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On the eve of a Royal Wedding, looking back at a 1983 Royal Visit to Shelburne


SHELBURNE, N.S. – A lot of time has passed since a very young royal couple – Charles and Diana – visited Shelburne in June 1983. However, on the eve of their son Harry getting married in what is the most talked about wedding on the planet these days, many people still vividly remember the royal visit to Shelburne.

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle will wed Saturday, May 19, at Windsor Castle. When Prince Charles and Diana, the Princess of Wales, visited Canada in 1983, they had been married just under two years. Diana would later became affectionately known as the people’s princess. In Shelburne there was lots of excitement over the visit that was part of an 18-day Royal Tour of Canada.

The Shelburne visit came as it was celebrating its bicentennial of the arrival of the first Empire Loyalists and everywhere, according to a description in the Shelburne Coast Guard newspaper, people in period dress were recreating the scenes from 200 years earlier. Finn Bower, who was the curator of the Shelburne County Museum at the time, was involved in the planning of the royal visit that had been in the works for more than a year. Thousands of people turned out for the visit.

Trina Normal still has her press pass from 1983 when as a freelancer she photographed the Royal Visit for the Shelburne Coast Guard. TRINA NORMAN
Trina Normal still has her press pass from 1983 when as a freelancer she photographed the Royal Visit for the Shelburne Coast Guard. TRINA NORMAN

Photographing the event for the Shelburne Coast Guard was freelance photographer Trina Norman. She had previously been doing freelance work for the Hants Journal in Windsor, before moving to Shelburne County with her husband who had gotten a teaching job here. She said she was contacted by the Coast Guard’s editor and asked if she’d be interested in photographing the Royal Visit.

“I said, ‘I guess I would,’” she says. “It was a blast.”

She still has her press pass from that day along with a collection of photos she took.

“What I remember most, I was seven months pregnant, so I was waddling around – literally – with everyone else, so just the thrill of walking around with press from all over the world. The town was just packed with people and packed with press,” she says, adding it is fun to look back on that day.

“It just brings back those really good memories,” says Norman. “The streets were just packed solid everywhere we went. There were people and young kids and lots of excitement. It was the most exciting thing I ever did taking pictures.”

She says she also felt a connection to the royal couple as their marriage on July 29, 1981, happened just a couple of days before her own marriage on Aug. 1 of the same year.

“That was part of my bridal shower. We all stayed up and watched the wedding. And so to be that close later on was pretty exciting,” Norman says, adding Diana’s death in August 1997 was “just horrible.” “I took out the pictures from that day in Shelburne and looked at them again,” she says.

The royal couple had arrived in Shelburne on June 16, 1983, aboard the Royal Yacht Britannia, which, it was described, emerged from a morning fog bank as it entered Shelburne Harbour. The royal couple walked almost the entire length of Dock Street and officially unveiled a plaque to open the J.C. Williams Dory Shop Museum. At the museum, then-master dory builder Sydney Mahaney gave the couple a tour and presented a small replica of a dory as a gift for their then one-year-old son William. Prince Harry’s birth didn’t occur until September 1984.

A few days ago we posted some photos on the Shelburne Coast Guard Facebook page asking who remembered the Royal Visit. Lots of people do and shared memories in our comments section.

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“I was there in the front row. I was 12 years old and I shook Princess Diana’s hand. I will never forget it. We also have tonnes of pictures from that day,” wrote Becky Atwood.

“Yes I remember that well,” wrote Betina Enslow. “That was quite an experience. I did get to meet them.”

Many people also made the trip from Yarmouth. “I was there,” wrote Janet Sollows. “We had the day off school to go.”

Asked if people plan to watch the royal wedding of Harry and Meaghan on Saturday, it’s a mixed bag, with some saying they are setting their alarms early to watch, others recording the event to watch later, others planning to watch televised highlights later on and others who are taking a pass (although good luck with that, as coverage will be everywhere.)

“I did go see Lady Diana when she was in Shelburne. Not getting up that early to watch this wedding. I am sure there will be plenty of chances to watch highlights of it in the next week. Over and over and over,” wrote Rhonda Mae Dixon.

Images from the June 1983 Royal Visit to Shelburne by Prince Charles and Princess Diana. TRINA NORMAN PHOTOS
Images from the June 1983 Royal Visit to Shelburne by Prince Charles and Princess Diana. TRINA NORMAN PHOTOS

“I was there,” said Betty Cox about the 1983 royal visit. “Our daughter Valerie was one of the children in period dress who met with Charles and Diana. She and I plan to wear our fascinators, sip mimosas, eat a royal breakfast and watch the wedding.”

“I got to shake Lady Di's hand. I have always been royal watcher and will definitely be watching this Royal Wedding!” said Karen Holland Dash.

Many people also mentioned how they still have photos from that day in their homes.

"My brother Robert and I were there waiting to meet them all dressed in our loyalist costumes that Mrs. Mary Archibald had made for us, being pushed and shoved and loving every minute of it," recalled Louise Delisle. "We were invited to meet them by the Shelburne Historical Society to represent the Black Loyalist. They stopped and talked to the both of us for a minute. Charles talked to Robert and Diana talked to me. I remember I was so very nervous looking at the best and most beautiful person I have ever seen in this life. "She asked me how many of us were here. I was speechless so my brother Robert told her that were at least 60 of us still living in Shelburne. So much British press wanted to know what she had said to us. My first press interview. What a wonderful day. We never got a picture except for the one that Derby Varner MacAlpine took and gave to me years ago. I still have it framed on my wall."

Looking back at the 1983 royal visit, however, sometimes the experience depended on what side of the street you were on.

“I begged to go all day and finally convinced my parents to go and we ended up on the wrong side, I only saw Prince Charles, I was so disappointed,” said Angelina Shankle.

Maybe she should have switched sides with Paulette Roy who wrote, “My mom drove me and my friends up for 3 a.m…Lady Diana spoke with me. Thanks Mom. P.S. I actually wanted to meet Charles instead.”

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