Monday, May 24, 2021

The Funny Story 'The Crown' Didn't Tell You

By Terrie Todd

Did you know that the first time a reigning monarch stepped foot in Canada was 1939? (Although as the 17-year-old Prince Albert, he visited Canada on a six-month naval training cruise in 1913.)

Fans of The Crown will know that young Prince Albert, as second son, was never supposed to be king. When his father died, his older brother became King Edward VIII, only to abdicate a year later to marry the divorced American socialite, Wallis Simpson. Prince Albert stepped up, assuming the name King George VI. He and Queen Elizabeth were the parents of two daughters, Elizabeth (our current queen) and her sister Margaret.

The princesses were 13 and nine when they stayed home as their parents sailed to North America on the eve of World War II. The original plan to travel on a war ship was changed to a liner in case the war ship was needed. The tour lasted from May 15 to June 17, only three months before Britain declared war on Germany.

Winnipeg children await the king and queen's arrival in 1939. Public Domain.

Enormous and enthusiastic crowds greeted them in what the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation dubbed “a majestic mayhem.” The king and queen toured across Canada and back again, also spending four days in the United States. Canada’s Prime Minister at the time, William Lyon Mackenzie King, accompanied them at each stop.

King George VI and Queen Elizabeth visit Canada in 1939. Public Domain

And here’s where the story gets funny.

Like sports casters, radio announcers all along the route worked hard to describe the crowds and the royal walkabouts with play-by-play coverage for their listeners: “The queen has just exited the car…now the king is being greeted by…the king and queen are being presented with…” and so on. When they reached Winnipeg, the royals were accompanied by Prime Minister King as usual, and by the city’s mayor, John Queen.

You know where this is going.

The additional complication of royal umbrellas in the pouring rain probably didn’t help. Rumor has it the radio announcer grew so frustrated trying to keep up with the actions of the king and the queen and Prime Minister King and Mayor Queen that he swore on air.

The swearing of the announcer cannot be substantiated. What would nowadays be laughed off and turned into hilarious memes for weeks might have meant the loss of a job in 1939. 

This postcard of the royal visit makes the wet weather obvious. Public Domain.

The tour was considered a huge success and helped establish Queen Elizabeth’s relationship with Canada. She would visit 14 more times as the Queen Mother and become a patron of numerous Canadian charities and honorary colonel-in-chief of Canadian military regiments. At the age of 100, she was appointed the country’s highest honor, the Order of Canada.

King George VI died in 1952. The Queen Mother died five months shy of her 102nd birthday in 2002.

In the dead-end Canadian town of Bleak Landing, Irish immigrant Bridget O’Sullivan lives in a shanty and dreams of another life as the Great Depression rages. Routinely beaten by her father and bullied by schoolmate Victor Harrison, the fiery redhead vows to run away and never return. Desiring to become anyone other than Bridget O’Sullivan, she never dreams the day will come when she must prove that’s exactly who she is—or that the one person who can vouch for her is her old nemesis, Victor. Can he also prove he’s a changed man worthy of her forgiveness and love?

Terrie Todd’s fictional characters were in the crowd that rainy day when the king

and queen came to visit Winnipeg. You can read about it in her third novel, Bleak Landing. She’s also the author of the award-winning The Silver Suitcase and Maggie’s War. Her fourth novel, Rose Among Thornes, releases from Iron Stream Media this August. Terrie is represented by Mary DeMuth of Books & Such Literary Agency. She lives with her husband, Jon, in Portage la Prairie, Manitoba, Canada where they raised their three children. They are grandparents to five boys.

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  1. Thanks for the very interesting post! Even today, some of the commentaries during public events get crazy. You were speaking of radio announcers, but TV commentators do the same thing. Sometimes I think they must not remember that we are watching the screen with our own eyes!

  2. I suppose it would be even more challenging with TV, for that reason. The radio listeners couldn't prove you wrong with an instant replay. ;)