New Brunswickers remember the Queen for her grace and humanity

·6 min read
Prince Philip and Queen Elizabeth visited Fredericton in 2002, one of four visits she made to the province as Queen. (CBC Archives - image credit)
Prince Philip and Queen Elizabeth visited Fredericton in 2002, one of four visits she made to the province as Queen. (CBC Archives - image credit)

Like the vast majority of Canadians, royal historian Barry MacKenzie has never sung God Save the King, nor has he known a head of state other than Queen Elizabeth.

MacKenzie knew the Queen's health was failing at 96, but seeing her looking "vibrant" as she appointed the new British Prime Minister two days ago, MacKenzie was hopeful she would rally and continue as Britain's longest-reigning monarch.

MacKenzie said he was shocked to hear the news of her death on Thursday.

The regional spokesperson for the Monarchist League of Canada said it felt strange to be "so moved by the passing of a person I didn't know."

WATCH | Queen Elizabeth in New Brunswick over the years

MacKenzie said he's been a monarchist for as long as he can remember and always admired the way the Queen reigned over the Commonwealth.

"I've long admired her of duty and obligation," MacKenzie said, shortly after the news of the Queen's death was released by officials at Buckingham Palace.

Despite the many tribulations and challenges experienced by the Royal Family over the years, MacKenzie said the Queen faced them all with grace and "a stiff upper lip and all of those stereotypical things we hear about her."

"For the vast majority of Canadians, we've never know any other, so when we picture the monarchy, we picture the Queen."

CBC Archives
CBC Archives

Elizabeth visited New Brunswick five times, including four as Queen.

While saddened by the Queen's death, MacKenzie said he isn't sad about the transition of power.

MacKenzie said when Elizabeth was crowned 70 years ago, the headlines declared, "The King is dead, long live the Queen."

And now, things have come full circle, he said, "the Queen is dead, long live the King."

"Most living Canadians today have never sung God Save the King, you know. And if history unfolds as I suspect it will, with King Charles and his two sons now first and second in line to the throne, we will probably never sing God Save the Queen again."

The Queen's N.B. representative

The Queen's former representative in New Brunswick, Marilyn Trenholme Counsell, was on the phone with a reporter when she heard the Queen died.

"Oh, dear, her passing has just been announced," Trenholme Counsell said before taking a brief pause.

"I guess I want to cry. You don't want this moment to come. It's very poignant, very sad. The flag has been lowered at Buckingham Palace and the announcement's being made."

Trenholme Counsell served as lieutenant-governor of New Brunswick from 1997 to 2003.

In 1998, she was invited to meet the Queen at Buckingham Palace. She spent about 35 minutes with the Queen.

"It is as clear as if it happened yesterday," she recalled.

The Queen started by asking her what people thought about the newly built Confederation Bridge. Her next question "really, really took my by surprise," said Trenholme Counsell.

CBC
CBC

"'I want to know why you left medicine to go into government,'" she recalled the Queen asking her.

That led to discussions about their families, including the Queen, expressing concerns about Charles and his sons, and to Trenholme Counsell — ever the doctor — asking about the Queen Mother's health.

And before long, Trenholme Counsell had gone over the 20 to 30 minutes that had been allotted to her and an aide was knocking at the door to remind the Queen that others were waiting to see her.

Trenholme Counsell said she and the Queen had a connection.

"I don't want to exaggerate, because she's the Queen, and I had a lesser role, but I had the feeling that we bonded."

Steve Parsons/Reuters
Steve Parsons/Reuters

She said she has "enormous respect and admiration" for the Queen.

"She's been such a source of inspiration, such an incredibly constant person throughout her life. I think that it was her constancy that I really found inspiring, as well as her beautiful personality and her devotion to so many — to her role in life and to people."

Trenholme Counsell said she has always admired the Queen for being "so human" and for the grace with which she handled the Royal Family's often very public family problems.

She also has fond memories of reconnecting with the Queen during her last visit to New Brunswick in 2002, when she and then-premier Bernard Lord welcomed her to Government House.

'It was like talking to your mom'

Retired Saint John firefighter Doug Trentowsky was reminiscing on Thursday about his three meetings with the Queen.

Two of the visits were for his volunteer work with the Royal Life Saving Society, and one was for a water rescue of a woman in the Bay of Fundy in 1995.

As to be expected, Trentowsky was nervous before his meeting with the Queen, but her easy conversation soon put him at ease.

"She was really quick to set you at ease," said Trentowsky. "She just started talking away. It was like talking to your mom."

He said he was impressed each time with how easy she was to talk to, and with how well-versed she was with the events that took him to Buckingham Palace.

For example, she knew that the Bay of Fundy would be very cold. He said she knew everything about the rescue and asked appropriate questions.

Book of N.B. condolences

Premier Blaine Higgs said books of condolences will be available for the public to sign for the next nine days at Government House and at the Legislative Assembly between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m.

Higgs said the Queen "forged a close and lasting relationship with our country and our province. … She was a symbol of strength and resolve, a guiding light in turbulent times, and a figure of stability."

He said her "unwavering dedication to her life's work was evident."

"Her reign was marked by incredible change, periods of prosperity and adversity, of peace and war — and throughout, she exuded grace while remaining a symbol of unity," Higgs said in a written statement.

The Canadian Press
The Canadian Press

New Brunswick Lt.-Gov. Brenda Murphy also extended condolences on the Queen's death.

"Those who had the opportunity to meet her often mention her magnetic personality and unique ability to make everyone feel at ease in her presence," Murphy said in a written statement.

"In her five visits to our province, the Queen made a lasting impression on many New Brunswickers."

She said "the Queen's calming influence has served as a guiding light."

"We are truly grateful for her lifetime of leadership and exemplary public service. From her military service during the Second World War to her final public appearances, the Queen led by example.

Her resilience, her steadfast dedication, and her unwavering sense of duty will continue to be a source of inspiration for all of us."