Prince Philip was named a Companion of the Order of Canada and a Commander of the Order of Military Merit, a surprise honour as his brief visit to Toronto got underway Friday afternoon.

Gov.-Gen. David Johnston presented the Duke of Edinburgh with the insignias of both orders at a ceremony at the downtown Royal York Hotel.

Royal commentator Bonnie Brownlee said the honours were a surprise to the Duke, who is in Canada for what the federal government described as “a private working visit” to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the Battle of York.

“To be given the Order of Canada, it’s a great honour and a great privilege to be recognized by your country,” Brownlee told CTV News Channel. “So for him to be recognized by us as a government and also by the military…and it was a surprise to him, for sure. So he is, I’m pretty sure, deeply touched right now by being given these two honours.”

Philip, 91, will be in the city for just 24 hours to present a new regimental colour to the Petawawa-based Third Battalion of the Royal Canadian Regiment. The Duke of Edinburgh has been colonel-in-chief of the Royal Canadian Regiment since 1953.

Regimental colours are a ceremonial flag considered the most prized possession of every regiment.

During Saturday’s event, Local Army Reserve unit 7 Toronto Regiment, Royal Canadian Artillery, will fire a 21-gun salute in honour of the prince.

The event will also feature precision military parachutists dropping out of the sky and soldiers rappelling off buildings in the vicinity of Queen’s Park.

April 27 marks the 200th anniversary of the Battle of York, when the city was occupied by the United States. It’s one of the final events in a series to remember the bicentennial of the War of 1812.

The presentation of colours will take place at a public ceremony at Queen’s Park, with the 21-gun salute taking place behind the Legislative Building at 10 a.m. After the presentation, more than 1,500 sailors and soldiers will march from Queen’s Park to the Fort York National Historic Site.

Although the presentation of the new regimental colour is largely a symbolic event, many soldiers are honoured by the prince’s visit.

"It’s a flag but, for us, it really symbolizes what we as a regimental family believe in and the core of the infantry," Lt-Col. David Quick told CTV’s News Channel on Friday. "We’re deeply honoured to have him."

Quick, who greeted the prince at Pearson Airport, admitted before the Duke’s arrival that he was nervous about meeting him.

Quick added that the prince, who has served as the colonel-in-chief for 60 years, is a role model for many soldiers.

"The key with him is that he has served the Commonwealth for so long. And as soldiers, our job is to serve our country, so he’s a great role model."

Saturday's event will be the only public engagement for the prince.