Good wishes for ‘long, happy marriage’,
Royal couple meet veterans, peacekeepers at private reception
The black-and-white photograph tucked inside George Spear’s weathered cap may be creased and slightly faded, but it remains a testament to the love he’s had for his wife of 68 years — a fact the Nepean native was able to share with the Duchess of Cambridge.
Prince William and Kate spent more than an hour at the Canadian War Museum meeting with veterans, war brides and peacekeepers at a private reception in LeBreton Gallery. It was the royal couple’s final scheduled appointment before leaving Ottawa.
When Kate stopped to chat with the Spear family, she saw Spear’s hat lying on the table and picked up the cap and the photo gingerly with both hands.
“I told Kate it was a picture of my wife, Jean, before we were married in 1942,” said Spear, who served as a sergeant major of the 1st Corps Field Survey Co., Royal Canadian Engineers.
“Kate asked if I had always kept the photo and I replied, ‘ All through the war and ever since’.”
Jean Spear, who came to Ottawa from England as a 22-year-old war bride in 1944, told Kate that she had been married to her sweetheart for 68 years.
“Kate held the cap so carefully and with such tenderness as if it was something precious. She told us it was wonderful and that she would have to get a photo of William to carry with her. I thanked her for coming to Canada and wished her a long, happy marriage.”
Jean Spear wore the same rosecoloured suit yesterday that she did to meet the Queen at Buckingham Palace in 2006 when she was named a Member of the Order of the British Empire.
“I thought it was only fitting that I wore the medal Prince William’s grandmother gave me as well as the outfit,” said the 89-year-old Spear.
“This is yet another adventure for my family. My son Ian and daughter Heather were also with George and me at Buckingham Palace so it’s special that they are here today,” Jean Spear said.
The royal couple looked relaxed and seemed to enjoy taking their time going table by table meeting with the roughly 140 guests. At one point, Kate could be overheard saying that she was always getting in trouble for talking too much. The newlyweds worked the room separately, shaking hands, insisting that the guests remain seated and would occasionally sit down to converse with those who were less mobile.
Several women wore fascinators and sophisticated summer hats in a nod to Kate’s fashion sensibilities, while veterans from the Second World War and Korean War and NATO peacekeepers dressed in uniform, proudly displaying their medals. It was a fitting venue inside the bunker-like museum to highlight Canada’s military history and accomplishments.
Jean Spear, who founded the country’s ESWIC (England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland and Canada) club for war brides, was joined by five other war brides from the Ottawa area. They include Jean Irving, 88, Marg Barry, 88, Gladys Saylor, 85, Alice Campbell, 95, and Marion Blackburn, 84, and they remain good friends today. Despite some aches and pains, the feisty group was full of pluck yesterday linking arms and singing an impromptu version of Knees Up Mother Brown, a popular English song written in 1938.
Irving was thrilled that she got to shake hands with Kate and to tell her that she came from a village near where the Middleton family lived.
“I told Kate that her parents were married in a church near Burnham where I grew up in Berkshire County. She was quite pleased and knew it well.” TO WATCH a video of our reporter chatting with Jean and George Spear, go to
BLAIR GABLE, REUTERS William and Kate unveil an unfinished mural during a reception at the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa on Saturday. The couple spent more than an hour at the museum meeting with veterans, war brides and peacekeepers at a private reception in LeBreton Gallery. It was their final scheduled appointment before leaving Ottawa.
DAVID KAWAI, THE OTTAWA CITIZEN War brides Jean Irving, 88, Marg Barry, 88, Jean Spear, 89, Gladys Saylor, 85, Alice Campbell, 95, and Marion Blackburn, 84, all had a chance to meet Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge and Prince William, Duke of Cambridge as part of the Royal Couple’s tour of the Canadian War Museum on Saturday.
DAVID KAWAI, THE OTTAWA CITIZEN George Spear holds his hat to show a photo of his wife Jean, which he has kept there since he left for combat in 1942. Both had the opportunity to meet the and talk with royal couple.