Dave Obee is editor and publisher of the Times Colonist.
Our story about Prince Harry, Meghan Markle and baby Archie enjoying their Christmas vacation in Greater Victoria went live on the Times Colonist website at 6:50 p.m. Christmas Eve, and within a matter of minutes we witnessed some predictable responses. The story took off quickly, becoming one of the most-read stories of the day, the week, the month and the year.
By the time families were settling in for dinner on Christmas Day, it could be stated that the story had become one of the most-read we have ever published on our website. That is understandable; interest in the royals has always been high in Victoria. For many reasons, our readers seem to care about the Royal Family more than other Canadians do. That is why we publish as much as we can on the family, in print and online.
That one of the newest royal couples is spending time here adds another element to the story: Our pride in our community. It’s always good to know that others like this place as much as we do, especially famous people, especially royals, who could have chosen anywhere in the world to spend their vacation.
We already knew they were in Canada, and there has been a fair bit of speculation across the nation about where they would be found. Toronto? Banff? Vancouver? Turns out, it was none of the above.
The second predictable response was criticism. Several readers expressed displeasure at our coverage of Harry and Meghan and Archie, saying that we should have allowed them to spend their time here in privacy, out of the limelight. This is, they said, a private holiday, not an official visit. To be absolutely clear, we respected their privacy. We did not identify where they are staying, even though we have the address, and we did not mention any private functions. We only referred to public sightings.
Besides, the word was out. Hundreds of people were aware, before our report came out, that the royals were in town. They included the people who greeted them on arrival, stumbled upon them or served them in public venues, and so on, along with all the other people who learned from those who had been in direct contact. (If you’re hiking on Horth Hill and you find yourself passing Prince Harry, will you really keep quiet about it?)
You can’t keep a royal visit, even a private one, a secret for long in Victoria. Then there is the increased security at different times in different parts of our region, places where you would not normally be confronted by guards. Does the public have a right to know what is going on? I would argue that yes, we have that right.
But there is a distinct line: We do not have the right to interfere with the royals or to harass them.
For the most part, that is not a concern; people in Greater Victoria have proven to be respectful about celebrities who pop in for a visit. We let them enjoy their time here, and do what we can to make their visits more enjoyable. That means leaving them alone, even when they are royals.
Our coverage of the visit brought out a few comments that were much more negative: Complaints that their official portrait was faked, that Archie’s birth was faked, and worse. It was disappointing to see such responses, especially on Christmas Day.
Back to what matters: It is newsworthy that Harry, Meghan and Archie are here, and it’s good to be aware of their presence in a city named for Queen Victoria, Harry’s great-great-great-great-grandmother.
We should be proud that they chose our community for their Christmas vacation. Let’s hope we can all be proud of the welcome we give them — because it would be nice to see them again, if only on the hiking trails.