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Thousands celebrate the life and reign of Queen Elizabeth II in Ottawa

It was as if the late Queen Elizabeth II was smiling down upon the Nation’s Capital.

If the weather forecast was to be believed, it was almost certain that it would be raining non stop during the National Commemorative Ceremony for Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. However, as the morning went on, dignitaries arrived, and interested members of the public gathered along the parade route in downtown Ottawa the rain never came. 

The parade featured two, 13-person mounted detachments of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Musical Ride, a 100 person Canadian Armed Forces quad-service (Navy, Army, Air Force, and Special Forces) guard of honour, the Canadian Armed Forces Central Band, 17 honourary pallbearers, and a flag bearer carrying Her Majesty’s Personal Canadian Flag.

Christ Church Cathedral was chosen for the ceremony because it’s the home of the Anglican faith in Ottawa. Queen Elizabeth II is the head of the Anglican faith.

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The Very Reverend Elizabeth Joan Bretzlaff, the Dean of Christ Church Cathedral, says the late Queen and her late husband Prince Philip visited the church twice, once in 1957 and again 10 years later.

The Very Reverend Elizabeth Joan Bretzlaff, the Dean Christ Church Cathedral (Photo credit: Mathew Reisler)

According to Canadian Heritage, during the Queen’s first visit a severe storm cut power to most of downtown Ottawa, including the church. However, Sunday service continued with the prayers done in candlelight and the hymns sung acapella. 

“No one flinched,” Bretzflaff says. “The story at Christ Church Cathedral is that we have an intimate, romantic, candlelight relationship with our Queen.”

The dignitaries sitting inside the church (Photo credit: Mathew Reisler)

While Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Governor General Mary Simon and other Canadian dignitaries traveled to London, England for the State Funeral of Queen Elizabeth, many important politicians were in Ottawa. That includes newly minted leader of the federal Conservatives Pierre Poilievre, NDP leader Jagmeet Singth, as well as former Prime Ministers Joe Clark and Brian Mulroney. 

Conservative Party leader Pierre Poilievre and his wife signed the book of condolences prior to sitting down for the ceremony (Photo credit: Mathew Reisler)

The ceremony, which started promptly after the parade ended, highlighted key moments of the Queen’s life related to Canada and Canadians with a picture of video included in a video montage from every visit she made to Canada. Canadian Heritage says great care was taken to ensure that the artistic repertoire is diverse and reflects the works of Canadian artists as well as Her Majesty’s personal ties and preferences.

The front of the church, where a portrait of Queen Elizabeth II was placed (Photo credit: Mathew Reisler)

Mulroney spoke on the Queen’s legacy as did former Governor General Adrianne Clarkson. 

“Today, our system might appear anachronistic to some,” Mulroney said. “I understand that. But to others, who constitute in my judgment, the overwhelming majority of Canadians the role of the monarchy and in particular the irreplaceable role played by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth for 70 years was absolutely indispensable in our country’s hugely impressive achievements and contributions in peace and prosperity and stability at home and around the world.”

The chance of rain didn’t keep away the crowds. The parade route, which passed by the Parliament Building, the National Aboriginal Veterans Monument, and the National War Memorial before ending at Christ Church Cathedral. 

Once the parade ended at 1 PM, many stayed and watched the ceremony inside the church. It was broadcasted in three screens that were placed along the parade route.

Despite the poor weatjer, thousands gathered along the parade route in downtown Ottawa to watch the ceremony taking place inside the church (Photo credit: Mathew Reisler)

As if it was planned, the rain that was promised in the morning but never came, finally did fall as the many dignitaries left Christ Church Cathedral after the ceremony ended. Covered by their umbrellas, they were whisked away in their vehicles or, in some cases, just a few blocks away to waiting shuttle buses. 

In front of the church is a bench with a bronze statue of Jesus depicted as a homeless person sleeping on the bench. The morning of the ceremony a lone bouquet of flowers was left on the bench with a note that read, “To our Queen and Head of State, thank you for being a model of duty, service, and faith to our nation and the world.”

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