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In 1859, New Westminster was selected as the first capital of the new Colony of British Columbia by Queen Victoria, who named the city after part of London . From this naming by the Queen, the City gained its official nickname, "The Royal City". A year later it became the first City in British Columbia to have an elected municipal government. It became a major outfitting point for prospectors coming to the Cariboo gold rush, as all travel to the goldfield ports of Yale and Port Douglas was by steamboat or canoe up the Fraser River.

In 1866, the colonies of British Columbia and Vancouver Island were united as "British Columbia". However, the capital of the Colony of Vancouver Island, Victoria, located on the southern tip of Vancouver Island, was made the capital of the newly amalgamated Colony of British Columbia.