Royalty in Canada, eh?
I love pomp and pageantry. My first memory of regal ceremony was watching the smoke rise out of the chimney at the Vatican as Pope John Paul I was elected – and then a month later when Pope John Paul II was elected. My next memory, the wedding of Charles and Diana, followed by the wedding of Andrew and Sarah. I also think this is why I love the Olympics so much, the ceremony, the march of nations, the national anthems during the medal ceremonies, the quiet still when the Olympic flag is brought down to close the games and the flame is extinguished.
So what does this have to do with Canada? They’re a Commonwealth of the United Kingdom. Their sovereign? The Queen of Canada, we know her more commonly as Elizabeth II, the Queen of England. Since I’m so fascinated with ceremony, I find this connection really cool. We don’t often link Canada with royalty. I’m pretty sure we Americans only link Canada with hockey (bow when you say that) and well-known comedic actors.
The reason we don’t get a sense of majesty from our northern neighbors, is because they’ve tried to do a good job of distancing themselves from the role as a dominion of the Queen. And they’ve been succesful.
However, on October 1, 2010, they get to put their arms around one aspect of their royal heritage. Today is the installation ceremony of the Governor-General of Canada, David Johnston. Essentially the governor-general is the representative of the Queen to the people of Canada and carries out most of the Queen’s constitutional and ceremonial duties. The governor-general is appointed directly by the Queen on advice of the Prime Minister of Canada. Governor-General Johnston succeeds the wildly popular Michaëlle Jean at the completion of her five-year term, the standard term for a governor-general.
Canada is not alone in it’s designation as a commonwealth of the Royal Crown, there are actually 54 members of the Commonwealth of Nations (all but two were originally members of the British Empire), the four largest being India, the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia. The Commonwealth Nations draw their federal authority directly from the Crown, while remaining free and independent nation states. While this may seem a ridiculous concept to us Americans, I can’t help but be thoroughly entertained and enamoured with the manner in which royalty fuels nations, be it ever so subtly.
Seriously, what do we have in America? The Kennedy’s? No thanks.
Come to think of it, the last cool ceremony I saw in the U.S. was the presentation of Lord Stanley’s Cup to the Chicago Blackhawks on the Philadelphia Flyers home ice at the end of the NHL playoffs. Once again, thanks Canada.
So should you ever get the urge to get a little royalty in your life, and you don’t want to pop for a flight to London or wait two years for the next Olympics, feel free to stop by Rideau Hall in Ottawa and soak up some royal proxy.
[P.S.: I am a huge Canadaphile. Some of my paternal family emigrated from France to Quebec in the early 1900’s, my great-grandmother moved down to New Jersey, while her sister’s stayed in Montreal. My maternal great-grandmother was born in Halifax, Nova Scotia. I have two notable Canadian cousins, Pierre Vennat and Michel Vennat. Sadly, I’ve only been to Canada four times, as a baby, a week in Labelle visiting family when I was 13-years-old, 30 minutes in New Brunswick while vacationing in Maine, and camping in Niagara Falls on my honeymoon. I should really do something about that. Maybe I’ll pop up the next time they have a governor-general installation.]
- New governor-general plans ‘highly symbolic’ swearing in (theglobeandmail.com)
- New governor general takes office Friday (canada.com)
- Queen’s visit to Canada a royal success story (telegraph.co.uk)
- A Governor-General who delivered (fullcomment.nationalpost.com)