Low spirits over high tea in Victoria, B.C., as Empress patrons mourn the Queen

·2 min read

VICTORIA — Afternoon sunshine streams into the Fairmont Empress Hotel's iconic high tea room in Victoria, British Columbia, but cannot lift the sombre mood brought on by the death of Queen Elizabeth II.

Priscilla Luk of Vancouver says she took a float plane to Victoria on Friday to attend high tea at the Empress, which has long embraced its royal heritage, and help her mourn the monarch.

She holds up her mobile phone, scrolling through her Chinese-language social media posts paying tribute to the Queen.

"It's different to be here," she said. "Today is a little bit sad, yes, to remember, to remember Queen Elizabeth."

The 114-year-old Empress opened just a few years after the death of Queen Victoria in the B.C. capital that bears her name.

Its royal pedigree includes a visit by Queen Elizabeth's parents, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, in 1939.

The hotel history says they shipped their own crockery from England for a formal dinner and left it behind at the Empress as a gift. The same pattern has been used at the hotel since then.

When their daughter, Princess Elizabeth, visited the hotel in 1951, the year before her coronation, the Empress says her parents' original dinner service was brought out of storage for the occasion.

British tourist William Morris, whose son is getting married on Saturday in Victoria, said he and family members were drawn to the Empress Friday in part to remember the Queen.

"It is extremely sad as she is, was, a very well-respected member of the Royal Family," said Morris, who travelled from the English town of Grantham.

"She was consistent in care and respect for England and her United Kingdom and also for the Commonwealth and especially, I believe, Canada," he said.

Morris said about 70 family members and friends from the U.K., Australia, Indonesia and Canada were in Victoria for the wedding, which had been postponed twice due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"When people are together they'll reflect on the Queen's passing," he said. "They'll talk about their memories."

Morris said he visits the Empress on his frequent trips to Victoria, but on the occasion of the Queen's death, relatives found it more comforting to tour the gardens than take high tea.

The Fairmont Empress' management expressed their condolences about the Queen's death.

"The entire team at Fairmont Empress is deeply saddened by the news of the passing of Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II," said Dina Vieira, public relations director, in a statement.

"Our thoughts are with the entire Royal Family and the millions of people worldwide whose lives she touched during her remarkable 70-year reign, and we join the British nation in mourning," she said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 10, 2022.

Dirk Meissner, The Canadian Press