During a chat with a female friend a couple of weeks ago, I was asked whether or not I would be watching the “royal wedding.” Not realizing it was a particularly important event, I paused before answering, baffled at being asked the question in the first place. In fact, the question had arisen out of the proverbial blue as we had been discussing the upcoming federal election on May 2. Perhaps she was becoming increasingly bored by the topic and considered a change in subject necessary.
After my initial pause, I looked at her and asked in blissful ignorance, “When is it?”
“Five o’clock in the morning on April 29,” she enthused.
“What! Five o’clock in the morning?”
Now, I have arisen at that ungodly hour in the past to watch Olympic events and international hockey, but this wasn’t some sporting event that Canadians hold dear to their heart. It’s just a royal wedding, I thought, and I didn't consider Prince William marrying some English gal particularly earth-shattering or in the same class as Canada winning the world hockey championship.
Before I could reply to the latest round of information, my mind began to wander, and I recalled an amusing scene from 1975’s Monty Python and the Holy Grail. A mischievous smile stole across my face as I recalled King Arthur coming upon two peasants working in a field slopping muck into baskets.
In the movie featuring cast members from Monty Python’s Flying Circus, Arthur orders a peasant woman to be quiet. She objected, saying, “Order, eh, oo does ’e think ’e is?”
Arthur proclaimed himself to be her king.
“Well I didn’t vote for you!”
To which Arthur replied that people don’t vote for kings.
“Well ’ow’d you become king then?”
“The Lady of the Lake — her arm clad in the purest simmering samite, held aloft Excalibur from the bosom of the water, signifying by divine providence that I, Arthur, was to carry Excalibur. That is why I am your king!”
Standing nearby and overhearing the conversation, Dennis the Peasant, laughing, interrupted: “Listen. Strange women lying in ponds distributing swords is no basis for a system of government! Supreme executive power derives from a mandate from the masses, not from some farcical aquatic ceremony!”
Of course, to paraphrase an expression attributed to Queen Victoria, Arthur was not amused. Peeved by this outburst, Arthur yelled for Dennis to be quiet.
“You can’t expect to wield supreme executive power just ’cause some watery tart threw a sword at you,” continued the peasant.
Perplexed and having no ready reply, Arthur continued to shout for Dennis to hold his tongue, but the peasant was nonplussed and continued his objections to the king’s assumption of power.
“I mean, if I went 'round, saying I was an emperor, just because some moistened bink had lobbed a scimitar at me, they’d put me away!”
When Arthur grabbed Dennis and shook him, ordering the peasant to shut up, Dennis shouted out: “Oh! Come and see the violence inherent in the system! Help, help, I’m being repressed!”
How does Arthur react?
“Bloody Peasant!” he said in royal
No wonder I was giggling, which evoked a puzzled expression from my friend’s face.
“What was the question, again?” I asked her.
“Are you going to watch the Royal Wedding?”
“No, probably not,” I replied.
She expressed her surprise, and then confirmed she would be getting up in the wee hours of the morning to view the royal nuptials on television.
Soon we were again off topic.
Suffice it to say, I did not get up to watch William and Kate tie the knot. I’m sure they made a great couple: she in her $50,000 gown and he clad in some garishly-ornamented military tonic — think of the very model of a modern English general as found in a Gilbert and Sullivan operetta — with the couple arriving and departing in a horse-drawn carriage with the royal crest emblazoned on its side, suitable to the pageantry, pomp and circumstances of the occasion.
Similar to the majority of Canadians, I hardly think about the British monarchy or their shenanigans. That’s fodder for the British tabloids and royal watchers.
Maybe, if I had received an invitation to the wedding, I would have paid more attention. But I didn’t get invited, so I typically tuned out the hullabaloo that unavoidably turned up on newscasts.
For that matter, our own prime minister did receive an invitation and he didn’t go. Of course, he had a valid excuse — the federal election campaign.
I’m also sure many Canadians were transfixed by the news of the royal nuptials and did watch the ceremony. On the other hand, I’m equally sure most Canadians couldn’t have cared less.
Just before the wedding, a CBC article about postings on its Facebook page found that people were becoming tired of the news coverage of Prince Williams’ and “commoner” Kate Middleton's impending marriage vows.
“Don’t care, don’t care, don’t care!” expressed one Facebook member. “We have an election in this country that is far more important to Canadians’ future than this bread and circuses ephemerality.”
Actually, more Americans, who ousted the British monarchy in a revolution over 200 years ago, are more prone to fits of swooning royal nostalgia than Canadians.
Canadians are rather wishy-washy about the British monarchy, but not as downright nasty to royal visitors as Australians, who take great delight in mooning the Queen whenever she journeys to the Land Down Under. In the grand scheme of things, Canadians remain polite, recognizing that the monarchy is a fact of life, since Queen Elizabeth II is the sovereign of our nation, and by the terms of the Canadian Constitution the head of our government.
We may not think about the Queen a heck of a lot, but our prime minister symbolically receives his power to govern through the consent of the British monarch of the day. Of course, we’re a parliamentary democracy, so the Queen is a considered merely a figurehead — as is her representative in Canada, the governor general — and as such, she doesn’t interfere in how our nation is governed.
For all intents and purposes, the monarchy is a quaint anachronism that is tolerated in Canada as long as the royals and their shenanigans remain confined to Buckingham Castle across the Atlantic Ocean. After all, we peasants didn’t vote for them.