CUPIDS, N.L. – Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall are exploring centuries-old aspects of Newfoundland and Labrador as their Canadian visit continues.
The royal couple visited Cupids and Brigus on Tuesday, unveiling a plaque in Cupids to celebrate the community’s 400th birthday in 2010. Charles spoke of the “stoic” early settlers of the area in an address to those attending the unveiling ceremony in a church.
“They came with their own vision of a new life … something new for themselves and their children,” he said.
“They all came with a purpose, a dream to create something new … to contribute to the great and vibrant tapestry which is the Canada of today.”
Charles and Camilla arrived under a cloud cover that appeared to hover just over Conception Bay.
Rain fell off and on, and may well have thinned the sparse crowd of well-wishers who greeted them. A large Union Jack waved in the breeze.
Cupids was originally known as Cuper’s Cove and it bills itself as the oldest English settlement in Canada.
Charles also remarked that he was “struck by the rugged and imposing landscape” of the area.
Charles, who studied archeology at university, listened closely and asked many questions during a visit to an archeological dig.
Relics unearthed so far are said to date back to the site’s original plantation in 1610.
Archeologist William Gilbert showed Charles and Camilla a coin unearthed at the dig site that is believed to date back to the 1600s.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper, his wife Laureen, and Premier Danny Williams of Newfoundland and Labrador also looked on.
The group shivered against a cold wind as the temperature hovered in single digits.
At the church ceremony later, the prime minister began his remarks by recalling the earliest settlers who arrived in Cupids.
He said the area’s soaring cliffs and savage weather “demands the spirit of heroes.”
A trio including flute, harpsichord and cello then performed for the royals.
Williams also welcomed Charles and Camilla to Cupids, saying they should feel “right at home” because of the giant Union Jack that flies over the old English settlement.
The local Cantare Youth Choir and a soloist also performed for the royal couple.
Tammy Butler, 32, of Cupids, and her husband Scott pulled their eight-year-old daughter Victoria and 11-year-old son Dylan out of school for the day to wave small Union Jacks and greet the royal visitors.
“It’s just to be part of history,” she said. “Years down the road you’ll remember this.”
Camilla wore a faux-fur hat against the damp chill, while Charles sported the tie of the Royal Canadian Dragoons and an RCMP lapel pin.
It was a short drive for the royal couple to the town of Brigus, also located on the shores of Conception Bay.
It’s believed that European settlers landed in the town as early as 1613, making the community of 800 people one of the oldest in North America.
Its rugged, sea-pounded cliffs are as renowned as the historic sites that have been preserved here. They include Hawthorne Cottage, a little house nestled among hawthorn trees that dates back to 1830 and looks like it was pulled from the pages of a fairy tale.
Charles and Camilla were clearly delighted by the place.
It was home to Captain Bob Bartlett, the Arctic explorer who led Admiral Robert Peary’s famous expedition to the North Pole in 1909.
Hawthorne Cottage is now a national heritage treasure trove showcasing books, papers and mementoes from those daring adventures.
William Maher, 54, of nearby Roaches Line, came for a glimpse of the couple with his girlfriend, Marie Bishop, 44, of Bay Roberts.
They wound up shaking the hands of both Charles and Camilla, and even exchanged a few words.
“He asked us how we were,” said a clearly thrilled Maher.
“That was some good feeling.”
Bishop said she’ll be reluctant to wash her hand, even in the midst of a swine-flu outbreak, and couldn’t wait “to call my Mom.”