Community Classroom

Queen Elizabeth II’s visit to Vancouver Island University’s Milner Gardens & Woodland

Signed portrait of Queen Elizabeth on a tree branch
Author: Emily Weeks, Operations Coordinator

A recounting of the famous visit

When Prince Charles, now His Majesty King Charles lll, and Diana, Princess of Wales, visited Milner Gardens & Woodland in May of 1986, it was a well-kept secret acting as a brief respite from their time at Vancouver’s Expo ’86 World Fair. However, it was a very different story a year later when Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip arrived for their highly anticipated three-day stay before attending the Commonwealth Heads of Government Conference in Vancouver. 

Plans were made

Documents detailing the royal requirements and needs arrived months in advance and the planning began instantaneously. Veronica Milner accompanied RCMP into a helicopter to take photographs of the property from every angle to be able to create an extensive security plan. Gutters, windows and carpets were cleaned, the driveway was graded, appliances were replaced and even a flagpole was installed for the royal insignia. Veronica’s master bedroom was entirely re-painted, all her personal belongings were removed and a new mattress was brought in. Detailed plans for the menu, laundry and proper garbage disposal were all laid out long before their arrival.

Queen Elizabeth and Veronica Milner meet

Relaxation was had

Veronica and her dogs moved into the Old Dutch Inn for the duration of their visit from October 9 to 11, 1987, to allow The Royals total respite and privacy (along with their robust team of staff and security, of course). The queen slept in what is now referred to as the Queen’s Room and Prince Philip set up his private quarters in what is now referred to as the Magnolia Room. It’s been told that Philip enjoyed barbequing by the poolside, and even taking a dip in the pool itself, which was solar heated and pumped full of fresh salt water directly from the ocean below. Breakfast was enjoyed in the dining room on a table dating back to the 1600s that still resides in Milner House today. It was noted that “the Queen enjoyed the tranquility of the autumn garden, birds and roses” (Cadwaladr, In Veronicas Garden).

Trees were planted

On the final day of their visit, an hour before their departure, Veronica arrived back to her home to enjoy tea with them, where the queen admitted to Veronica that she felt “very at home here,” especially given the fact that there were framed photographs of Charles and Diana’s visit from the year prior. Before leaving, the Queen planted a Spanish chestnut tree in what is now called The Queen’s Garden, and Philip planted a maple just outside the garden gates. Signed photographs and small tokens were given to each of the staff and servants as a thank you for the hospitality.


Today you will find photographs of the royal visits on display at Milner Gardens and Woodland, along with signed official portraits of Queen Elizabeth ll and Prince Philip adorning the Queen’s Room walls. Queen Elizabeth Roses bloom around the Reflecting Pool (once the swimming pool).

 Framed picture of Queen Elizabeth II, signed

*All information was collected from In Veronica’s Garden by Margaret Cadwaladr, available for purchase in the Milner Gardens Pool House Gift Shop.

Queen Elizabeth also visited VIU's Nanaimo campus in 1983, when it was called Malaspina College. 


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