Thursday, June 30, 2011

Standing on guard for the monarchy

For a dedicated monarchist, a moment with the sovereign, as Keith Roy experienced last summer in Toronto, is never to be forgotten.

By Tom Hawthorn
Special to The Globe and Mail
June 30, 2011


The visit to Canada by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge leaves local members of the Monarchist League of Canada feeling royal flushed.

The westernmost province is not on the itinerary for the summertime tour by Prince William, a minor disappointment to those who help keep the British in British Columbia.

Instead, devoted royal watchers will follow by social media the cross-country journey from the green gables of Prince Edward Island to the dusty paddocks of the Calgary Stampede.

Keith Roy, a 29-year-old Vancouver realtor, has downloaded a mobile app for the royal tour issued by the Canadian heritage and official languages ministry. It provides a schedule, photographs and even virtual postcards.

Technology has made more visible the aristocratic progeny of a millennium-old institution. As well, the tabloid embarrassments of the late decade of the previous century have been overshadowed, at least for the time being, by the fairytale wedding earlier this year of William Windsor and Catherine Middleton.

“It’s a great time to be a monarchist,” Mr. Roy proclaimed.

He joined the Monarchist League as a student a decade ago, a fortuitous decision. His membership led to a summer internship in the office of the lieutenant governor of Ontario. He accompanied James Bartleman, a member of the Chippewas of Rama First Nation, on school visits, during which the Queen’s representative wore a buckskin jacket and carried a carved walking stick.

Mr Roy remembers schoolchildren being left googly-eyed by the pomp — the viceregal salute and the fluttering lieutenant-governor’s standard on the limousine.

He is not immune to such emotions of joy and wonder himself.

The Monarchist League knows some consider the monarchy an anachronism, harbour antipathy to the heir to the throne, regard the Royal Family as, in Mr. Roy’s words, “just a bunch of rich old Brits.” The league challenges any hint of republicanism, loyally defends the institution and Canada as a constitutional monarchy.

The tour by the Royal Highnesses will include seven official stops in four provinces and one territory over nine days. The cost? About six cents per Canadian.

To assuage disappointment over Will and Kate’s itinerary not including British Columbia, the league points out that this tour “will be but the first of many Canadian homecomings” for the couple. It seems inevitable that at some future date Victoria will play host to the great-great-great-great-grandson of the monarch after whom the capital city is named.

The first Royal visit to the province occurred in 1882, when the Governor General, the Marquess of Lorne, was accompanied by his wife, Princess Louise, a daughter of Queen Victoria. The first by a reigning sovereign took place in 1939 when George VI and Queen Elizabeth toured the province, during which the large park abutting Cambie Street in Vancouver was named in her honour. Their daughter, then a princess, now the Queen, attended a football game on the University of B.C. campus, as well as a lacrosse match in Vancouver on her inaugural visit in 1951.

A visit to an exposition in Vancouver in 1986 by Prince Charles and Diana, Princess of Wales led to the memorable tabloid headline: SEE EXPO AND DI. Elsewhere in the city, a graffito offered the unkind sentiment, “Up Chuck and Di.”

The local branches of the Monarchist League have been active in recent years in ensuring the Queen’s portrait not be removed from public places, most notably from BC Ferries. It was learned that her image had been removed from seven ferries during retrofitting and renovations. BC Ferries said it was no longer a Crown corporation; the Monarchist League insisted the ferry routes were part of the provincial highway system and thus owned by the Crown. The photographic portraits soon returned following a public outcry.

Mr. Roy has met and had conversations with Prince Charles, Prince Andrew, Prince Edward, and Prince Michael of Kent. He regards himself as a seasoned veteran of royal encounters.

Still, he found himself nearly speechless when he first spotted the shimmering diamonds of the Queen’s tiara while on a receiving line at the Royal York Hotel in Toronto last summer.

After an aide-de-camp read aloud his name in introduction, he bowed and lightly held the Queen’s gloved hand.

“Welcome home,” he said.

Will and Kate travel on British passports issued in the Queen’s name. The Queen does not carry a passport. As Mr. Roy well knows, she is Queen of Canada.

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