Les Stroud meets the Queen of England

Normally, when images of Les come to mind, they tend to be pretty rugged: Les covered in dirt, dripping in sweat (though trying not to, you know, that whole “you sweat you die” factor) scrounging for food, felling trees for shelter, battling the elements to prove to himself and the world that survival ain’t pretty, not easy, and certainly isn’t served in 3 courses on gold-trimmed plates. But on Monday, July 5th, a tuxedo-clad Stroud stepped out of the wilderness and into the front lobby of the Fairmont Royal York, ready to meet the Queen.

For Canadians, meeting the Queen is and always has been a big deal.  Canadian Royal Tours have been taking place since 1786. By 1951, the tours were received with such hysteria the National Film Board of Canada made a documentary chronicling the five-week tour by then-Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinborough, called Royal Journey.  Watch it for free here: http://www.nfb.ca/film/royal_journey/

Canadian culture is built upon loyalist values, and the Queen’s 2010 whirl-wind nine day Royal Tour proved sentiment for the monarchy is still alive and well in Canada today.  Throngs of monarch supporters came out to see the Queen on her “royal walk-about” outside St. James Church in Toronto. Surrounded by a thick circle of security, as a spectator the most you can hope for is a glimpse of a hand-wave.  But you’ve got to give the queen credit:  for an 87 year old, she is doing very, very well. She works 347 days of the year, has reportedly mastered the Blackberry managing an endless series of parades, processions, speaking engagements and dinners around the world. Mmm… yummy, fancy dinners…which brings us back to Les.

The Official Dinner of the Royal Tour was a who’s who of Canadian parliament, business and entertainment. To attend, you had to receive an official invitation from Prime Minister Stephen Harper himself – and then adhere to the strict Rules of Protocol for meeting royalty. Oh, the many Rules of Protocol:  the Queen should be addressed as “Your Majesty” initially, and “Ma’am” as conversation continues. The Duke of Edinburgh should both be addressed as “Your Royal Highness” initially and “Sir” should the conversation really get going. It’s up to those meeting The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh to choose whether or not they wish to bow and curtsy or simply shake hands. According to the guidelines, “It is quite in order to shake hands if the opportunity presents itself and a member of the Royal Family offers to do so.”

Well, Stroud isn’t really the type to curtsy, so when the Queen extended her hand, he took it.  A couple of shakes and the procession moved on. History in the making: Stroud is now part of an elite club of Canadian stars to have shaken the gloved hand of the queen, herself. After dinner, Prime Minister Harper and his wife invited Stroud up to a private gallery for relaxed conversation and drinks.

It isn’t saving the world or surviving in brutal conditions, but it is a rare opportunity to touch a living legend of the 21st century, and an honour to be asked to do so. Les Stroud, Canadian icon, on hand-shaking terms with the Queen of England. Now that’s survival.

By Kate Heming