I would not consider myself to be a monarchist. In fact, I really have no patience for pomp and ceremony. I’m especially sickened by the huge expense put forth to hold events for people of royalty when so many others in the world are starving to do death and living in substandard conditions. That being said, however, I do have a certain nostalgia for Canada’s loyalist past. It is a huge part of our Canadian heritage which is difficult to ignore. Back in 1952, when Queen Elizabeth was crowned, she became the first British monarch to receive the title “Queen of Canada”. Even before that time, and especially since, Canada has been struggling with its independence from Britain. Surprisingly, the last entrance in our independence timeline was only 8 years ago, in 2004, when letters of credence from ambassadors were to be addressed to the Governor General and not to the Queen.¹ Legally, we want our independence, but emotionally, we can’t quite let go of the monarch.
I think the reason for the inability to let the monarch go is that it was ingrained in us since childhood to feel a loyalty to the crown. When I was a child in the 70’s we sang “God Save the Queen” in school as well as “O Canada” but “O Canada” was not officially adopted as our national anthem until 1980. My grandfather flew the Canadian Red Ensign on his flagpole in his backyard for as long as I can remember and never updated it to the Maple Leaf flag. Today, as it was since 1858 with the introduction of the Canadian dollar, all of Canada’s coin currency still has an imprint of the ruling monarch on it. The Governor General, the representative of the Queen in Canada, still has an official position and duties. The Royal Canadian Air Force and Royal Canadian Navy (recently returning to their original names from Canadian Forces Air Command and Maritime Command) clearly state their allegiance to “Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada”. These songs, symbols, memories, names, and titles take us back to yesteryear and appeal to our sentimentality.
Which actually brings me to my point. I hadn’t given a moment’s thought to the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee until my friend and my daughter’s Brownie leader, Karen, excitedly announced that she had managed to get Diamond Jubilee badges for all the girls in her Brownie group and that they were being sent all the way from England. That’s great, I thought, and then kind of forgot about it (sorry Karen). This past weekend, however, changed my apathy. My 7-year-old daughter attended her first ever Brownie camp. She was absolutely thrilled to be there and when she came home she told me about the weekend’s events. The first thing that she spoke of was learning to sing “God Save the Queen” and then she showed me her badges. Suddenly, when I saw the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee badge, I was struck with a massive load of nostalgia and a realization of significance of what Karen had done. Thanks to Agnes Baden-Powell, sister to Lord Baden-Powell, and Lady Baden-Powell, Girl Guides was started and grew rapidly in England and by 1910 reached Canada. Guides was, and is, a place for girls to learn and to grow and to accomplish. A goal of respecting one’s country and creating a better world is deeply ingrained in the Guides’ code. Knowing and understanding one’s history helps a person to move forward in such a positive fashion by giving them a secure foundation and a perspective on what needs to be fought for and preserved, as well as changed and improved.
Anna and I sang “God Save the Queen” at the tops of our lungs and I enjoyed every second of it. No, it didn’t propel me toward the tv in hopes of catching sight of the Queen on her Royal Barge, but it did give me a feeling of comfort and a rush of memories of childhood, my grandparents, and my country’s past. It also gave me a deeper connection to my daughter, in that she was going through her childhood and learning the things I learned. She is likely too young to appreciate the significance of the song or the badge but she saw its importance to me, and her Brownie leaders, and she was even more happy to have learned it. I really can’t wait to watch her mature in Guides and to experience what I can of it with her.
I will never be a monarchist but I do so love our topsy-turvy, eccentric Canadian past and I fully accept that the monarchy is a huge part of that past and present. So, here’s to you Elizabeth! Happy Diamond Jubilee! But more importantly, here’s to all of the women who are working hard to positively influence our children in an effort to improve our world. Cheers!