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Royal-watchers shun sleep to watch coronation of King Charles III

Some Canadians donned fascinators and sipped tea Saturday morning, shunning sleep to watch the pomp-filled coronation of King Charles III. In Halifax, about 60 people filed into the residence of Nova Scotia’s lieutenant-governor shortly after 6 a.m.
People watch the coronation of King Charles III at the Burgundy Lion pub in Montreal, Saturday, May 6, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes

Some Canadians donned fascinators and sipped tea Saturday morning, shunning sleep to watch the pomp-filled coronation of King Charles III.

In Halifax, about 60 people filed into the residence of Nova Scotia’s lieutenant-governor shortly after 6 a.m. local time, as the new monarch moved through the drizzly streets of London towards Westminster Abbey.

The tables in the visiting area were elegantly set and the guests were served tea, coffee, scones and muffins, with each person greeted personally by Lt.-Gov. Arthur LeBlanc and his wife, Patsy LeBlanc, who was wearing a bright red dress for the occasion.

Noelle Lavoie, 20, and her mother Cheryl Lavoie, 48, of Halifax were among those who had won a lottery draw for their seats, and they sported fascinators — the mother’s white and daughter’s pink — purchased online for the occasion.

“My great-grandmother was British and was a big monarchist and she would be thrilled to know I was here today for this,” said Cheryl Lavoie, as the broadcast continued behind her.

“I see ceremony, I see tradition. I picture this going back 1,000 years or more,” she said.

Noelle Lavoie said she’s pleased to see Charles take his place as head of state of his country and the Commonwealth nations and said she appreciated a traditional ceremony.

However, she’s hoping for a modernization of the monarchy, with King Charles making efforts to reach out to younger Canadians who knew little about him.

“I’m one of the younger people here and I’m interested to see how he can appeal to the younger audience and draw them in as well,” she said.

On the other side of the country, it was the dead of night as about 30 royal-watchers gathered at the 144-year-old Union Club in Victoria, where they sipped tea in a room festooned with Canadian flags and Union Jacks. 

Donna Otto said she wanted to be part of history, even though it meant being up when most Canadians were slumbering. 

Otto said despite King Charles's age, he has been embracing modern ideas for years, including environmentalism, heritage preservation and gardening. 

"He's done things that haven't always been acknowledged."

Otto's husband, David Spence, said the coronation had him looking to the future.

"It recognizes from where we have come and the possibilities of where we are going," said Spence, who is president of the Victoria area's Royal Commonwealth Society. "The energy and wisdom that is part of it all."

In Halifax, as the King entered the Abbey, the clinking of tea cups and conversations suddenly fell silent, and the gathering focused their attention on the broadcast from London.

As Joie Moore of Dartmouth, N.S., watched the large television screens, she said: “I’m just excited to be here.”

“It’s a once in a lifetime experience. I’m not saying there won’t be another coronation. There may very well be, but I’m 86 and so the chances of my seeing another one are pretty slim,” she said.

That  sentiment  was  echoed  at  the Fairmont Hotel Macdonald in Edmonton, where another  tea-and-scones  party unfolded.

"Queen Elizabeth II lived for a very long time, so who knows when another coronation will happen," said Lesley  Thompson, who arrived at the event just before 4 a.m.

Also  in  Edmonton,  Azza Ghali recalled staying up at  age 15  to watch then-Prince Charles marry Diana, adding that she baked cookies to help her stay awake. Ghali attended Saturday’s  event  with her three friends, who have been closely following the royals since they were kids.

"We're just really fortunate that we have the opportunity to celebrate something that is so momentous," she said.

In Montreal, about 100 people dressed up and showed up at a local British pub for high tea at 5:30 a.m., to watch the event.

Co-owner Paul Desbaillets said he likes the sense of community the coronation created.

"Like at our pub and all over Great Britain and other places, people are coming together for barbecues and picnics and family events and gatherings," he said.  

"That's what it's for."

Donston Wilson, 40, watched the coronation in Toronto. Wilson was born in Guyana and he says he grew up hearing about the British influence among the Guyanese people.

"So, I guess we do hold the monarchy somewhat in our hearts," he said.

“To see this … today is obviously a historical date. To see this kind of event happening at this time ... it is something that will go down in the books. I’m not sure if it will happen ever again any time soon.”

Not all Canadians planned to celebrate the coronation, however,

A recent poll by Angus Reid Institute of more than 2,000 Canadians found 41 per cent said they don't care about the event at all. Of the remaining respondents, 29 per cent said they would probably read a little about the coronation, 20 per cent would watch some of it and nine per cent were really looking forward to it. 

—  With files from Angela Amato in Edmonton, Noel Ransome in Toronto and Sidhartha Banerjee in Montreal.

This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Meta and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 6, 2023. 

Dirk Meissner and Michael Tutton, The Canadian Press

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