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Prince Charles to come face to face with 'woolly doppelgänger' on royal tour

The Prince of Wales is set to be greeted by a sheepish figure when he arrives in Canada on Tuesday: his own "woolly doppelgänger.
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A wool sculpture of Prince Charles by Manitoban artist Rosemarie Péloquin is shown in a handout photo. The Prince of Wales is set to be greeted by his own "woolly doppelgänger" when he arrives in Canada on Tuesday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Valerie Wilcox **MANDATORY CREDIT**

The Prince of Wales is set to be greeted by a sheepish figure when he arrives in Canada on Tuesday: his own "woolly doppelgänger."

Prince Charles will lock eyes with a life-size, hand-needle-felted bust of his own visage as he meets with Canadian wool enthusiasts in St. John's, N.L., at one of the first stops on his three-day cross-country tour alongside wife Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall.

But that's not even the "piece de resistance" of the prince's woolly welcome, said Matthew Rowe, CEO of the Campaign for Wool in Canada. The non-profit industry association will also present its royal patron with a wool sculpture of his mother, the Queen.

"He's going to come face to face with his woolly doppelgänger," Rowe said. "What we'll be unveiling for the first time at that event will be a second bust, this time of Her Majesty, in honour of the Platinum Jubilee. So he'll meet his woolly mother as well."

Franco-Manitoban fibre artist Rosemarie Péloquin said she had many conversations with the royal busts over the hundreds of hours she spent making each of them, poking and pulling wool with a barbed needle to felt the fine details of their faces.

Now, Péloquin is preparing to speak to the real-life prince Tuesday as she introduces him to his woolen double.

"You spend so much time in the studio with him that I feel like I've gotten to know him, really, in the making," Péloquin said by phone from St-Pierre-Jolys, Man. "I can't wait to meet him and to see him looking at himself."

The sculpture of the prince stands 56 centimeters tall, and aside from a wooden base, is made completely of homegrown wool — from the wrinkles on his forehead, to his red, white and blue tie.

Péloquin said she conducts extensive research on her subjects so she can render not only their appearance, but their "essence." She homed in on what she saw as some of the prince's defining features, including his "kind eyes" and his ability to connect with others.

"He's very interested in people, and that's why I made him leaning forward and listening," she said. "I hope that that brings us together in a conversation about wool and about art, and about people and the world."

Péloquin said wool felt like a fitting material to capture both the Queen's strength as a monarch, and a her warmth as a mother and grandmother.

The artist adorned the bust with the Queen's signature pearls and a maple leaf brooch. But Péloquin said the sovereign's personality shines through this stately veneer. The piece shows her smiling with a "twinkle in her eye," and the long curly wool that Péloquin used gave her iconic coif slightly more volume.

"I feel that that's not only the the essence of the sheep coming through, but also of her," she said. "There's that kind of fun aspect of her that's there, and we might not see it and she might not show it in public all the time, but it's there."

Péloquin said she'll be disappointed to part ways with the Queen after escorting her on the plane to St. John's in side-by-side seats. But even as she says goodbye to her creation, Péloquin is excited for the fabric Queen to greet the public.

"Half of the artwork is that reaction that other people have to it," said Péloquin. "You have to put your baby out in the world and smile and be proud."

Founded in 2010, the Campaign for Wool was launched in Canada in 2014 during Prince Charles and Camilla's visit to Pictou, N.S.

Rowe said the prince's support came at a nadir for the national wool industry as the forces of fast fashion depleted demand for the age-old textile.

In 1941, Canada sold more than 10 million pounds of wool, Statistics Canada data suggest. By 2006, sales had plummeted to roughly 2.8 million pounds.

Rowe said the campaign commissioned Péloquin's busts in recognition of all the prince has done to bolster a fibre that has been "interwoven in the history of Canada" since French settlers brought the first sheep to the country in the mid-17th century.

"(The campaign) sort of — pardon the pun — knit together the global wool industry," said Rowe. "It's a great opportunity to kind of check in to show what we've been able to accomplish for Canadian wool."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 16, 2022.

Adina Bresge, The Canadian Press