Twelve days among us. One moment's transcendent connection with her Canadian realm. Much of the rest of the time, a mirror held up to the country showing us images of ourselves not always intended or desired. And a slight autumnal chill in her final words.
This was Queen Elizabeth II's Canadian Golden Jubilee tour. She leaves Ottawa for London today.
The Queen's presence in Canada, given the eternal division over whether the monarchy should be retained, is never without controversy and grumblings.
But John Manley's inopportune comment aside, this celebratory journey for her 50 years as head of state leaves a question about how much those who decided what she should do on her tour understood why she was here.
Over the past 35 years, she has come to Canada almost exclusively for Canadian reasons: the Centennial, the Olympics, the patriation of the Constitution, the 125th anniversary of Confederation, the 500th anniversary of the arrival of Cabot. Her presence this time was all about her. A celebration of her in the fabric of Canada. It was history.
Did we get that -- with the seemingly endless federal government meals for dignitaries, the all-alike displays of our multiculturalism and bilingualism, the indecipherable event arranged for her in Toronto, the pop-up presence of the B.C. Premier? Sometimes yes, a lot of the time no.
When she daintily bent over to drop a puck at an NHL game -- a British reporter said she looked like she was feeding a biscuit to one of her corgis -- she achieved perhaps the most brilliant melding of symbolism in Canadian history.
The Jumbotron in Vancouver's GM Place said it all, flashing the Queen's golden EIIR cypher on the giant screen atop the beer advertisement: "I am Canadian." The crowd went hysterical. A B.C. protocol officer mused afterward: "Why did it take us 50 years to get her to do something like that?"
Indeed, why? That event celebrated Elizabeth in the fabric of Canada. As did the images of her sitting in the royal box beside Wayne Gretzky, chin cupped in her hand and head tilted toward him, drinking in everything he had to say about our national habit, looking (there's no other word) coquettish. A woman can't get much more Canadian than that.
The tour began charmingly in Iqaluit on Oct. 4 and unquestionably built impact across the down-to-Earth West.
The programs planned for her in British Columbia and Manitoba were, the hockey game aside, unimaginative but publicly accessible -- and rather too accessible for B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell, who appeared 21 times on the royal itinerary.
So her boat stalled in the middle of the Red River in Winnipeg? That was charming, too, although the Queen omitted mention of her time in Winnipeg when she spoke at Sunday's Ottawa state dinner about the highlights of her trip.
And then the tour hit Ontario and showed something to the country that wasn't planned: Ontarians weren't that interested in turning out to see her, not in Toronto, not in the nation's capital.
The schedule was blamed in Toronto: She arrived late in the afternoon on a weekday; the Ontario government was given only an hour of her time that night. The weather and the holiday were blamed in Ottawa. Yet 35,000 people turned out on a cold midweek night to see her in Winnipeg.
The more plausible explanation is Central Canadian blaséness and, in Toronto's case, the fact that the one public opportunity to see her, the provincial government's puzzling Festival Ontario, escaped easy comprehension beyond its resemblance to a trade show.
What also was a factor was that the 76-year-old Queen is slightly but unmistakably slowing her pace. She did fewer engagements than on previous tours, two a day rather than three or four. And while, up close, she appears robustly healthy, no wrinkles and a glow to her skin, British journalists who follow her all the time said she appeared tired toward the end of the trip.
That's, if you like, the down side.
The Queen's Jubilee tour was likely more widely and extensively televised than any of her previous 21 visits, in both French and English.
The faces of the Canadians who did turn out to see her mirrored the face of the country: all ages, all colours. It wasn't crowds of elderly WASPs -- and the farther the Queen was from Ottawa, the bigger the crowds, which may be a statement in itself.
The themes of her visit were the trinity of Canadian values: democracy, diversity, inclusivity, and, in the North and West, an unmistakable leitmotif of her Canadianness in her speeches and the speeches of politicians. She spoke of "my bond with Canadians." She began sentences, "As your Queen . . . as Queen of Canada."
Governor-General Adrienne Clarkson's lunch for her yesterday -- to which were invited 50 Canadians who achieved something notable in each year of her reign -- was insightful, a careful celebration of the Queen and Canada together. As for her final speech of the tour at the Ottawa state dinner, her remark about "wherever the future may take us together" was curious and poignant for a farewell. Maybe she wonders whether the monarchy will always be here. Maybe the line was written in by the Prime Minister's Office. The Queen's press secretary said she didn't know its origin.
In any event, she'll be back in 2005.