Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Wednesday's Words for June 6, 2012

Not long after my mother passed away, I discovered a cache of old newspapers and magazines that she and my father had collected and saved. Among them was a souvenir program that had been printed for the coronation of King George VI—the father of our present Queen Elizabeth II.

I remember how thrilled I was to find these in 1976. Our parents raised us to think of ourselves as British subjects, which in fact we were back then. I suppose you could have called my parents monarchists, and been quite accurate.

Sadly, when we suffered a house fire in 1985, all those lovely pieces of history went up in flames.

My beloved and I are very much fans of the Royal Family, and consider ourselves monarchists to this day. Queen Elizabeth II is in fact the “Queen of Canada”, and David and I consider her our Queen.

Each Christmas, the Queen gives a televised ‘message’ and that message has been a part of my Christmas tradition all of my life. Canada does have a Prime Minister, who is the head of government, but our head of state is the Queen, represented day-by-day in Canada by “vice-regent”, the Governor-General.

The two of us have been paying avid attention this last week especially, as the celebration of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee has been taking place here, and in England. We have been very conscious of the fact that we are living through the making of history. There have only been two diamond Jubilees for the British Crown, and both have been achieved Queen Regents. The other one, of course, was attained by Queen Victoria.

The Jubilee is the celebration of the Queen’s 60 years of service. Notice I said service, and not reign. The word ‘reign’ brings to mind images of power, opulence, self-indulgence—words that simply don’t fit our Queen at all. She is the embodiment of the word ‘service’.

Her Majesty has been known in the past to walk through the Palace in the evenings, turning off lights that don’t need to be on. She has put off renovations to the various properties and has ordered a scaling back of expenses for state dinners and balls (a lot of which she finances herself) to reflect the times. She could afford to spare no expense, but is sensitive that her people are going through difficult economic hardship. Ever frugal, she has been even more so in the last several years.

During the Second World War she trained as an ambulance driver and mechanic. When she turned 21, the then Princess Elizabeth gave a radio-address in which she pledged to dedicate her “whole life, be it long or short” to the service of her country, and the Commonwealth.

Over the years when I would hear different news commentators wondering aloud if the Queen would “retire”, I would shake my head because of course, she will never retire. She will be Queen for the whole of her life, period.

These special celebrations this past weekend are celebrations that will likely never occur again. The two next in line for the Crown—Prince Charles and then Prince William—will probably not attain 60 years on the throne, because they will be so much older at the time of their coronations than Elizabeth was.

And who knows what the future holds for the institution itself? At the moment, the Queen enjoys an 80 per cent approval rating. Yet the concept of having a King or Queen does seem to some people to be archaic. Monarchies can be considered institutions of the past.

In a hundred years, they may not even exist.

Old fashioned monarchies might be, but I can tell you that I, for one, have greater faith in Queen Elizabeth to put first the interests and well being of her people, than I do in our Prime Minister—or any elected politician, for that matter. There is not a single occasion that I can recall, where she has done anything that could be considered even the slightest bit self-aggrandizing.

Politicians by their very nature have extremely healthy egos. They seek office, and who among them does so for purely altruistic reasons? I cannot name a one.

Our Queen has been on the job without a vacation from her duties for 60 years. She has been there, through good times and bad times, ever dutiful, unwavering, and solid. At 86 years of age, she continues to inspire me.

God Save the Queen!


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