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A royal tour de force: Former CP London correspondent reflects on Queen’s cover

Kevin Ward, who recently retired after 35 years at The Canadian Press, was the news agency’s European correspondent, based in London from 2000 to 2004. While in England, he covered several milestones in the reign of the Queen.

Kevin Ward, who recently retired after 35 years at The Canadian Press, was the news agency’s European correspondent, based in London from 2000 to 2004. While in England, he covered several milestones in the reign of the Queen. He recounts some of his experiences covering the royal family, both in London and in Canada.

The children perched on their parents’ shoulders, crammed side by side on the mall, straining to catch a glimpse of the Queen as she celebrated her Golden Jubilee in June 2002.

Later that afternoon, when the Queen stepped onto that famous balcony at Buckingham Palace with her husband, the Duke of Edinburgh, the roar of the crowd nearly shook the ground around me. The screams were deafening. I remember thinking that must be what it felt like to stand next to a jet engine taking off.

It was proof that even during a tumultuous time in the royal family’s history following Diana’s death, the Queen transcended any cynicism surrounding the monarchy.

The cheers were genuine displays of affection for a 76-year-old whose reign spanned generations, with no signs of her slowing down.

Covering the royal family as the European correspondent for The Canadian Press did not give me access to royal events that would be available to British journalists working for major British news outlets. I occasionally received an invitation to royal events as the Canadian representative of the group representing the Commonwealth press because I worked for the national news agency.

For the most part, my work has been done on the periphery, observing from a distance, mostly talking to people who were looking to see a moment in history.

I often sought out Canadians to interview, and there was never a shortage of people back home willing to share their experiences and what the Queen meant to them.

2002 was not an easy year for the Queen. Just weeks before the Golden Jubilee celebration, the Queen’s sister, Princess Margaret, and the Queen Mother both died.

I remember the morning of the Queen Mother’s funeral, heading into central London at dawn to interview those who had found places in the street to watch the procession.

Outside Westminster Abbey, I found Canadians who had spent the night on the pavement to save their places. They represented a cross-section of the country, from different provinces and of varying ages. I’ve always been struck by the number of people I’ve interviewed who have expressed concern about how the Queen would deal with moments of loss in her life.

The connection people felt with the Queen has always interested me. His stoic attention to duty and ritual struck a chord with many, regardless of age.

For older generations, the Queen’s sense of duty dates back to World War II and her father’s decision to stay at Buckingham Palace during the Blitz.

For the youngest, she was a faithful, the only monarch they had known during their lifetime.

She was a key player at key times, and not just in British history, but also in the history of Commonwealth countries, including the patriation of the Canadian Constitution and the signing of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in 1982.

The ceremony on Parliament Hill to sign the Charter took place while I was working my first journalism job at the Windsor Star. Twenty years later, I was covering royal events for CP. It was never my intention, but I found myself taking more interest than most Canadian journalists of my generation in the monarchy, even asking me to contribute to the section of the CP Stylebook that covers the royal family.

I think my interest was only because of the queen. There was a mystique around her, which brought tens of thousands of Canadians to witness her last visit to Canada in the summer of 2010.

At the time, I was Atlantic bureau chief for CP, based in Halifax, where the Queen began her nine-day tour.

“My mother once said that this country was like a home to the Queen of Canada…I’m happy to report that it still is,” she told the crowd. admirers who came to see the start of his journey. , which also marked the centennial of the Canadian Navy in the port city.

Later in Ottawa, 70,000 people were on Parliament Hill when she made an appearance for Canada Day.

“In my lifetime, I have witnessed this country for more than half of its history since Confederation,” she said. “I have watched with immense admiration how Canada has grown and matured while remaining true to its history, distinctiveness and values.”

Covering the Queen at various points in my career and speaking to Canadians about how she touched them during her reign, her longevity, dedication and commitment to duty as the world experienced ever-accelerating and unrelenting change precedent have become a common thread. She was a constant in their lives.

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on September 9, 2022.

Kevin Ward, The Canadian Press