Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
Case for the Queen amiable slice of Jubilee cake
THE Queen's no dummy. When she realized the age of deference had passed, she changed with the times.
In this extended essay, which moves back and forth between a tone of pleasant debate to cajoling anecdote, journalist, author, academic and now the master of the University of Toronto's Massey College, John Fraser, attempts to convince Canadians that constitutional monarchy is still important.
Fraser says he has been a closet monarchist for years, but it took a debate with historian Michael Bliss to make him realize he needed to take a more thoughtful look at the issue. The Secret of the Crown is the heartfelt result.
He says his goal is "to show that we are part of a lucky continuum that gives definition and continuity to our beloved country and puts us in a very special historical pathway that has protected us constitutionally over such a long period of time."
The "secret" in the title is that our government has been steadily pushing the crown -- its visual and audible references -- out of our consciousness for decades. This is called progress and a sign of maturity. Not so, says Fraser. Do we have to forget our past to have a future?
What sort of maturity does that suggest?
As Australia learned in its attempt to become a republic, the voters did not want to give their prime minister more power by dismissing the Queen's representative, the governor general.
As for Canada, does anyone believe this is an issue that trumps the myriad of serious questions facing us? Indeed, the unanimity it would take to change our system is as unlikely as Toronto winning the Stanley Cup.
Besides if it wasn't for the British crown, would Quebec (having always been connected to a crown) still have its religious and language rights?
Fraser makes the case that we have been well-served by our governors general as well as by our lieutenant-governors. Canadian office-holders have included ethnic minorities and served as a voice outside the hurly burly of politics.
Answering the often-stated wish that the institution would pack its crown and go after the Queen dies, he makes a case for a misunderstood Charles and his loose cannon of a father, Prince Philip.
Admitting that the toe sucking and influence peddling of the lesser royals is a travesty, he refuses to give ground on the sense of duty the position calls for, as stated by the young Elizabeth: "I declare before you that my whole life, be it long or short, shall be devoted to your service."
The recent marriage and visit by Will and Kate strengthens his case. But only time will tell if celebrity watching will be rewarded by steadfastness and good works from the dynamic duo.
Finally, for those who look to the United States as a model, Fraser cleverly points out the status of the American president most closely resembles that of George III in terms of his power and distance from the people. A strange reversal indeed having tossed the tea into the Boston harbour.
As to a plea for mystical connections, never a strong argument to citizens who are too busy hewing wood and drawing water five days a week, Fraser saves his poetry until the last few pages, adding icing to an amiable slice of Diamond Jubilee cake.
Ron Robinson is a Winnipeg broadcaster whose father spoke to the Queen Mum from his wartime hospital bed. His temperature rose to 104.
Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 12, 2012 J8
(1 of 23 articles for this week)