Friday, July 1, 2011

Canada Day and the monarchy

    Today is Canada Day. The celebrations of the 144th birthday of this country are taking place everywhere--from St. John's to Victoria and all points in between.
    The highlight of these celebrations, no doubt, are in Ottawa, where the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are in town to grace the event. Three hundred thousand spectators assembled on Parliament Hill--some started arriving at 3 am--to witness the royal couple, who arrived in Canada yesterday.
    Will and Kate are arguably the most well-known couple in the world. Their wedding two months ago attracted a world-wide audience. They have attracted huge crowds already here in Canada, and will attract even more in the days to come.
    They are scheduled to visit four provinces and one territory before they leave next week to visit California. That they are extremely popular goes without question.
    But will they be able to save the monarchy? That is the real question that we should ask ourselves on this Canada Day.
    The Queen of Canada lives in Buckingham Palace, in far away London, England. But she is represented in Canada by the Governor-General, a Canadian, who is nominated by the Prime Minister of Canada, but appointed by the Queen.
    Queen Elizabeth has always been very popular throughout her realm. Unfortunately, her oldest son, Prince Charles has not been very popular, especially after his affair with Camilla, which started while Diana, Will's mother, was still alive.
    Will is next in line for the throne, after Charles. If it depended on Charles, the monarchy would end very soon. Will and Kate may ultimately be able to breathe some new life into this ancient institution, but that may not be enough to save it in the long run.
    In Canada, a recent poll indicates that only 33% want to retain the monarchy. The Monarchist League of Canada is a largely graying organization, although it does have a youth wing. I have no idea how large that wing is, but I doubt that there are many young monarchists.
    The younger generation will ultimately determine the fate of the monarchy, whether in England, Canada, Australia, or elsewhere. If they see no value in retaining this institution, it will fade away, much like the smile of the Cheshire cat. There are few signs that they are interested in the monarchy.
   Hence the visit of Will and Kate. If this young couple cannot capture the hearts of their own generation, it is curtains for the monarchy. Although they are trying to reform the monarchy as well as rebrand it, their attempt may come too late, especially if Charles becomes king for awhile.
   In Australia, a referendum on becoming a republic was narrowly defeated, but the current Australian prime minister is in favor of a republic. New Zealand would quickly follow in ditching the monarchy.
   In Canada, the popularity of Will and Kate may be attributed more to their newfound celebrity status than to any residual love that Canadians have for the monarchy. Will and Kate may one day rule Canada as part of their domains, but not everyone in Canada will rejoice.
   Not even the proposal that Prince Harry becomes the King of Canada (while Will would rule the rest of the realm) has much chance of flying.
   Constitutionally, it will be difficult for Canada to sever its ties with the monarchy. However, unlike England, where the Queen Elizabeth is the head of the Church of England, she plays no religious role in Canada. Thus that is one less problem.
   I am not a monarchist, and I certainly have little love for the British monarchy. If anything, I have a greater appreciation for the Dutch monarchy, since I have dual citizenship. While living in Moscow, I was introduced to Queen Beatrix and the heir to the Dutch throne.
   I am willing to reconsider the question, especially if there is a significant surge for retaining the monarchy by the time that the royal tour of Canada is over. But I doubt that it will.

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