It was a royal welcome Saturday afternoon at Winnipeg’s James Richardson International Airport as Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip touched down shortly after noon.
Her Majesty and the Duke of Edinburgh were the first two passengers to arrive at the new still-under-construction air terminal building.
The Queen was greeted by roughly 1,500 invited guests, along with dignitaries and a throng of local and international media.
“Ma’am, Sir, we are delighted that you have chosen our home as one of your stops on the Canadian tour,” said Barry Rempel, president and CEO of Winnipeg Airports Authority. “It is truly an honour to have you with us, and to welcome you as the very first passengers to arrive at the new terminal.”
A letter written to Manitoba’s youth was signed by the Queen and placed into a time capsule, not to be opened until 2060. The contents of the letter are a secret, but some speculate it contains words of encouragement for youth to strive their best to be active in their community.
Following a brief ceremony on the upper level of the terminal, the Queen made her way down an escalator to the sounds of a 70-piece orchestra where she accepted a bouquet of flowers from two flower girls.
The Royal Tour was only in town a little more than six hours before heading to Toronto, but there was still a lot to squeeze in. Following the Queen’s arrival, her motorcade made it to Government House right on time, where a private reception and luncheon took place before a public walkabout in the garden. While at the Lieutenant-Governor Philip Lee‘s residence, the Queen unveiled a statue of herself created by the late Manitoba sculptor Leo Mol. The monarch also grabbed a shovel and helped plant a shrub in honour of her 2012 jubilee.
With a late afternoon tornado watch now in effect for Winnipeg and surrounding areas, the Queen made her way to The Forks where thousands of people waited several hours in hot and humid conditions to catch a glimpse of Her Majesty. Accompanied by Prime Minister Stephen Harper and other dignitaries, the Queen and Prince Philip walked over the Esplanade Riel foot bridge from St. Boniface, where they attended a ceremony dedicating a cornerstone to the future Canadian Museum for Human Rights. The monument contained stone from Runnymede in England, the site of the Magna Carta signing in 1215.
A few hundred yards away, a covered box was waiting for the Queen to sit and listen to the entertainment on the Scotiabank Stage, featuring local singer-songwriter Chantal Kreviazuk, and performances by the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, Chic Gamine and the Royal Winnipeg Ballet. Moments later — with rain clouds hanging in the balance — the Queen delivered a short speech to the crowd before departing for CFB 17 Wing.
As the Queen’s motorcade pulled up to the tarmac, the rain clouds gave way and the Queen’s famous umbrella made an appearance as she bid her final farewells to well-wishers.
Shortly before 7 p.m., the Queen’s jet took to the skies, enroute to Ontario, where she will end her Canadian tour on Tuesday. The Queen arrived in Toronto at about 10 p.m. ET.
It was a whirlwind return visit to the province, but one that many will not soon forget. The Queen last visited Manitoba’s capital in 2002.
UPDATED: 7:15 p.m. with additional details.