Flags are flying at half mast at all municipal buildings around Langley today, as the world mourns the passing of Queen Elizabeth II’s husband.
Prince Philip stopped for two visit in Langley on two different occasions – 20 years apart.
Despite no “real strong” local connection, his death on Tuesday, at age 99, has left its impact on a local university president and others sharing condolences and reminiscing – including Langley Centennial Museum curator Kobi Christian who spoke about his brief stopovers here more than three decades ago.
Scanning back editions of the Langley Advance and other museum archives, Christian was able to confirm his first visit to this community was on Oct. 26, 1951, when he accompanied his wife, then Princess Elizabeth, on a train ride through Fort Langley. It was part of a month-long coast-to-coast tour that started in Vancouver.
Originally, King George VI was expected to make the trip, but due to his failing health, Elizabeth – heir to the throne – and Philip came in his stead. It was Elizabeth’s inaugural visit to Canada, Christian noted.
Records indicate most Langley Prairie (City) businesses shut down, and children were given the day off school, to catch the royal visitors as they came through town.
Their eastbound train reportedly slowed as it passed through the village and between 5,000 and 10,000 onlookers who came out to catch a glimpse of the royal couple.
Running about an hour behind schedule out of Vancouver, the train “crept through [Fort Langley] at a snail’s pace,” as the couple waved from the back of the observation car to a “milling throng that swarmed down the track,” reported the Langley Advance. There were few precautions taken by RCMP in the day, the local newspaper noting most of the Mounties’ attentions were focussed on the well-being of onlookers near the tracks rather than the apparent safety of the royal couple.
“Prince Philip appeared to be enjoying the clear country air. He acknowledged the crowds with hardy waves of both his arms, bent over the railing to talk to kiddies running alongside the coach, and peered around the corner of the observation platform to see what was ahead,” the Langley Advance reporter scribed.
It was two decades later, before Prince Philip would return to Langley, and specifically Fort Langley.
In 1971, he joined Queen Elizabeth II and their daughter, Princess Anne, for a May 3 to 12 tour as part of the B.C. centennial celebration – the 100th anniversary of B.C.’s entry into Confederation.
The royal visit also toured Victoria, Vancouver, Tofino, Kelowna, Vernon, Penticton, Williams Lake, and Comox. But locally, the visit included a stop at Fort Langley National Historic Site, confirmed fort visitor experience manager Brigitte Weronski.
One of the local historic site’s Facebook page followers, Elizabeth Hunter, shared photos and thoughts from the 1971 encounter.
She said, “I was a little girl when I took these [photos]; I was so excited to see the Queen of England!”
The Duke of Edinburgh’s passing this week also impacted others in town, including the head of Trinity Western University and a fellow United Kingdom native.
TWU president Mark Husbands was born in Cardiff, Wales, and immigrated to Canada with his family in 1968 when he was seven. While he never met the Duke of Edinburgh, he was moved to learn of his passing.
The fellow countryman expressed his condolences to the royal family.
“Trinity Western University is deeply saddened to hear of the passing of HRH Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh. We are grateful for his steadfast dedication to the Commonwealth and its people, including his investment into the lives of young people through the Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award, which, among the recipients have been students from B.C. and TWU graduates,” Husbands said.
“Our deepest condolences to Her Majesty the Queen and the Royal Family during this time of sorrow and loss.”
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