It looks like we’re stuck with Chuck III

And so we say goodbye – a very, very long goodbye – to Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God Queen of Canada and her other realms, Defender of the Faith, etc. Or just Liz to her friends.

By any measure, the 70-year reign of Queen Elizabeth II has been extraordinary. Seven decades on the job, under the unblinking eyes of the most intrusive media in the world, and yet she remained a mystery until the end. (I hope the Queen kept a daily diary that somehow becomes public. Historians would relish entries like ‘Mr. Churchill’s breath was appalling’.) The Queen managed somehow to never say anything controversial or interesting or thought-provoking in seven decades on the job. (Her most – only?– famous quote was her description of 1992 as being her “annus horribillus” , which is NOT what it sounds like.) What we know about QEII is pretty much relegated to the fact that she loved corgis and horses. Her job, if you could call it a job, was to represent Great Britain and the House of Windsor, and to never be seen outdoors without a hat. So, well done, ma’am.

Worldwide reaction has been as close to universal as we can expect in today’s partisan times. It seems that everybody everywhere loved, or at least admired, the Queen. (Her passing gave Justin Trudeau an opportunity to make use of his high school drama teacher training to give a stellar performance, finishing with a little sniff, a bowed head, and a slow, sad shuffle off the stage. Brilliant.) Every news anchor in the world has set up camp in London to report on the most significant death of the 21st century, and the upcoming most significant funeral of the 21st century.

The news value of this is nil – at last report, the Queen was still dead – but boy it makes for great TV. Her passing will give Great Britain (which is a burning, out-of-control dumpster fire right now) a chance to forget its troubles and do what it does best: gaudy, ornate, anachronistic, pointless pageantry. Oh, and wait in a 24-hour-long ‘queue’ to walk past her coffin.

The funeral will be a grand affair, with some 150 world leaders attending. Canada is sending a 15-person crew to the funeral, including the usual political types and past and present governors general. But also on the list is actress Sandra Oh, and a musician named Gregory Charles, who is apparently moderately well-known in Quebec. Only a cynic would suggest that Oh was invited because we needed an Asian face, and Charles because we needed a Black one. But I would never make such a suggestion.

Once the Queen is carried down her final red carpet and laid to rest on Monday, King Charles III will finally be given the keys to the kingdom. He’s been preparing for this moment since he was named heir to the throne 70 years ago, so he should have a pretty good idea of where everything is in Buckingham Palace. His first decision: what to do with all those damn corgis. (By the way, you will be comforted to know – and this is true – that the Queen’s bees have been informed of her passing.)

Chuck III has been labouring (if you can use the word ‘labouring’ in reference to anyone in the Royal Family) under the long shadow of his short mother for decades. While the Queen was resolutely opinion-free, Charles has been anything but. As recently as last November, he said in a speech that climate change is an “existential threat to the extent that we have to put ourselves on what might be called a war-like footing” and called on world governments to begin “radically transforming our current fossil fuel-based economy to one that is genuinely renewable”. But in his first speech as king, he admitted that the “charities and issues for which I care so deeply” will now be in the hands of others, because, after all, he’s just so darn busy as king. Translation: climate change will have to wait, there are ribbons to be cut! So, business as usual.

As a republican (no, not THAT Republican), I’ve been waiting for the day when Canada finally breaks the chains of our colonial past, and becomes a truly independent nation in the world. With academics telling us colonialism was so profoundly evil, shouldn’t we take this opportunity to wash our hands of the past? Hey, it’s easier than tearing down every statue of every old white guy. 

But it won’t happen. A shockingly silly editorial in the Globe and Mail this week actually said of the notion of dumping the monarchy: “Put such notions out of your mind. Do not go there. Forget about it.” I believe the majority of Canadians see the monarchy as an outdated, even ludicrous concept in 21st-century Canada. Polls show about 50% of Canadians want to dump the monarchy now that Charles is in charge, and 60% would like a referendum on the matter.

But changing the situation would be just so darned hard. I mean, whose face would we put on the $20? What are the chances we could come up with one person that everyone would agree on? Nah, just now worth it. Classic Canada.   

So, I guess we’re stuck with King Charles III. At the very least, we will have a new face on our money. That’s something … right?

By Maurice Tougas

Maurice Tougas is a lifelong Albertan, award-winning writer and reporter, and a former MLA for Edmonton-Meadowlark.

7 comments

  1. There’s no need to put the monarch’s face on any of our money. I suggest that Connor McDavid’s face go on the $20 bill and that Sidney Crosby’s go on all the small change from toonies on down. That would be a truly Canadian solution.

  2. What is this Chuck stuff? I was born in Blighty, couldn’t give a darn about monarchy, but can advise that Chuck is an Americanism of a nickname for Charles. Probably because Americans pronounce Chahls as Charruls in a two-syllable hard-on-the-ears grate. Chuck is not a nickname for anyone over there in England, unless your surname is Out. At least allow what remains of my now pathetic country of birth to knock Chuck the name on the head — it’s as original as chow mein and general tso chicken — invented in the USA, and they’re welcome to all of it, along with their misspellings.

    Other than that, carry on. And don’t slouch! Stomach in, chest out. That’s better!

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