Queen Elizabeth II passed away on Sept. 8 at age 96. She was the longest-serving British monarch in history at 70 years, 214 days. For many people around the world, she was the only person who had ever sat on that throne in their lifetime.
Elizabeth either witnessed or participated in many important events that helped transform the United Kingdom.
Colonies in Africa and the Caribbean achieved independence. The 1982 Falkland Islands invasion was Britain’s last great naval victory. Her 2011 state visit to the Republic of Ireland was the first by a Royal Family member in a century. Canada was patriated and became a sovereign nation. And as former Canadian prime minister Brian Mulroney once said, she was a “behind the scenes force” in ending apartheid in South Africa.
When Elizabeth assumed the throne on Feb. 6, 1952, 32 sovereign states were part of the British Empire. Only 15 remained when she took her final breath.
Our country was one of them.
“Canadians have, by their own endeavours, built a country and society which is widely admired across the world,” she said in Halifax during her last trip to the Great White North in 2010. “I am fortunate to have been a witness to many of the developments and accomplishments of modern Canada.”
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She also made this interesting assessment. “As Queen of Canada for nearly six decades, my pride in this country remains undimmed. Thank you again for your welcome. It is very good to be home.”
It’s significant that Elizabeth used the word “home” to describe Canada. It was obviously written for the Queen by an aide or speechwriter, but it’s a term she would have had to approve – and could have easily eliminated before it was ever uttered.
Why did she use it? Author/historian John Fraser’s Sept. 9 interview with the CBC may have provided some clues. “Canada was the country she visited the most and clearly because it’s the one she could resonate most clearly her commitment to the Commonwealth.”
Indeed, the relationship between Elizabeth and Canada can be described as a strong, unwavering bond where respect, admiration and mutual understanding reigned supreme. There always seemed to be a sense of comfort when she arrived. A feeling like she was, as she poignantly said 12 years ago, “home.”
Elizabeth met many Canadian prime ministers on her 22 official visits. Photos with Louis St. Laurent, John Diefenbaker, Lester Pearson, Pierre Trudeau, Brian Mulroney, Jean Chretien, Paul Martin, Stephen Harper and Justin Trudeau can be found on the government’s official website. Her relations with all of them were positive, as well as with short-lived prime ministers like John Turner and Kim Campbell.
Who was her favourite PM? This remains a mystery, but some royal experts have their suspicions.
“I myself am pretty sure it was Pierre Trudeau,” Fraser wrote in a Sept. 9 Globe and Mail op-ed, “not particularly because there was almost the same age difference between the two of them as there was between Prince Philip and herself, but because in all the video clips and photographs of the two together, she seems more relaxed with him than any of the others.”
There are also interesting stories and personal memories about Elizabeth that have been revealed of late.
The little-known visit in 1970 to T. Roy and Nora Bailey’s farm in Carberry, Man. popped up this summer. There are photos of Elizabeth, Prince Philip and other members of the Royal Family sitting on lawn chairs and riding horses away from the cameras and limelight. “She sat in our backyard having coffee and cake and just chatting,” the Baileys’ son, Brian, told Global News’s Marney Blunt on June 2. “She and my mom chatted about family things; it was just like having the relatives in for coffee.”
Michael Jackson, the former Chief of Protocol for Saskatchewan, discussed the Queen’s 2005 visit to witness the unveiling of a statue on her favourite horse, Burmese, in front of the legislative building in Regina. “That meant a lot to the Queen because Burmese was the horse that she most preferred to ride for Trooping the Colour and in ceremonies in London,” he told Meadow Lake Now’s Teena Monteleone on Sept. 8. “Burmese was a gift from the RCMP and she rode it until Burmese retired and she kept it at Windsor Castle until it died.”
There’s also Salman Gul, a British ex-pat living in Windsor, Ont., who was apparently “a foot away from her” during her first visit to a mosque in the UK. “The Muslims of Scunthorpe feel a very close sentiment with the Queen,” he told CBC News’s TJ Dihr on Sept. 8, and “I feel like I’ve lost a family member in a sense.”
Well said. That’s how many of us felt when Elizabeth died. Irrespective of our different views on the British monarchy, she’ll always be remembered fondly as an important part of the Canadian family.
Rest in peace, Your Majesty – and thank you for everything.
Michael Taube, a Troy Media syndicated columnist and Washington Times contributor, was a speechwriter for former prime minister Stephen Harper. He holds a master’s degree in comparative politics from the London School of Economics.
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