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Goodbye Your Majesty
The end of an Era
I took some time yesterday to reflect on the death of Queen Elizabeth II. Her reign was long and largely symbolic; the shadow fell over many Countries from around the world. The celebration of 70 years on the throne known as the Platinum Jubilee was a grand celebration in the United Kingdom but fell flat in Canada where our Federal Government seemed to take little interest. I learnt about the symbolism of the Monarchy in Grade School and the learning carried on well afterwards. Every few years there is a resurgence, as there is now, of the question of the need for a Monarch in our lives. A symbol, for ill or good, of a type of Governance abandoned by modern Western Culture. I do not claim to have an expert eye on this matter and I am no Monarchist so my views and analysis comes from the experiences I have had.
I used to have a coin in my possession, where it has gone in the many moves from house to house is unknown at this time but I know it’s in a box somewhere. I received it from my Grandfather’s estate when he passed. Of the few possessions turned over to me I obtained his RCAF pin, a photo of him and my grandmother (a nurse during the war) on base together, an old ration card, his cap badge and a RCAF bible. Finally I received a large coin that was terribly oxidized. I cleaned it up and took a picture and posted it online, wondering if I had obtained some timeless treasure. I was told that it was the Queen’s Coronation medallion, it held no value except as a keepsake and it was produced for the people as a commemorative item. I wondered why my grandfather would hold onto an object that held no real value for so long. I have come to realize that the Monarch, despite its largely symbolic nature, was a staple in my grandparents lives. It was a connection to an old way of Governance. It was a connection to wealth, custom and dignity for the common person. Like the idea of God, the British Monarch was just slightly above us. It was supposed to be an ideal to strive towards, being a good servant of the the Crown. While the American’s disposed of that ideal for individualism, Canada maintained a close tie to the Crown who still retain a prominent role in our lives.
The role of the Crown in Canada is more then symbolic. Many of our Institutions bear the heraldic symbolism of a Crown, our Currency bears the face of the Queen, our Governor General holds sacred democratic power and presides over the Honors and Awards system for both Military and Civilians and much more. The usage of the Crown in Canada provides the ability for our Governor General to promote Canada domestically and abroad. Many of our Military’s customs and traditions come from the British system. This symbolism is baked into our conscious mind through the Queen. We know her and her family, not really the Crown as an Institution and organization. In my opinion the Queen rose above her station, she really was a symbol and she took her role in society seriously. When she addressed the people, people listened to her, not simply because she was the Monarch but because her words held meaning. As we move into a post-modern existence, meaning in words and Institutions become more and more fleeting which is why I believe the Queen evokes such nostalgia in people who grew up learning about the Monarch and the Crown as symbols.
With the passing of the Queen, in my opinion, the Monarch as a symbol passes as well. She was the last long link to a time relegated to the history books now. Yes there are still WW2 Veterans and people from that era and they have stories to share with us but of the heads of state from that era she was the last. People have no doubt been celebrating both her life and her demise. In the months and years to come we will need to decide as a Canadian Society how we will move ahead and what role, if any, the Crown will play in it. No matter what path we choose as a society we must acknowledge the deep impact the Crown had on our lives and the era that shaped modernity. We must now decide what type of Era we will shape for the next generation and what they will think of us when it is our turn to pass the torch to them. How will they reflect back on our contributions.
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