This week, I wrote an online column about my disdain for the Royals. My arguments were serious – I do believe that the $50-million or so that we spend annually on visits and Lieutenant-Governors would be better put toward purely Canadian governance – but my tone was lighthearted. The handsome Duke of Cambridge, his chestnut-haired Duchess and their imminent progeny are the new royal mascots, I argued. Their job is to paint an endearing picture of a lovable clan worthy of its genetic lottery winnings.
Comments on the Globe site and social media came fast and furious. Many told me it was time to forget sins committed by previous generations. I don’t buy the modernity angle, and a recent photo of Will and Kate being carried on a palanquin by half-naked, dark-skinned Pacific Islanders proves that The Firm is just the same old, same old. A disappointing number of people opined that immigrants don’t have a right to viewpoints on Canada, but a healthy contingent of self-identified Anglo-Canadians jumped in to denounce racist directives that I go back where I came from (which would be Toronto Grace Hospital, FYI).
I learned, through Twitter, that constitutional monarchies including those of Canada, Denmark and Japan dominate UN quality-of-life rankings, which is fascinating fodder for a debate on cause and effect. There were e-mails from supportive republicans, and a terrifically funny tweet reading, “I like the royals for the exact reason you dislike them; I like having someone to serve as an icon for historical blood-guilt.”
Frustratingly, the cost of constitutional wrangling was the most common argument against pursuing a Canadian head of state. This makes financial sense, but it is democratically depressing. As Canadian demographics continue to evolve, it’s essential that leadership reflect the populace – yet the monarchy remains mired in an irrelevant debate on whether to open their membership ranks to Catholics.
It’s said that the victor writes history, but as time marches on, multiple versions of a story tend to sneak out (witness celebrity chef Paula Deen, recently surprised to learn that her idea of a clever wedding theme, the antebellum American South, is widely regarded as grotesque nostalgia for slavery). My own unyielding belief – that the Royal Family symbolizes the prejudice and violence with which the British Empire treated its colonial subjects – is only one way of looking at the past. It’s easy to make a place for varying opinions in print, but difficult to resolve those differences when it’s the governance of a country that’s at stake.