The Canadian Tulip Festival is getting a very regal start.

Princess Margriet of the Netherlands is in Ottawa, to mark 77 years since the Liberation of the Netherlands and the role Canadians played in the Second World War.

Mayor Jim Watson hosted Princess Margriet and her husband, Professor Pieter van Vollenhoven at City Hall Friday.

“Welcome to your second home,” Watson said at a luncheon with veterans and residents of Dutch heritage.

The Dutch royal family sought refuge in Ottawa during the Second World War. Princess Juliana gave birth to Margriet at the Civic Hospital on January 19, 1943.

Watson said, “The Dutch flag flew over the Peace Tower, the only time a foreign flag has been given that honour.”

Canadian Forces also played a crucial role in liberating the Netherlands from Nazi forces.

“Close to 175,000 Canadians took part in the campaign to liberate the Netherlands, more than 7,600 soldiers made the ultimate sacrifice,” Watson said.

After the war, the royal family gave the capital 100,000 tulip bulbs as a symbol of friendship and gratitude. The Canadian Tulip Festival was created in 1953 celebrating this tradition.

A plaque was also unveiled for the renaming of Fairmont Park, near the Ottawa Hospital Civic Campus, Princess Margriet Park.

Many visiting the Tulip Festival on its opening day call the royal visit special.

Cecile Menard says, “It is an honor to have her, very pleased that she is here.”

Many feel a connection to the princess and the tulips.

Patrick Gray brought his young daughter Hannah.

“(Hannah) has Dutch heritage, so it’s nice to see the ancestry of the tulips. It’s nice to come out and experience was Ottawa has to offer again.”

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The festival has become one of the capital’s most popular tourist attractions, drawing visitors from around Canada and the world.

Evan and Anais Poulolo and are visiting from France and took in the tulips for the first time.

Evan says, “It is very amazing to see all this color and there are a lot of people here, I didn’t know there was a festival like this for the tulip. There are a lot of people and its very cool- I like Este.”

The royal couple will be in Ottawa for five days. Their official visits also include planting tulip bulbs at Stornoway House, visiting Beechwood Cemetery with the Prime Minister, and officially opening the tulip festival on Saturday.


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