Prince Harry and wife Meghan have settled, for now, into a seaside home near the most royal of Canadian cities – Victoria, British Columbia (BC)- named after a queen who reigned until 1901, during a great expansion of the British Empire.
In the summer, tourists pile onto red double-decker buses like the ones that criss-cross London. Every afternoon, hundreds flock to tea at the magnificent Fairmont Empress Hotel, or one of the city’s many other tea rooms that fly the British flag.
“Victoria is probably more British than (the) British,” said resident Bill Bray.
Indeed, thousands of British pensioners have chosen to retire on Vancouver Island, part of the province of BC, which has a milder climate than the rest of Canada.
Prince Harry, 35, arrived on Monday, just a few days after reaching an arrangement with his grandmother Queen Elizabeth and other senior royals that will see him and Meghan, 38, quit their royal roles to seek an independent future.
Their move has led to questions about what it will mean for Canada. If they settle on Victoria, local residents said they would feel at home and enjoy more privacy than in Britain.
Victoria has often been a stop for members of the royal family who visit Canada, a former British colony whose head of state officially remains the British Sovereign.
George VI, who was Queen Elizabeth’s father and Harry’s great grandfather, hosted a dinner for 250 guests at the Empress in 1939, according to the hotel’s website, and in 1951, a year before she became queen, Princess Elizabeth stayed at the hotel.
In 1966, the queen’s mother visited Victoria and dedicated the cornerstone of the city’s most important museum, the Royal B.C. Museum. In 2016, Harry’s brother Prince William brought his wife, Kate Middleton, and their children to the city during an official visit to Canada.
“When I was a child… we used to sing ‘God Save the Queen’ before school started every morning,” said Helena Isherwood, who works in a boutique shop at the Empress.
Harry and Meghan, with baby Archie, will like Victoria because “it’s beautiful and I think they’ll get some privacy here, and space,” Isherwood said.
That would probably be a welcome change for the couple who on Tuesday issued a warning over harassment by paparazzi photographers after the Sun newspaper published images of Meghan taking a stroll through a park near Victoria.
“We don’t have a big paparazzi culture in Canada, so I do think they will find some contrast to what they’re familiar with coming from the U.K.,” said Mischelle vanThiel, a royal expert at the Royal B.C. Museum.
Local resident Bray said Prince Harry would be “just another bloke on the street” in Victoria.