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Hitch your wagon to a star

Queen comes to Canada : Halifax, Ottawa, Toronto, Winnipeg and Waterloo, Ont. are major stops

The 22nd official royal visit to Canada by Queen Elizabeth begins June 28. The Queen and Prince Philip will visit five Canadian cities over nine days.

Official itinerary for royal visit

In Halifax, they will attend a Mi'kmaq cultural event and rededicate Government House on their arrival June 28. The next day, the royal couple conduct a fleet review in Bedford Basin and unveil a plaque commemorating HMCS Sackville, Canada's only surviving corvette from the Second World War.

Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip visit Ottawa for three days, including Canada Day. It will be the seventh time Queen Elizabeth has been in Canada on July 1. The Canada Day celebrations on Parliament Hill will be the big event in Ottawa.

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In Winnipeg on July 3, the Queen unveils a statue of herself by sculptor Leo Mol, who died in 2009. Other events include dedicating a stone from the site where the Magna Carta was signed in 1215 that will be the cornerstone for a human rights museum. After that, she will speak at a concert for human rights.

The royal couple will attend a church service at St. James Cathedral in Toronto on July 4. Later that day, they will see which horse wins The Queen's Plate at Woodbine Racetrack.

The next day includes a quick trip to Waterloo to tour BlackBerry-maker Research In Motion's facility. Another big event that day is an official dinner in Toronto.

The departure from Canada takes place the next morning at Queen's Park in Toronto.

When Queen Elizabeth leaves for New York on July 6 to address the United Nations general assembly, she will have spent 222 days in Canada on royal visits as the country's sovereign. (She made her first trip to Canada in 1951, when she was still a princess.)

Queen Elizabeth, seen in June 2010 with Prince Philip in Windsor, England, is the oldest sovereign in the history of the United Kingdom. (Alastair Grant/Associated Press)

Nobody since Queen Victoria has held the British throne longer than Queen Elizabeth II, and no British monarch has survived to her age. Still active at 84 and with no apparent urge to step down, she may well surpass the 63 years of Victoria's reign.

Elizabeth Alexandra Mary of York was born on April 21, 1926, at her maternal grandparents' home in London, the first child for the Duke and Duchess of York. [While the Queen's birthday falls in April, it is officially celebrated in June, continuing a long British tradition of celebrating the monarch's birthday in that month.]

Her reign has been remarkable, starting in an era when television was a novelty (her coronation was the first in Britain to be televised) and continuing through the days of Beatlemania, Swinging London, Thatcherism and Cool Britannia.

The Queen has seen colonies gain independence, the Commonwealth emerge as a respected international organization, and the United Kingdom evolve into a dynamic, multicultural country far different than the one she knew in her youth. She has also kept pace with technology, with Buckingham Palace launching its own YouTube channel and the monarchy embracing social media as a way of communicating with citizens.

Elizabeth's accession to the throne was something of a fluke, the result of the dramatic abdication by her uncle, Edward VIII, to marry the American divorcée Wallis Simpson. Her father became King George VI on Dec. 11, 1936, when Elizabeth was 10 years old.

Elizabeth gave her first radio address at 14, on Oct. 13, 1940. In her four-minute talk, she told the world that British children were "full of cheerfulness and courage" as bombs rained down on London during a Second World War air raid. Five years later, she learned how to drive a car when she enlisted in the army.

Elizabeth married Philip Mountbatten, the Duke of Edinburgh, at Westminster Abbey on Nov. 20, 1947. On Feb. 6, 1952, her father died of cancer while she and Prince Philip were touring Africa, making the princess the Queen. Although the royal couple rushed home, Elizabeth's coronation wasn't held until more than a year later, on June 2, 1953.

Since then, the Queen has kept a busy travel schedule. She has made more than 250 official overseas visits, and in 2010 will complete her 22nd royal tour of Canada, her most frequent Commonwealth destination. Her first royal visit to this country was in 1959 when she and Phillip visited every province and territory over six weeks. She also officially opened the St. Lawrence Seaway. Her last royal tour of Canada was in 2005, when she celebrated the centennials of Saskatchewan and Alberta.

Spontaneous start to 'walkabout'

It was during one of her overseas trips that the Queen embarked on the first "royal walkabout." The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh were visiting Australia and New Zealand in 1970 when they began mingling with the crowds that had lined up to see them. Meeting and greeting regular people, instead of just dignitaries and invited officials, proved so popular that the walkabout became a fixture of the Queen's public appearances.

Although the Queen has generally avoided scandal, her family has been frequently been known to cause controversy and make news. There was Charles's divorce, Diana's fatal car crash in a Paris tunnel, Princess Margaret's stroke, the antics of her daughter-in-law Sarah Ferguson and a series of tabloid-ready embarrassments involving Prince Harry, who once wore a Nazi uniform to a costume party. The Queen herself has made news she would rather forget, including a 1982 security breach in which an intruder managed to scale a wall outside Buckingham Palace and find his way into the royal bedroom, where he sat at the foot of the Queen's bed.

The Queen memorably described 1992 as an annus horribilis, after a fire at Windsor Castle and marital problems among three of her children.

She had hoped that the 2002 would be a year of celebration, marking 50 years on the throne, but the year was overshadowed by the deaths of her sister, Princess Margaret, and the Queen Mother, who was 101.

The Queen is known to love animals, especially dogs and horses. She has owned more than 30 corgis, starting with Susan, which was a gift on her 18th birthday. One of her corgis had to be put down in 2004 after it was mauled by a bull terrier owned by Princess Anne.

She has also run afoul of animal rights activists. In November 2000, Elizabeth was photographed wringing the neck of a wounded pheasant that a hunting dog had dropped at her feet. The next day, she showed up at church wearing a red hat accented with pheasant feathers.

Elizabeth is one of the wealthiest women in the world, with a net worth of £349 million, or about $542 million Cdn, according to a Forbes magazine ranking. That's down sharply from a previous Forbes count of about $818 million in 2004, and considerably smaller than other estimates, which have exceeded $4 billion (and as much as $16 billion, if the Royal Collection, which includes the Crown jewels, are included). Buckingham Palace routinely scoffs at such reports, calling them all "vastly exaggerated."

The Queen, in quotation marks

Queen Elizabeth, at the Chelsea Flower Show in London in May 2010, has been in the public eye her entire life. (Matt Dunham/Associated Press)

Although she is one of the most recognizable people on the planet, Queen Elizabeth does not often speak publicly. Those who meet her, in fact, are asked to keep their conversations private.

Here are some of the notable things the Queen has said during her many years in public life. They show a monarch who is committed to her role, a mother and wife devoted to her family, and — apparently — a woman who missed out on Cream and Blind Faith during her younger years.

"I declare before you all that my whole life, whether it be long or short, shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong." — Speaking to her future subjects on her 21st birthday, in April 1947.

"I cannot lead you into battle, I do not give you laws or administer justice but I can do something else, I can give you my heart and my devotion to these old islands and to all the peoples of our brotherhood of nations." — From the Queen's first televised Christmas address, in 1957.

"We lost the American colonies because we lacked the statesmanship to know the right time and the manner of yielding what is impossible to keep." — Commenting on the American bicentennial in Philadelphia in July 1976.

"Like all the best families, we have our share of eccentricities, of impetuous and wayward youngsters and of family disagreements." — Quoted in London's Daily Mail newspaper in October 1989.

"1992 is not a year on which I shall look back with undiluted pleasure. In the words of one of my more sympathetic correspondents, it has turned out to be an annus horribilis." — From a November 1992 speech, commenting on her children's marital troubles and a fire at Windsor Castle.

"No one who knew Diana will ever forget her. Millions of others who never met her, but felt they knew her, will remember her. I, for one, believe there are lessons to be drawn from her life and from the extraordinary and moving reaction to her death. I share in your determination to cherish her memory." — From remarks broadcast around the world in September 1997, after Diana's death.

"He has quite simply been my strength and stay all these years, and I and his whole family and this and many other countries owe him a debt greater than he would ever claim or we should ever know." — Speaking about Prince Philip during golden jubilee celebrations in 2002.

"Have you been playing a long time?" — Speaking to guitar legend Eric Clapton at a Buckingham Palace reception in March 2005.

"When life seems hard, the courageous do not lie down and accept defeat; instead, they are all the more determined to struggle for a better future." — From the Queen's Christmas address in 2008.

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M.T. Al-Mansouri

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