‘No limousines, no crowns, just ordinary people’: The Royal Family’s stay on a Manitoba farm

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‘No limousines, no crowns, just ordinary people’: The Royal Family’s stay on a Manitoba farm
Brian Bailey reflects on a historical visit by the Queen and the Royal Family to his family's farm in Carberry, Manitoba in 1970. – Jun 2, 2022

It was a part of a royal tour that involved no media, no fanfare, no crowns, or pomp — just a family enjoying rural Manitoba farm life.

As the Queen marks her Platinum Jubilee, one Manitoba family is remembering their remarkable royal experience from over 50 years ago.

Read more: The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee — Plenty of pomp and pageantry planned for historic event

When the Queen visited Manitoba in 1970 with her husband Prince Phillip and children, Prince Charles and Princess Anne, they got to spend a relaxing time on a potato farm southeast of Carberry, Man., owned by T. Roy and Nora Bailey. For the royals, it was a relaxing moment away from the pomp and protocol of a royal tour; time spent just as a family enjoying rural Manitoba farm life.

“Our farm was situated in the right place at the right time,” said Brian Bailey, the son of T. Roy and Nora, who now lives in Neepawa, Man.

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Bailey said the royals wanted to get some rest, relaxation and riding in on a Manitoba farm. T. Roy Bailey had been named Mr. Manitoba Farmer of 1967, so his name was familiar to those co-ordinating the 1970 royal tour.

“(The organizers) immediately contacted my dad and said, ‘Is there a chance you could host the Queen?'” Bailey said.

“And of course, when you’re invited to host the Queen, you don’t say no.”

The Royal Family enjoying a garden party in the backyard of the Bailey farm in 1970. Courtesy / Brian Bailey

Bailey said there was a deserted train siding about a mile south of the farm, which was fixed up for the royal train to arrive on a Sunday afternoon.

“When you know something like that is taking place, you tend to be a bit nervous about it,” Bailey said.

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“But the Royal Family are such professionals at dealing with people that they put you at ease immediately.”

Bailey said there was a great deal of security in place for the visit, but you wouldn’t have known it.

“The RCMP provided all kinds of security, but they were subtle about the security,” he recalled. “There were actually 26 plain-clothed police officers in the area, but you couldn’t see any of them.”

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With much of the Royal Family being avid horseback riders, Prince Charles and Princess Anne went for a ride on the Sunday evening. Some of the horses from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Musical Ride had been brought to the farm, as they had been performing nearby in Brandon, Man., to mark Manitoba’s 100th birthday.

“That was quite something, because Charles and Anne tended to race the horses a little faster than they were used to,” Bailey chuckled.

“But these horses don’t always want to be as exhausted as they were on Sunday evening by Charles and Anne.”

The Royal Family heading out for a ride with T. Roy Bailey. Courtesy / Brian Bailey

Bailey says hosting the Royal Family was just like having the extended relatives over.

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“You wonder how you’re going to react to them, and they’re just very ordinary-type people,” Bailey said, noting both the Queen and Prince Phillip were very well-versed in farming, and Phillip spent most of his time discussing and asking questions about the crops.

“To give you an idea of how at ease (the Queen) puts you, I was taking photos of the Queen being introduced to my mom, and of course, I was next in line. I was standing there with my camera and my dad says, ‘This is my son,’ and she says, ‘Oh, you’re the school teacher.’ And I thought, ‘Oh my goodness, you have done your homework,'” Bailey said.

The Queen relaxing in a lawn chair with the Baileys. Courtesy / Brian Bailey

“She sat in our backyard having coffee and cake and just chatting. She and my mom chatted about family things, it was just like having the relatives in for coffee.”

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The Queen also spent much of her time taking photos of her own -— a relaxed version of her that’s not commonly seen by the public.

“I was the only person taking pictures besides the Queen, she had her Nikon camera, and I had my cheap little Olympus camera. And she never did share those photos with me, I’m not sure why, but anyway,” Bailey joked.

The Queen, with her Nikon camera, and Nora Bailey on the Bailey farm. Courtesy / Brian Bailey

On the Monday morning of their visit, the Royal Family took a two-hour tour of Bailey farms by horseback along with T. Roy Bailey and the staff sergeant of the RCMP at the time. Bailey said the Queen rode a horse that was related to one of her own horses in England. The ride was followed by a garden party in the family’s backyard.

The royal garden party in the backyard of the Bailey farm. Courtesy / Brian Bailey

“The Queen had a babushka on, so of course, that kept her hair in place (after the ride). So when she came down she just sort of touched her hair up and there she was as splendid as ever,” he said.

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“The Queen sort of sat in one of our lawn chairs and you could see she was just soaking up the lovely summer day. Princess Anne, she got on one of our lounge chairs and it was as if she was out sunning, you know,” Bailey laughed. “Whereas Charles, he sort of spent his time socializing, going around and chatting with everybody, and as I say, Phillip spent his time talking farming.”

Reunited in 2010

The Queen, Prince Phillip and T. Roy Bailey would reunite again in 2010, when the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh made a brief stop in Manitoba. Bailey wrote a letter to the premier, requesting his father meet with the Queen again during her trip to Manitoba. T. Roy Bailey was able to attend a ceremony unveiling the Queen’s statue at the Manitoba legislative building.

“She couldn’t waste any time getting right over to meet my dad and shake his hand and they had a quick little visit,” Bailey said.

“And of course, Prince Phillip said, ‘How are the potatoes, Roy? How’s the crop, Roy?'”

Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip reuniting with T. Roy Bailey during an event at the Manitoba Legislative building in July 2010. Courtesy / Brian Bailey

Bailey says the meeting took place in July 2010, and his father died the following January at the age of 95.

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He says their royal experience is something that the family will cherish forever.

“No limousines, no crowns, just ordinary people.”

Queen Elizabeth waving farewell to the Baileys. Courtesy / Brian Bailey

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