Skip to main content

The Globe and Mail

O Canada, you retain the modesty so wrongly associated with my name

My dear subjects, the people of Canada,

As you gather to celebrate my birthday with your annual festival of roasted meats and fermented grain, I must bestow my gratitude for all that you have given me. Tearooms that bear the name Victoria, boulevards and public houses, cities as restful as the grave. But the gift most closely associated with my name may be your unending sense of moral indignation.

When I heard the great roar of discord rising from your amiable capital, I thought perhaps that your southern neighbour (and our erstwhile colony) had seen fit to invade once again. But no! The furor emanated from an exposition at Ottawa's Science and Technology Museum, an exposition that is devoted to the education of young people in intimate matters. (While I speak of your capital, I feel I must address a grievous misapprehension of long standing. Your Queen did not choose Canada's seat of power by sticking a pin into a map. Nonsense. It was an oyster fork.)

Story continues below advertisement

This spectacle of pleasure-engines is called "Sex: A Tell-All Exhibition" and Mr. Barnum himself could not have devised a more powerful magnet for attracting libertines of all ages. I was given to understand that the images contained in this exhibition were exceedingly lewd, such as would raise a blush in the cheek of the coarsest strumpet. Certainly they would be worse than anything young people might see on the picture-boxes they keep in their pockets, from which they refuse to be parted.

Perusing the museum's program, I discovered not the depths of depravity but something more akin to an apothecary's shop. There are instructions for the prevention of disease, automata that respond to caresses, games for learning how to woo the object of your desire. My dear people, I've seen more carnal displays in the boxes at the Royal Opera House. It seems unlikely that a young person bent on amorous pursuits will find his passion enflamed by the dank corridors of the Canada Science and Technology Museum.

The ministers of your government deemed the exhibition insulting, an offence to the common man. Your Queen is perhaps less easily shocked. You will recall that my dear Albert and I were blessed with nine children, and not one of them did I find under a cabbage leaf in the gardens of Balmoral. If you look at the pictures in my gallery, you would find nymphs in various stages of deshabille. My husband does not necessarily approve; his tastes are more German.

When my beloved consort comes to mind, I think not only of his well-turned calf and flashing eye, but also his devotion to public education. Here, in the Science Museum we founded in a pretty corner of London, you will find a collection of items that would raise a riot in Ottawa: There are préservatifs, favoured among our Continental cousins, which my maid reliably tells me are called "French letters"; a fearsome metal codpiece for the prevention of self-abuse; and a selection of instruments, which, when placed against the female body, resonate in such a way as to relieve the symptoms of hysteria and induce a wild euphoria. I have been meaning to try one, in the interest of scientific enquiry.

And yet this display has caused no outcry. O Canada, how endearing it is that you retain the modesty so closely, if wrongly, associated with my name. I am informed that there is a portrait of your Prime Minister hanging in a public reading hall in Kingston, Ont., in which he is seen unencumbered by the robes of state, or indeed robes of any description. He is, I understand, entirely as God made him, accompanied only by something called a "Tim Hortons coffee cup."

The custodians of the reading hall drape the offending portrait when children are present, and sometimes even remove the nude Prime Minister from the wall, but I am not sure this is necessary: The spirit of youth is resolute enough to withstand even such a blow to its constitution. Indeed, I once suggested that Mr. Disraeli pose for a portrait in a similar fashion, in the splendour of his physical person. Perhaps, I thought, it might be called Dionysus with Wine-jug. Alas! He declined my proposal, claiming he was required in the House to deliver Mr. Gladstone his daily dressing-down.

So, my good people, as you spend your day of freedom passing breaded pork dainties among loved ones, please remember this: The times aren't what they used to be. And that is the true reason to celebrate.

Story continues below advertisement

Affectionately, Victoria R

Report an error Licensing Options
About the Author
Columnist and Feature Writer

Elizabeth Renzetti has worked at The Globe and Mail as a columnist, reporter, and editor of the Books and Review sections. From 2003 to 2012, she was a member of the Globe's London-based European bureau. Her Saturday column is published on page A2 of the news section, and her features appear regularly in Focus. More

Comments are closed

We have closed comments on this story for legal reasons. For more information on our commenting policies and how our community-based moderation works, please read our Community Guidelines and our Terms and Conditions.