Placentia’s royal visitors get a serendipitous surprise

Steve Bartlett
Published on September 15, 2012
The Countess and Earl of St. Andrews outside the town hall in Placentia.
— Photo by Steve Bartlett/The Telegram

A couple with ties to the British Royal family were reminded how small of a world it really is after arriving here Thursday.

When the Earl and Countess of St. Andrews stopped at a local cafe to get the key to their bed and breakfast — the same person owns both businesses — there was a young woman in the corner with her back to them, wearing headphones.

The couple later learned the young woman was British and bicycling across Canada to raise money for SOS Children’s Villages UK, a charity of which Lord St. Andrews is a trustee.

“Sadly we didn’t get to talk to her because we only found out later,” he says.

“Anyway, we got her email. We’ll write to her.”

The St. Andrews are here to help celebrate Placentia’s 350th anniversary.

The town is Lady St. Andrews’ birthplace.

She was born here in May 1958, while her father, a civil engineer, worked on the America Base at Argentia.

She left as a toddler and this is her first time back.

Her husband is the great-grandson of King George V. He’s also the eldest son and heir of the Duke of Kent.

Lady St. Andrews says her father enjoyed working here and her mother told her about looking at the sea through the window.

“Both said people were very friendly, and I think my father was sorry to leave and would have liked to have stayed longer,” she says, adding her parents also told her the people here were hard-working.

Besides the memories her parents shared, she said a lot of her insight into her birthplace has come from black and white photographs.

“As we were about to land, my first thought was it’s in colour,” she jokes.

Lord St. Andrews considers their trip a wonderful opportunity to see his wife’s birthplace and learn about a place he knows through books.

“Newfoundland, obviously, is a rather romantic name,” he says. “It’s so much a part of English history. You read about it, all the great voyages and the fishery. I have a great interest in the Atlantic connections, and all the history of fishing and so on. It’s wonderful to have a chance to be here and see it for myself.”

The St. Andrews arrived Thursday evening and have since been exploring parts of the Placentia area.

They took part in a civic dinner Friday evening and are scheduled to attend the launch of the Voices of Placentia Bay Festival Saturday.

On Sunday, they’re set to attend mass at the Holy Rosary Parish, where Lady St. Andrews was baptized.