Windsorites recall joy and thrill of seeing Prince Philip, remember him as 'pleasant, kind'

·3 min read
This images taken on July 3, 1983, shows Prince Philip waving good-bye. The photo caption in the London Free Press said
This images taken on July 3, 1983, shows Prince Philip waving good-bye. The photo caption in the London Free Press said

Windsorite Phil Berthiaume, who met Prince Philip twice, recalls the ease with which the royal captivated a room full of people with his charm and conversation.

Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh and husband of Queen Elizabeth II, died Friday at 99. He was the longest-serving royal consort in British history. Across Canada, people are remembering the royal member and his more than 20 visits to the country, which included three stops in Windsor, Ont.

But Berthiaume, a former Essex and Kent Scottish Commanding officer, actually didn't meet Queen Elizabeth and the Prince in Windsor.

He told CBC News that he met the Prince twice while serving in the military — once in 1997 in Petawawa and at a reception at CFB Gagetown in 1981.

"What a joy to experience the way that he came into a room and a group of probably about 125 to 150 ladies and officers — just the way that he worked the room and the crowd if you will," Berthiaume said.

"Very informal, very pleasant, kind word and conversation for virtually everyone in the room."

Phil Berthiaume recalls that he met Prince Philip twice, while he was in the military.
Phil Berthiaume recalls that he met Prince Philip twice, while he was in the military.(Dale Molnar/CBC)

While Berthiaume didn't have a full on conversation with the prince, he said they exchanged "hellos" and "how are yous?"

"The way that he approached and spoke with you, it was as if he remembered you from previous meetings," Berthiaume said.

"The apprehension when you're meeting royalty for the first time ... was very quickly put at ease just the way he approached you."

'It was a real thrill to see him'

The royal couple first visited Windsor in 1951 when Queen Elizabeth was still a princess. The second time was in 1959, when the St. Lawrence Seaway opened and there was the first International Freedom Festival — a joint independence celebration between the United States and Canada.

The couple's last visit to Windsor was in 1984, when the sunken gardens at Jackson Park were renamed the Queen Elizabeth II Sunken Gardens.

People view flowers left in front of the gate at Buckingham Palace in London, after the announcement of the death of Britain's Prince Philip, Friday, April 9, 2021. Buckingham Palace officials say Prince Philip, the husband of Queen Elizabeth II, has died. He was 99. Philip spent a month in hospital earlier this year before being released on March 16 to return to Windsor Castle. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)
People view flowers left in front of the gate at Buckingham Palace in London, after the announcement of the death of Britain's Prince Philip, Friday, April 9, 2021. Buckingham Palace officials say Prince Philip, the husband of Queen Elizabeth II, has died. He was 99. Philip spent a month in hospital earlier this year before being released on March 16 to return to Windsor Castle. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)(Matt Dunham/The Associated Press)

Former Windsor city councillor Tom Porter recalls the visit well, saying it was a "beautiful day."

"There were people along the sidewalks as I recall, people downtown generally just trying to get a look at the Queen and Prince Philip," he said.

Former teacher Kathleen Paterson saw the royal couple each time they visited Windsor, but was only a toddler when they first came in 1951.

As a member of the Windsor Community Concert Band, Paterson also played for the royal couple at their Frogmore Cottage in Great Britain in 1989.

Kathleen Paterson says she saw the Royal Couple each time they came to Windsor.
Kathleen Paterson says she saw the Royal Couple each time they came to Windsor. (Dale Molnar/CBC)

A few days earlier, she said her band staked out the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh to catch a glimpse of the prince.

"Prince Philip drove by and a big grin and a wonderful wave to all of us. And we were all very, very excited that we had the chance," she said.

"Unfortunately, the motorcade went through pretty quickly. So we didn't get a really good shot of him. But he had a lovely smile. And it was it was a real thrill to see him."