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Etienne Boisvert, a monarchist poses at his home in Sherbrooke, Que., on June 2, 2011. (Christinne Muschi/The Globe and Mail)
Etienne Boisvert, a monarchist poses at his home in Sherbrooke, Que., on June 2, 2011. (Christinne Muschi/The Globe and Mail)

Her Majesty

Dieu protège la reine, says young Quebecker Add to ...

He speaks French first, yet pledges unabashed allegiance to an English Queen. He's 22 years old but far more interested in constitutional monarchy than the celebrity appeal of Will and Kate.

His name is Étienne Boisvert, and he is the rarest of Quebec species - le monarchiste. He speaks of the monarchy with pride, eloquence and conviction, in French.

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In a province where the vast majority of francophones view the Royal Family with indifference, and a vocal minority treat it with outright hostility, Mr. Boisvert says the monarchy has been the great non-partisan, unifying force in the country. It is those monarchs, he says, who nurtured democracy and individual freedom in Canada, including the province of Quebec.

"We've come to see these things as Western values, but the concept of liberty and democracy are, at their origins and at our origins, fundamentally British," says Mr. Boisvert, just starting his pitch at his mom's kitchen table.

Mr. Boisvert's view is one almost never heard in French in Quebec these days. In fact, he was unable to name a second young francophone who publicly supports the Queen.

When spurred out of indifference, Quebeckers are more likely to identify with the view of Quebec National Assembly member Amir Khadir, who called the fresh faced newlywed royal couple, Prince William and Catherine, "parasites."

Mr. Boisvert plans to catch some of the upcoming tour by the couple in Ottawa because extreme nationalists and anti-monarchists "will turn the Montreal and Quebec City stops into a circus," he says. "There won't be any walkabout here."

So how did a young francophone from Sherbrooke become one of Queen Elizabeth's staunchest defenders? Mr. Boisvert's father, Luc, is a lieutenant-colonel in the Canadian Forces. Mr. Boisvert recalls being struck by military pomp as a young lad. But, he admits, his fealty to the Queen far surpassed that of his father a long time ago.

Mostly, Mr. Boisvert says, it's been study. He is completing a master's degree in political science at the University of Sherbrooke, and he's concluded our form of democracy is the best one. His master's thesis examines support for the monarchy in the United Kingdom.

"In a republic like the United States, objects like the flag and the constitution are held sacred. In our system, we make our rallying point human beings, the Royal Family, the Queen," Mr. Boisvert says.

"For 60 years, the Queen has been a model of devotion to duty. Would you prefer to pledge allegiance to a piece of fabric?"

At Mr. Boisvert's home, where he lives with his mother and sister, a portrait of Elizabeth II, Queen of Canada, is the first thing a visitor sees in the kitchen from the front door.

It's a statement on Mr. Boisvert's allegiance, but also a means of needling his apolitical mother. It is also meant to spark conversation, especially among friends who see the monarchy as an ancient vestige.

He ordered the photo from the government of Canada last year, and had it framed. His mother, Josée Drouin, initially made him take it down, saying she didn't want the Queen in her kitchen. Even once she started to get used to it, the picture came down when visitors came.

"She thought it made us seem eccentric," he says. "She finally came around. It was a long battle, but now she finds it nice."

Friends tease Mr. Boisvert that soon he will be walking around with a bowler and a pipe.

Emerging from her bedroom, his sister, Sara Boisvert, chimes in. "We support him. We don't understand him, but we support him," she says with a laugh.

Other than that photo of the Queen, Mr. Boisvert is not one for the trappings of Royal obsession. He has no vast array of Royal china. And while he rose at 4 a.m. to travel to Ottawa for the Queen's visit last year, getting within a few feet of her, the royal family's star quality is not what draws him.

Mr. Bosivert says the monarchy has managed to change with the times, starting with the Magna Carta 800 years ago up to recent years when Prince Charles admitted a "curious" institution like the monarchy can only survive if it listens to the people. Mr. Boisvert rattles off the entire quote by heart, one of his few full sentences in English in the interview.

"That statement is the foundation to me. The monarchy has survived 1,000 years because it adapts to the will of the people. If you and I sat down to invent a system of government, this probably wouldn't be it. But I can't think of a better one."

 

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