Canadians across the country organized parties, donned traditional British garb and planted trees over the weekend as they joined the world in celebrating the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee marking her 70 years on the throne.
The Canadian festivities were more muted affairs compared to the boisterous, four-day party that took place in London in honour of the occasion.
The lineup of concerts, military parades and tributes culminated Sunday with a brief appearance from the monarch herself, who waved to tens of thousands of cheering celebrants from the balcony of Buckingham Palace while surrounded by three generations of heirs to the throne.
But Canadian fans still found ways to mark the historic milestone — a first for a British ruler — in their own ways.
Alula Hilawe, a tour guide for the Town of Sackville, N.B., said he helped set up the town’s Jubilee celebration tea service at the Marshlands Inn, the very place where the Queen stayed when she visited in 1984.
Hilawe said some attendees debated what year Elizabeth had visited.
“We were a little confused. So they opened the guestbook up where the Queen signed her name and the date. It was September 1984,” he said. “… It must be really cool to have normal regular people sign their name on the book the Queen did.”
Plenty of attendees were old enough to recall that royal visit and shared their experiences meeting her, Hilawe said.
Saskatoon resident Tracy Pytlowany said the jubilee lunches people held across the U.K. inspired her to host a lunch of her own.
The Saturday- afternoon affair included sandwiches, British-inspired gin-based cocktails and British beers that Pytlowany said she managed to find from scouring the liquor stores.
A friend made a toast at the lunch touching on the Queen’s “dedication to the job,” she said.
Though she had made a very light request for the party’s dress code, Pytlowany said her friends decided to take their attire much further and were “super participatory.”
“The only suggestion I made was ladies should wear a hat,” she said.
A friend’s husband, who is Scottish, came in a full kilt, while other men showed up sporting bow ties, Pytlowany said.
“Everybody was wearing a hat of some kind, whether it was something they got at Value Village—like mine was, and I decorated it—or it was some fascinator that they had from a wedding they were in.”
Peter Maharaj, president of the Canadian Indo Caribbean Organization of Ottawa, says the group held a local celebration in honour of the Queen over the weekend and described her as the “heart of the Commonwealth.”
About 300 people attended, enjoying a buffet of tandoori and butter chicken and watching performances that included The Sons of Scotland Pipe Band, Bollywood dancers and a singer who delivered a rendition of God Save the Queen.
“The place was rocking, believe me. Everybody was dancing to all the different types of music,” he said.
The event was a hybrid celebration for the Queen as well as a recognition of Indian Arrival Day, a public holiday in Trinidad and Tobago which commemorates the arrival of Indians to the Caribbean to work as indentured servants, said Maharaj.
“It gave us a good reason to add it, since we are a large part of the British Commonwealth and British heritage,” he said.
The Governor General and her husband Whit Fraser have been in London throughout the weekend to take part in the Jubilee celebrations.
A spokesperson for Rideau Hall issued a statement on Sunday saying the Governor General’s official residence has been the backdrop for several jubilee festivities, including the Canadian Heraldic Authority creating Canada’s own unique emblem for the milestone.
Ralph Goodale, Canada’s high commissioner to the United Kingdom, also attended the events in London.
“Clearly, the most memorable was the moment right at the very end of the pageant, when Her Majesty appeared on the balcony of Buckingham Palace,” Goodale said, noting thousands of people had gathered in the plaza around Queen Victoria’s monument, anticipating whether Queen Elizabeth would make an appearance.
The 96-year-old monarch has curtailed her schedule in recent months due to difficulties in moving around. Prior to Sunday, the Queen had only appeared in public twice—both on Thursday—during the four-day holiday weekend’s celebrations. Officials said she experienced “discomfort” during those events.
“Canadians have a very long relationship with Her Majesty and a very warm and enthusiastic relationship with her,” Goodale said.
In highlighting the unique connection between Canadians and the Queen, he pointed to the fact that she has visited the country 22 times, to every province and territory, often more than once.
“She has said frequently that Canada is her favourite place to visit, and she feels at home when she’s in Canada,” he said.
“This is a moment in history, and people from across the world have shown their respect and admiration for all that Her Majesty has accomplished during the 70 years of her reign,” said Gov. Gen. Mary Simon in a statement Sunday.
“When it comes to how to mark seventy years as your Queen, there is no guidebook to follow. It really is a first,” she said. “But I have been humbled and deeply touched that so many people have taken to the streets to celebrate my Platinum Jubilee.
“While I may not have attended every event in person, my heart has been with you all; and I remain committed to serving you to the best of my ability, supported by my family.”
As the celebrations drew to a close, the monarch issued a statement thanking all those who celebrated her Platinum Jubilee.
The City of Toronto says it planted 70 large trees, one for each year of the Queen’s reign, throughout Rowntree Mills Park, attended by Mayor John Tory and Ontario Lieut. Gov. Elizabeth Dowdeswell.
“For 70 years, Her Majesty has exemplified service to Canada and Canadians. The City of Toronto congratulates Her Majesty upon this historic occasion,” read an official statement from the city.
With files from The Associated Press.
This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Meta and Canadian Press News Fellowship.
Erika Ibrahim, The Canadian Press