My computer is back with a new motherboard and greatly increased ram. This means that I again have access to my blog roll, but also proper procession speed. I have been struggling with computer memory problems for several months. I also have live writer back.
I have been following the visit of William and Kate to Canada via the Globe and Mail. I enjoy a good spectacle, and that's certainly been provided. I am not sure who dreamed up the idea of the Prince doing some search and rescue helicopter training in public, but it provided spectacular visuals. However, I am also interested in the Canadian response.
Canada has its own republican movement. Historian Christopher Moore wrote on his blog:
Canada's Canada Day got hi-jacked by some charming and photogenic foreigners this year (but some of us got to ignore most of it at someone else's place by the lake).
While Canada does have a republican movement, Canadian responses to the monarchy are far more complex and indeed nationally important than their Australian equivalents. Canadian history is far longer and more complex than that of Australia, there is no Australian equivalent to Quebec, nor to the looming presence in Canada of the United States. Next year marks the two hundredth anniversary of the start of the War of 1812 when US troops attempted to seize the British North American colonies.
While William was warmly welcomed in Australia and New Zealand to the sometimes despair of republicans, the trip was relatively straightforward. Not so this visit in Canada because of its complexity. If we just take Quebec, the French Canadian reaction to the Royal Family over time has varied from highly negative (symbol of an oppressive power) to very positive (bulwark against oppression by the English speaking majority) to highly negative with the rise of the Quebec separatist movement. At the risk of gross simplification, in French speaking Canada those supporting independence are strongly republican, those supporting the maintenance of the Federation far more likely to be supporters of a constitutional monarchy.
Australians are pretty myopic. In all the discussions around the question of an Australian republic, there is little recognition of just what a strange and unique institution the British monarchy is.
The Queen is constitutional head of sixteen sovereign states plus the Commonwealth. She is also a the former sovereign, or the descendant of former sovereigns, of something like 120 countries including the United States. She has to manage not just her relationship with the British Government and the constituent nations of the United Kingdom, but all the other relationships. The potential for conflict is enormous.
The business of the Firm is, in a sense, national and international ceremony carried out by people born to the role and then trained from birth. If you look at the succession problems that arise in family businesses, you get a feel for both the complexity and success of the Royals.
This is not an argument for or against monarchy, rather a reflection on process and history.
In planning the trip to Canada, the Palace had to consider its own objectives, the monarchy's role, the views of the British and especially Canadian Governments and local conditions.
I have no idea what discussions took place among the family. I imagine that the core issue from a Palace perspective beyond the safety of William and Kate centred on the Queen's role as Queen of Canada, taking advice from the Canadian Government into account. This was a very carefully crafted tour designed not just to support the role of the monarchy but, and more importantly, the maintenance of Canadian unity.
William's reference to the Queen as Queen of Canada, a reference that drew cheers, Kate's wearing Canadian symbols and Canadian designer cloths, were not just designed to reinforce the position of the monarchy but the very concept of Canada itself.
You can see why some Quebec nationalists don't like the monarchy because the visit of itself reinforced the concept of Canada as Canada. In choosing to set up the monarchy as a symbol of traditional oppression, they have also set up the monarchy as a symbol of unity. They would have been better off either ignoring the monarchy or even opting for a constitutional monarchy themselves. Had they done so, they could have taken the monarchy out of the equation as a national unifying symbol working against their interests.
All very interesting, at least to me!