face.”
The Queen considered Canada her second home, visiting it more than any other country, Horgan said. Her embrace of B.C. encompassed the province’s centennial, the 1994 Victoria Commonwealth Games, a Williams Lake rodeo, the opening of a hospital and dropping the puck at a Vancouver Canucks game.
Horgan used the Queen’s own words to best describe her feelings toward the province.
“Initially one is struck by the sheer natural magnificence of British Columbia – the mountains and the fertile valleys, the vast forests and the ever-changing coastline – but one becomes even more impressed by the quality of people who live here. It is they who have given this province its special character,” she said in 1983.
Austin said the monarch’s long reign was one always with “dignity, grace and unwavering devotion to her people.”
Her constant presence captured those who watched Elizabeth the princess, the active military member during the Second World War and the mother, grandmother and great-grandmother, Austin said.
The Queen personally told Austin of her love for Canada and her fond memories of visiting. She was “constant and steadying” in the lives of Canadians, overseeing events like signing the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
“She gave us a symbol of female power,” Austin said. “The qualities we associate with her majesty – civility, adherence to duty and thoughtful restraint – are perhaps undervalued in the contemporary world.”
Austin is encouraged by the Queen’s successor, King Charles, who told Canada’s governor general of his desire to work toward a renewed relationship with Indigenous Peoples.
Saanich resident Ken Lane was among the members of the public who came to pay their respects. He met Queen Elizabeth II face to face first thing every morning for 30 years – her effigy at least.
As the longtime operator of the Victoria Royal London Wax Museum, Lane said they had wax iterations of the Queen from princess to Golden Jubilee.
“Amazing woman, her presence filled the world,” he said.
The Monarchist League member hopes the institution stays with the Queen’s examples, including staying out of politics.
“She soothes a lot of nervous Nellies and probably prevented a lot of minor or major conflicts. I think the story of her life when it comes out in 20 or 30 or 50 years will be amazing.”
Regardless of the Queen’s age and news of her not being well, Steiniger said it just seemed like she’d be around a lot longer.
“I knew that she was dying but I still can’t believe that she’s gone.”
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