Monday, May 22, 2006


Her Majesty The Queen, F. Winterhalter, 1847

Today is the official celebration in Canada of the birthday of Queen Victoria (1819-1901). As the eponym of an occasion that has degenerated into a colloquial "May 2-4" rendering, it is worth remembering something of why this one monarch's birthday is celebrated above all others in Canada. As the sovereign of the British Empire at its apogee, Queen Victoria remains to this day the emblem of its greatest achievements and its confidence in the virtue of its endowments to the world. This confidence was exhibited in Queen Victoria's assent to the British North America Act of 1867 that granted a great measure of independence to one of its mature colonies (the passage of which, it should be noted, was also a political strategy to counter threats of expansionism from some quarters in the United States of America at the time). The British Empire imparted to the new nation the requisites of lasting freedom and success as a nation — its parliamentary democracy and associated legislative, executive and judicial traditions, a strong independent mettle and a mercantile spirit, the English enlightenment values of liberalism, and, perhaps most importantly, a tradition of restraint in the exercise of power through deference to enduring and abiding institutions that Queen Victoria herself represented in person. These bequeathments served to sustain and strengthen the young nation until well after World War II, even as it went through the construction of the CPR, the introduction of the income tax, and conscription in the First World War. To this day, those values that have not yet been abandoned continue to at least check the declines of our fortunes, as evidenced by comparison with too many other democracies. So by all means, take the occasion of Victoria Day to enjoy yourself, but remember to raise a glass to the memory of the fine old lady.


Brent Gilliard said...

"The best government is a benevolent tyranny tempered by an occasional assassination"?

This is the last place I would have expected to find monarch-worship.

Pietr said...

Good old Victoria;she did so much to make the monarchy popular again.
Just when we were headed for a republic.
For shame.

MapMaster said...

Ah, allow me to indulge myself in a little sentimentality, won't you? I was into my third Victoria Day beer at the time, after all.

No worship of monarchy or any other system of government here, just a wistfulness for an era in which institutions imbibed a sense of permanence that inhibited more arbitrary exercises in political power, and which the British monarchy represented more concretely and personally. Respect for those institutions did and feebly continue to serve Canada well as a whole and on the whole.

On the subject of monarchy and democracy, you might be interested in this piece.

Sorehead, were the British actually that close to instituting a republic? It must have been those damned Fabians!

Pietr said...

It was on the books for decades; Victoria was used as a pawn by the authorities to 'legitimise' the unwritten constitution, but by about 1905, Edward her son was on the throne, and the Liberals told him that if he didn't create a whole bunch of Liberal Peers(for the House of Lords) they would instigate a free vote on the Republican issue.
He caved.
The monarchy never looked back from this deal.

Maybe Charles III will put the boot in eh?
Stir things up?
Hell, he's got no family to protect; they killed his ex-wife and mother of his sons,and the Lords have been sidelined, so why not?

Publius said...


It was actually George V, Edward VII's son, who did the caving, though the crisis began under Edward. David Lloyd George, the "Liberal" Chancellor of the Exchequer introduced the notorious People's Budget in 1909, which was thrown out by the House of Lords, in violation of Parliamentary convention. This sparked a constitutional crisis which the Liberals used to blackmail the monarchy and the aristocracy into submission.

Interesting thoughts on the monarchy Mapmaster. Very interesting.

MapMaster said...

Your servant as always, Publius.

Pietr said...

Thanks Publius;as you can tell my history is unstudied, but more or less in the ballpark.
Yes.I guess the Monarchy was the figurehead for a mass popularity of virtuous and moral living;they only adhered to the figure head out of celebration of this rather than dim loyalty.
That this still echoes down the ages is proven by Map.
Trouble is, here in England, there is no respect left; the monarchy and the Royal Family are the 'My Little Pony' of girlish obsessives who read the Daily Mail.(When it isn't going on about dirty foreigners).