Sandra Shamas is a comedian and writer. Her one-woman show My Boyfriend’s Back and There’s Gonna Be Laundry spawned two further plays and, published, was shortlisted for a Governor-General’s Literary Award. Her Wit’s End performances also spawned a trilogy. She will be performing at the Toronto Storytelling Festival March 21-24.
Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands has said she will abdicate on April 30 to make way for her eldest son, Willem-Alexander, to assume the throne. Her mother and grandmother also had abdicated. Should our monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, do likewise?
I think they’re a very practical people …
The Dutch! The Royals are not practical people. I think they recognize that things have a beginning, a middle and an end. Obviously, [Beatrix] is following the very reasonable path that her predecessor had.
Queen Elizabeth is 87 next month. It’s always presumed that British monarchs should reign until they die. Should she?
I’m hard-pressed to say what a queen should do. I don’t think Charles is actually chaffing at the bit to become king. They’re staying the course. Everything around them is changing so dramatically, I mean the whole terrain of everything is changing. The monarchy is held by rules that are ancient, but they live in the modern day and I don’t imagine that conflict is very easy to live with.
The Dutch have a tradition of abdication. Should Queen Elizabeth simply hold to tradition for tradition’s sake?
Well, they don’t deal well with change.
There was a recent change. The next in line of succession is no longer automatically the first-born son. It’s now the first-born child. It can be a girl.
Wow, that’s huge! Then they’re good for another 500 years!
The Queen celebrated her Diamond Jubilee last year. She’s reigned for 61 years. Is that enough?
Prince Charles has said: It’s not a job, it’s a duty. A duty they perform. Obsolescence rarely comes into the duty category. You might become obsolete as a clockmaker, but you’re probably not becoming obsolete as a Queen, given that she’s not doing a whole lot other than just being something.
She has a maternal instinct – and this is me imagining – a maternal instinct toward her duty. She’s part of an institution. She’s in it for the long haul. She’s been in it for 60 years. I don’t think she’s bucking for another 60.
Has she done a good job?
I barely know what her job is, so I couldn’t tell you.
One of her jobs is to be on our money.
She does a great job of being on our money. She’s excellent on money.
I wish her only the best. As a human being, I’m thrilled she’s alive. But it’s hard for me to say what she does for me particularly, or what she does for our country particularly.
She’s the only Queen you’d have known. Will you look back fondly on her reign once she’s gone, whether to abdication or to death?
She’s the only Queen I’ve known. I was born shortly after her succession. Generally when people have lived a very long time and have lived a very good life, I just cheer. I go, “Good on ya! Well done!”
I’m trying to imagine my day-to-day activities if suddenly I was thrust into [monarchy]. I couldn’t leave the house without a motorcade. So maybe it would be a refreshing change for her to just step down and go up to Balmoral, where she loves to hang out with her corgis and smoke cigarettes.
If she were to step down, there’ve been suggestions that succession should skip a generation and rest on William, bypassing Charles altogether. Would you be in agreement with that?
I like Charles. I think he’s got his heart in the right place.
Obviously, a big change is coming. I think probably Charles is the first of the Royal Family to cast his interests into everyday life. He’s got an organic farm, which I, of course, admire. He’s been the spearhead of introducing a lot of that into English [society] and into the world in general because of his position. He’s used it very, very well to bring about a consciousness of things that are becoming very important. So he’s a bit of a breezeway, if you will, between what the state monarchy – his Mum – and the next generation, which he sired.
So you think he’d make a good king and should just wait his turn?
Well, what’s he gonna do? Kick her out? … It’s not gonna happen!
He’s been raised by these rules. Imagine how much protocol these people have eaten in their lives. It’s beyond imagining. I’d flounder in a situation like that. It would be terrible.