We pause this weekly diatribe about the doings at city hall to talk about the nice old lady in England who died last week. She worked the same job for 70 years, she liked funny looking dogs, and sometimes her large adult children found themselves centred in national scandal.
What’s a funeral for a queen without a little tongue-in-cheek?
Truthfully, the death of Queen Elizabeth II last Thursday is one of those moments you can point to and say that something fundamental has really changed. Unless you’re 80 years old, you don’t remember a time when the sovereign wasn’t Elizabeth; she’s always been there in our pockets, looking up at us from the back of all our nickels and quarters.
The passing of Queen Elizabeth II has conjured in me many thoughts, and I will now lay them out for you in no particular order.
First, go home Americans. I don’t why half of CNN is in London covering a monarchy their country flipped the bird to 250 years ago, and watching Americans talk about the Royal Family is like watching a toddler make sense of a spoon when they can eat with two perfectly good hands.
There’s an apocryphal story that King George III wrote in his diary on July 4, 1776, that “Nothing important happened today.” May I suggest to our American cousins that they go with that same sense of apathy, or, better still, focus their efforts on the dotard that wants to make himself an American king whether the subjects accept him or not.
Closer to home, I found it interesting to see images of the Queen’s visit to Guelph in 1959 in the Guelph Museums’ online collection. You forget that being called “The Royal City” is more than just a little bit of local self-aggrandizement, but it was something else to see Queen Elizabeth walking along a very familiar looking Carden Street and being driven through a slightly different looking St. George’s Square.
Down at Queen’s Park, Premier Doug Ford decided that it was important to mark the Queen’s passing but not important enough to follow the Federal government’s lead and give people a day off on Monday, which is, at least, ideologically consistent. He won’t give us a day off for National Truth and Reconciliation Day either.
Naturally, Ford then shut down the legislature until after the municipal election late next month.
Back in the U.K. I took note of an incident where a heckler was arrested yelling at Prince Andrew and calling him a “nonce” while he was walking behind his mother’s coffin down the Royal Mile in Edinburgh.
Look, there’s little doubt that Price Andrew is a scumbag, or, at the very least, he enjoys the company of scumbags, but I somewhat controversially think that someone should be allowed to mourn their parent without someone screaming at them.
Even scum bags feel sad, and the Royal Family have to do so much of their mourning in the public eye according to traditions set down from a time when Chaucer was the best-selling author. You can go back to calling Prince Andrew a “nonce” on Tuesday, and believe me, you have my total and complete support.
By the way, “nonce” is a slang word to describe a sex offender or pedophile, so even while breaking decorum, the heckler was keeping things politely British. Even in Scotland.
But there is a political angle to the passing of the Queen, and that has to do more with her son, now King Charles III. How long might his face be on our nickels and quarters?
Antigua and Barbuda have already announced their intention to separate themselves from the vestigial umbilical of the British Empire and become a republic, and I can see other countries in the Caribbean and Africa joining them in the not-too-distant future. I can see it for Australia and New Zealand too, sitting there at the bottom of the world as far as you can get from England before heading back.
I think the reason these countries haven’t had discussions about separating themselves from the Crown before now is esteem for Queen Elizabeth II herself and her longevity. Even if you’re not a fan of the monarchy, it was hard not to feel her presence. She became the nation’s grandmother or great grandmother, and no one wants to disappoint Nana or endure her withering looks and silences.
Canada, the go-along to get-along people, were especially susceptible, but the Queen is gone and there’s no one to disappoint anymore. Still, Canadians believe they enjoy a special status as the favourite child. Many talking points were shared this week about the Queen’s love of Canada, and now the RCMP will be leading the burial procession on Monday.
There’s a line from a recent Star Wars movie where the villain tells his heroic counterpart to “Let the past die. Kill it, if you have to.” The question is whether Canadians at-large have the ability to let the past die when it comes to the monarchy, and the debate about our constitutional future will certainly require clear-headed and rigorous rationalism, which we know is in short supply these days on political matters.
The Queen is dead, and that is sad, but what happens when dawn rises on the remaining embers of the British Empire on Tuesday? That is an interesting question…