The recent whirlwind visit by His Royal Highness, Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales, along with his wife Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, touched many lives in this province, including that of a number of Weyburn residents.
After landing in Halifax and touring some in the Maritimes, the Prince’s visit ended with his visit to Regina, where his path crossed that of Weyburn-Big Muddy MLA Dustin Duncan, local business and political leaders, and an artist from the Weyburn Comprehensive School.
For MLA Duncan, he and his wife Amanda had two opportunities to meet the Prince of Wales, first at the function at the Legislature on Wednesday morning, then on a one-on-one basis as he hosted the prince on a tour of an environmental firm in Regina.
In his final day as minister for the Environment, Duncan was invited to escort Prince Charles and Camilla on a tour of Ground Effects Environmental, as the Prince of Wales has a particular interest in environmental concerns.
“We had the great privilege of greeting him as he arrived at the business; I also introduced him to the business owner and his wife, Sean Frisky, president of Ground Effects,” said Duncan, adding the prince apologized right off for being a little late for the tour.
The company is responsible for some 70 new technologies, many of which are used to clean up soil, air and general contamination, such as former oil sites.
One of those technologies, called electro-pure technology, is partially funded by the province’s Go Green Fund. Duncan explained that this process uses electricity to separate out contaminants from water, and then allows the water to be reused for industrial purposes safely and efficiently.
The MLA said the company is also well-known for technologies that are used across Canada and around the world.
“For me, the astounding thing was, for how busy he is, how knowledgable he is, not only of the people he meets but of the business we toured,” said Duncan. “He’s well-known for his environment concerns. He was very interested in what this company was doing.”
Duncan added that the Prince of Wales is quite personable and friendly, and on the tour was quite funny, noting he and his wife Amanda bantered back and forth throughout the visit.
“He was very relaxed and was at ease; he joked with the staff that were there,” said Duncan.
He had only one encounter with royalty before this, when Queen Elizabeth visited Regina for the province’s centennial in 2005 — but at that time he was only a spectator, where this time he was the host with a direct opportunity to talk and visit with the future King of England and oldest son of the reigning monarch.
“I was very impressed with him all around. You could tell he does this a lot,” he said, noting the prince made an effort to put people at their ease and to pay attention to them when they spoke to him.
“He was really personable. It was quite an experience,” said the MLA.
Earlier in the day, when the Prince of Wales was at the Legislature, Comp student Jacob Windecker had an opportunity to talk with the prince about his art.
This extraordinary opportunity arose as Jacob was one of three Weyburn students who had art on display at the Legislature’s Cumberland Art Gallery for the Education minister’s Showcase of Student Art. He, along with Chelsea Woodard and Michaela Sidloski all had pieces on display along with art chosen from around the province, a total of some 40-50 pieces; out of those, two were chosen to be shown to Prince Charles, and Jacob’s untitled graphite pencil drawing of a young woman was chosen as one of the two.
He and art teacher Donna Klein were at the Legislature well ahead of the visit by the royal couple, and they watched a presentation in the House. Afterwards, he and another artist stood by their art piece, and Charles and Camilla, along with Premier Brad Wall and his daughters, came by to see the art, and the prince spent some moments talking with Jacob about his art.
“I was kind of surprised. He’s extremely friendly and social, and he asked a few questions. He asked about the picture, and if I had been drawing for very long. He said something like, ‘you either have it or you don’t’,” said Jacob in an interview.
About the art piece itself, Prince Charles asked if it was based on a live model or on a picture, and whether he used a technique to blend in the lines of his drawing.
He also asked if he had a good art teacher, and Jacob proudly indicated his teacher was there, being held back by protocol officers at the time.
Once the prince was chatting with Jacob about his art, Klein was allowed to approach the group, and she was able to hear a part of the discussion.
Asked what it was like conversing with Prince Charles, Jacob replied, “It was interesting. It was kind of like talking with your grandparents, as strange as that may sound.”
He also chatted with one of the premier’s daughters, who indicated she also enjoys doing art. Others who spoke to him included Speaker of the House, Dan D’Autremont, and the artist-in-residence at the Legislature.
As far as his thoughts on royalty, Jacob said up until now he’s always been neutral, and commented, “They seemed very down-to-earth.”
“He didn’t come across as a snob really; he looked right at you and talked to you directly,” added Klein. In finding out how Jacob’s art was chosen to show the prince, Klein said his piece was “so compelling” compared to the other pieces of art.
Then in the evening, the royal couple were treated to a performance by the Regina Symphony at the RCMP Academy’s drill hall, followed by a reception.
Among those invited to attend were Weyburn businessman Mal Barber and his wife Delaine, Reeve Carmen Sterling of the RM of Weyburn, and Jeff Richards, manager of the Weyburn Chamber of Commerce.
Barber spoke of the surprise of being invited to the event, of the security that surrounded the event, and the pomp and circumstance of the event itself.
“The evening was really exciting; it made me proud to be a Canadian. Prince Charles gave a very nice address,” he said, noting the prince was made an honourary commissioner of the RCMP.
The symphony, to which the prince granted his royal patronage, played the Maple Leaf Forever, and then a selection of Beatles songs, and a medley of Canadian folk songs.
“Overall, I thought it was extremely well-planned. I was very proud to be Canadian, and I was proud of the symphony too,” he said.
During the reception, the prince and the Duchess of Cornwall were led out separately to particular tables where they were to meet people; Barber didn’t have the opportunity to meet either one, but Reeve Sterling noted Camilla came over and met the people at her table.
She said she was seated with other municipal leaders, and when the royals were led out to meet to certain people, Camilla was led over to their table.
“It was a very quick introduction; they were very courteous,” said Sterling. “It was a privilege to be chosen. … We were seated for quite a length of time beforehand. It was great to be invited.”
She added she thought the symphony was fantastic, and the event overall was “very well-done”.
For his part, Richards said he was also quite impressed by the event and by the royals themselves.
“Whether you’re a strong monarchist at heart or a republican, there certainly is a lot of ceremony and culture that definitely has to be respected. It really is something to see,” he said.
Richards added the venue seemed a bit small for the large number of people present, but overall, “the setup was great”, and as he had an aisle seat he was close enough to have a very good view of the royals, and a close view of the couple and the Prime Minister when they came down the aisle to be seated.
“It really deserves respect, as there’s some really rich history there. When you’re in the middle of it, you have a different perspective on it,” he said.