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Memory Lane: Sudbury consumed with Royal mania during 1991 visit

It was ‘all eyes on Di’ when the Royals came to the Nickel City

Charles, Prince of Wales, visited Sudbury Oct. 24, 1991 to open Inco's $500-million facility that reduced pollutants from the Copper Cliff smelter. But the Royal watchers and the media were more interested in his stunning wife, Diana.

The city was consumed with Royal mania. An estimated crowd of 4,000 waited for the Prince and Princess to appear at an outdoor reception at Science North. In that crowd was’s associate content editor, Heidi Ulrichsen, then an 11-year-old Girl Guide. Ulrichsen wrote about the experience for back in 2017. 

Then an 18-car motorcade whisked Charles to a VIP presentation in Copper Cliff. 

Princess Diana, wearing a pink suit with gold by fashion designer Paul Costelloe, toured the chemotherapy ward of the Northeastern Ontario Regional Cancer Centre and stopped to talk to patients. She officially opened the Daffodil Lodge, the residence for cancer patients.

In honour of the occasion, Inco announced a reforestation program with 10,000 seedlings and a $500,000 donation to the Daffodil Lodge.

British journalists covering the trip were looking for signs of discord. Although the Royals appeared happy together while in Sudbury, the couple separated a year later.

Check out this PDF of the Oct. 24, 1991, issue of the Inco Triangle for coverage of the visit.

The next day, away from the glare of media, the couple's children, nine-year-old Prince William and seven-year-old Prince Harry, were given a private tour of Science North.

Members of the Royal family have made several visits to Greater Sudbury and invited readers to share their memories of these special occasions.

"When Prince Charles and Princess Diana came to Science North in 1991, my children were so very fortunate to take in this event," remembered Tammy Stevens. "My daughter, Ashley Kirwan, handed Princess Diana flowers, and my son, Corey Kirwan, shook Prince Charles's hand when he stopped to ask why he wasn't in school."

Stevens also sent photos of Queen Elizabeth's visit to North Bay in 1997 as part of her trip to celebrate the 500th anniversary of John Cabot's arrival in North America.

"Again in 1997, my daughter was once more among the Royals, handing Queen Elizabeth flowers while Prince Philip looked on."

Heather Baines wrote, "I stood outside Science North when Prince Charles and Princess Diana visited. I brought my Cardigan Welsh corgi. As a Welshman, he wanted to acknowledge the Prince of Wales. I saw the Prince say something to Diana as he passed us, acknowledging his Welsh subject in an unexpected place." 

Paul Reid wrote, “My daughter, Mary, was invited to accompany the two young princes, William and Harry, as they toured the science centre. She received the invitation because her friend’s father was head of the RCMP in Sudbury. Mary’s older brother, David, was interested in horses and he wanted Mary to ask about their pony, but she declined."

Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip have visited Sudbury twice. In July 1959. while on a 45-day cross-country trip they toured Frood Mine, descending to the 1,000-foot level for a tour. Again, the Inco Triangle provides some coverage of that historic event.‎

The Royal couple visited again Oct. 4, 1984 to cut the ribbon at the opening of Science North. Large crowds greeted the Royals despite the cold, wet weather. That evening, Prince Philip presented the Duke of Edinburgh Awards to Northern Ontario recipients at a ceremony held at the Sudbury Theatre Centre.

The Queen has made 22 official visits to Canada since her coronation in 1952. She was still a princess on her first trip to Canada in 1951.

In 1939, the Queen's parents, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth visited Sudbury as part of their cross-country tour. 

In 1919 another Prince of Wales made a brief stop in Sudbury. Local historian, the late Marty McAllister, reporting on Royal visits for the October 1991 Inco Triangle, wrote about a visit by Elizabeth II's uncle.

Edward, the Prince of Wales – perhaps the first Royal celebrity – came to Canada for a 60-day "victory" tour. On Sept. 3, students from Central School cheered as he stepped down from his private rail car when it stopped at the CPR station on Elgin Street.

"Wearing a tweed suit and a grey fedora," the future King Edward VIII, inspected the Copper Cliff Cadets and World War One veterans. 

The handsome prince was already a style icon and his wardrobe was reported on as much as Diana's would be in 1991.

Vicki Gilhula is a freelance writer in Greater Sudbury. She covered the 1991 Royal visit for Northern Life. Memory Lane is made possible by our Community Leaders Program