Thursday, 21 April 2016

The Queen's Birthday

It is the Queen's 90th birthday, and as this is a blog written by a Canadian in Scotland, the queen I mean is obviously Elizabeth Alexandra Mary, Queen of the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Jamaica, Barbados, the Bahamas, Grenada, Papa New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Belize, Antigua and Barbuda, and Saint Kitts and Nevis.

As an amusing aside, as Canada is clearly still colonial, can the term "post-colonial" really be applied to her literature? The only way Canada has changed, really, is that instead of being a colony of the UK, she is clearly, albeit to a lesser extent, a colony of everywhere else. I suppose, however, no government outside Canada officially calls the shots--although one of our governor-generals is rumoured to have called the Queen in a panic, and a very good idea that would have been, too.

My mother is a monarchist, possibly because she began school in Coronation Year and so education and the Queen are linked in her mind. Because members of the Royal Family pop over to Canada to visits quite often, and because the popular press enjoys writing stories (and the public enjoys reading stories) about real-life princes and princesses, they are often presented to the Canadian mind.

However, this is nothing to the extent to which the Royal Family is presented to the British reading/ viewing public, i.e. every single day. Never mind the fact that the Queen is on all the coinage--she is in Canada, too--she is top news on the telly at least twice a year--Remembrance Sunday and the opening of Parliament, and then there are the various Royal weddings, births, visits to colourful lands, jubilees, etc., etc. Frankly I love it because it makes me feel right at home, here in the centre of hte Empire Commonwealth, sharing historically in all the Britishness, if not in the local accent.

Naturally there are various progressives who profess to hate all this and plot to bring about soviet socialist republics, but even they reportedly snuck away from ironic anti-royal wedding parties to watch Prince and Princess William on television. Ordinary Glaswegians, discovering that there was no official Royal Wedding party, spontaneously partied on their own. At the Scotmid supermarket in Edinburgh's Portobello, Scotswomen discussed with great disfavour the hats of Princesses Eugenie and Beatrice. ("Who told them they looked nice?" demanded one. "Their mother," said another with irony dipped in poison. Sadly Sarah, Duchess of York, has never been restored to public favour. Poor old Fergie. The divorce was a huge mistake, even if it did, er, save the marriage.) This was when the Scottish separatist movement was at its height and the Referendum loomed. 

But all the adventures of the younger Royals are mere spin-offs from the central drama of the Queen getting up every morning, having a cup of tea and reading her papers, which come in a special box, straight from Parliament. This is why, incidentally, a Canadian Governor-General telephoning the Queen when she or he is in a terrible fix re: parliamentary conundrums is such a good idea. Apparently, the Queen has spent her entire reign reading daily reports of what is going on in British parliament, and thus knows the British parliamentary system inside out and backwards, going back at least to 1953. Every week Parliament is in session she has a meeting with her Prime Minister to hear what is going on, which means that she has had the chance to pick the brains of all these chaps and the one Chapette

I don't think I knew this before I moved to the UK--or perhaps before I toured the Royal Yacht Britannia, the Queen's beloved ship which wicked Tony Blair took away from her, boo hiss. At any rate, my esteem for the Queen, which was mostly cultural to the point of instinctual, increased even more. At that point I thought all she did was sign what she was told to sign and visit what she was told to visit and be incredibly gracious to all and sundry, the prisoner of the modern, post-colonial age. 

Anyway, it is a terribly beautiful day for Scotland--sunny and warm, just like yesterday when B.A. and I went on a seven mile walk from South Queensferrry past Cramond, mostly along the clean white empty sandy beaches edging the Earl of Rosebery's  estate--so I think I shall stop blogging and go outside. I shall just say that like almost everybody else in the UK, I am quite happy that we have such a hard-working, respectable and personable Head of State. Apart from all the other considerations, the disappointments, etc., I was rather embarrassed when the Pope Emeritus abdicated because elements of the British Press were smug that despite her great age the QUEEN hasn't abdicated. Yes, yes, all right.

Update: On our walk from Cramond to the bus stop, the last leg of our hike, we passed a memorial stone dedicated to "Pet Marjorie", a rather startling literary heroine of the Georgian era, as she didn't live to see 9.


  1. I'm an American, and I hugely respect the Queen. She has done her duty to the very best of her ability, well past retirement age. My grandmother always said she was "too stiff," but I love that she is so respectable...we could use a little more of that respectability in the world.
    I am curious, though: I thought the Queen was pretty famous for not taking political stances. She doesn't vote. I thought she was pretty strictly a figurehead, patronizing charities and facilitating diplomatic relations but not much else. Why does she get the papers from Parliament each day? What purpose does that serve? (I'm sure I am showing very lamentable American ignorance; forgive me.)

  2. The Queen has the right to be informed and she also has the right to "advise and warn" ministers. She opens parliament and if anything serves as the "rock" of the government. PMs come and go - the Queen outlasts them.

  3. Sixty-four years of parliamentary briefings at the highest level! Just imagine how much she knows about contemporary British history from 1953! It's really exciting to think about.

  4. Thank you for that insight! And yes...I'd love to take a course on 20-21st century British history from her!

  5. God Save the Queen!