The capital of the Northwest Territories was abuzz with ‘Royals fever’ last week when Prince William and Kate Middleton, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, chose to make it a stop on their cross-Canada tour.
Amid the endless photographers jockeying for position and many serious looking men in suits with dark glasses, Joan Bevington and her husband, Western Arctic MP, Dennis Bevington, waited on the tarmac of Yellowknife Airport for the arrival of the two very special visitors on a Canadian military plane.The Bevingtons, along with 20 other NWT dignitaries, were invited to be part of the welcoming line for Will and Kate as they continued their honeymoon in Canada’s North.
It was a brief encounter, but long enough to make an impression on Joan.
“They made wonderful eye contact with us,” she said. “Not very intense, but a soft interested look in their eyes, and they look you right in the eye. They both had sparkling eyes and were very youthful looking.”
Meeting royals is no straightforward affair – there are certain rules.
“Members of the welcoming committee were given a briefing on protocols in the airport terminal before the aristocrats arrived. For the men: wait for the royals to extend their hand before committing to a handshake; and for the ladies, a curtsy is the ideal gesture. Call them royal highness and remember, no pictures.”
Rain fell at the Yellowknife airport as the royal couple exchanged greetings and slowly made their way down the welcoming line. When it was her turn to shake Kate’s hand, Joan Bevington noticed the stunning purple Sapphire ring that once belonged to Princess Diana on Kate’s finger.
Joan could readily see the features of his mother, Princess Diana, in Prince William’s face. A physically fit man, she says his royal ancestry showed clearly in his demeanor.
“He was very proper. You could tell that he had upbringing. He was very proper when he had to be and pleasant and very respectful of the North and its culture. He said thank you in a number of different native languages in his speech.”
Through Joan’s eyes, Kate looked “gorgeous” when she emerged from the plane and made her way across the tarmac.
“(Kate) came off the plane in the rain with three-inch blue suede shoes and I thought, ‘Oh boy! those shoes are going to get a little wet.”
“She wears very stylish clothes and she is very slender. Her clothes and trenchcoat were inches above her knee and she wears her hair pretty natural looking.”
The royal couple spent part of the next day in downtown Yellowknife at a public gathering in Sombe K’e Family Park. Dressed in casual attire, they were entertained by Dene drummers and dancers, and with a bright blue sky and the sun shining, they walked among the crowd to shake hands and receive flowers. The royals even lifted shovels for a tree planting ceremony at City Hall and William tried his hand at road hockey.
Joan remembered how down to earth the couple seemed as they mixed with the crowd.
She did not have much time for any lengthy interaction, though Kate did say with a smile and a “lovely” British accent, “so sorry about the weather.”
She was also struck by the huge media presence. In the end, she says that may be one of the positive benefits of having the royals in the North.
“(I had) a real sense that this was a very important day. Yellowknife and the NWT got amazing exposure.”