Ottawa in Bloom

Annual gift of Dutch tulips ensures Canada’s capital is awash in colour.

Written by Canada’s History Staff

Posted May 9, 2022

In 1940, the Dutch royal family went into exile in Canada as a result of the German occupation of the Netherlands during the Second World War. While living in Ottawa, Princess Juliana gave birth to a daughter, Margriet, in 1943. The hospital room in which she was born was declared extraterritorial to ensure that Margriet would remain eligible to succeed to the throne according to Dutch law.

After the war, the royal family sent a gift of thousands of tulip bulbs to Canada, and it became an annual tradition. In 1952, photographer Yousuf Karsh, an Ottawa resident, suggested that the city host a festival to celebrate its annual spring tulip bloom. From this suggestion, the Canadian Tulip Festival was born. In May 2002, Princess Margriet visited Ottawa to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the tulip festival. The seventieth-anniversary celebration took place in May 2022.

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This article will appear in the June-July 2022 issue of Canada’s History.

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