Recalling Prince Philip's visits to Brantford

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Prince Philip, accompanied by Queen Elizabeth, greets a local woman during a visit to Brantford. Brant Historical Society
Prince Philip, accompanied by Queen Elizabeth, greets a local woman during a visit to Brantford. Brant Historical Society jpg, BR

Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, who died on Friday at the age of 99, was supposed to visit Brantford in 1997.

• Turn to Page B5 for more on Prince Philip.

He accompanied the then Princess Elizabeth, two years prior to her coronation, on a visit to the city in 1951. The couple passed through Brantford on their way to review cadets at the Royal Military College in Kingston, Ont.

They returned in 1984 when the Queen unveiled a plaque at the Mohawk Chapel recognizing Upper Canada’s first Protestant church and the oldest surviving church in Ontario as a national historic site.

The Queen was back in 1997 to unveil a new plaque giving the Bell Homestead the same designation.

Philip was supposed to accompany the Queen but, as Gus Iliopoulos recalls, that was scuttled and the duke instead toured Winnipeg after a devastating flood. Iliopoulos, owner, along with his brother, George, of The Olde School Restaurant on Powerline Road, said the Queen ended up dining there as planned on June 28, 1997. Iliopoulos served the Queen and her entourage lemon chicken, baby greens and fresh vegetables. But a separate beef meal meant for Philip and his group was instead cut up for sandwiches served to security.

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It’s too bad,” said Iliopoulos, who watched news of Philip’s death on television before coming to work. “I think the Queen will probably make it to 100, too.”

Philip, who was two months shy of his 100th birthday, was Britain’s longest-serving royal consort. Through the Queen’s 69 years on the throne, the man she called her “strength and stay” carried out more than 22,000 solo engagements and made nearly 5,500 speeches before he stepped away from public life more than three years ago.

Danny Philp, the last chairman of the Brant County branch of the Monarchist League of Canada, which folded about 20 years ago, said Philip was “one of the few remaining touchstones we have left to a lot of history.

It’s a real passing-on-of-a-generation moment.”

Philp said the royal will be remembered as a guiding force for the House of Windsor, introducing more modern practices into an institution steeped in tradition. That included televising the 1953 coronation of the Queen. He also worked to make the image of the Royal Family less austere — he sported a white stetson at the Calgary Stampede in 1951. Philip also was behind a 1969 documentary that offered a more personal look at his life with the Queen and their four children.

He brought the monarchy forward into a less stuffy age.”

He was also well-known for his philanthropic efforts, which included 780 charities and organizations, and for the establishment of the Duke of Edinburgh Awards.

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But the prince also was prone to gaffes and “apparently, had quite a wicked sense of humour,” said Philp.

He wasn’t always politically correct. He was a man of a different time.”

After the first royal visit by Albert Edward, the Prince of Wales, in 1860, Brantford, a growing industrial city, and Six Nations became essential destinations for any Canadian royal tour. Visiting royals were always greeted by thousands of well-wishers.

Philp said he was nine years old when he stood at Erie Avenue and Cayuga Street to watch the Queen and Prince Philip drive past in their limousine.

She was waving out the window and it felt like, for a second, we locked eyes,” he said. “The duke was there waving to people on the other side.”

The prince accompanied the Queen on her Commonwealth tours and state visits overseas. He visited Canada with the Queen on several occasions, with their last trip together in the summer of 2010. In 2013, he made a solo visit to Toronto to present a new ceremonial flag to the Royal Canadian Regiment’s 3rd Battalion.

Philp said he doesn’t worry about the future of the monarchy following the prince’s death and the upcoming 95th birthday of the Queen. He suspects Charles’s reign will be a short one and says the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (Prince William and Catherine) are popular with the public.

Flags at City of Brantford properties were lowered to half-mast on Friday in memory of Prince Philip.

“We join others around the world in sending our sincere condolences to the Royal Family and honouring the duke’s lifetime of exemplary service as a devoted and inspiring public servant,” said a statement from the city.

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