By the Grace of God…

The title’s origins go back deep into the mists of time. It literally means that Elizabeth reigns over Canada and her other 15 Realms and Territories because God anointed and thus endorses her.

Which presumably makes her Queen of Canada by divine right.

In an increasingly secular world, acerbic tongues ridicule this part of her title. Others, including bishops of her Church of England, (of which she is Supreme Governor and they therefore have no choice) do their best to justify this connection to the Almighty.

The main purpose of the title seems to be a warning that if you mess with this monarch, you mess with God himself.

Never a good idea.

…Of the United Kingdom…

In the U.K., Elizabeth reigns over England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

But the United Kingdom isn’t noticeably united. Most of Ireland left after decades of bitter sectarian fighting. Independence movements flourish in Scotland, rumble in Wales and smoulder in Northern Ireland.

During her reign, starting with Winston Churchill in 1952, she’s consulted weekly with the 13 British prime ministers she’s appointed. So she’s likely heard every British state secret — honourable and otherwise — for the past 60 years.

In fact, Elizabeth has no more than “the right to be consulted, to encourage, to warn.”But British prime ministers generally speak well of their meetings. Margaret Thatcher(whom she is said to “cordially dislike”) summed up thusly:

“Her Majesty brings to bear a formidable grasp of current issues and breadth of experience.”

Present British Prime Minister, David Cameron, is far more enthusiastic and noticeably more jingoistic:

“In the sixtieth year of her reign, we honour our queen as the finest and most famous example of British dedication, British duty, British steadiness, British tradition, let us use these things as a mirror of ourselves, too, a mirror of the nation.”

It costs every one of Elizabeth’s 61-million British taxpaying subjects around 94 cents a year to keep her in the style to which she was born and has always been accustomed.

She certainly has no shortage of splendid places to live. They include Buckingham Palace, Hampton Court Palace, St. James’s Palace, Kensington Palace, The Palace of Holyroodhouse, Windsor Castle (her favourite), Balmoral Castle, Clarence House and Sandringham House.

This Diamond Jubilee year, though, she’s not staying home. Instead, she’s touring the nation, visiting 52 cities, towns and villages. So far, she’s been met by big crowds everywhere she’s been.

As she has said:

“I have to be seen to be believed.”

Recent polls show four out of five Britons respect her, support her and want their country to remain a monarchy. To many, she’s one of the last living symbols of British wartime valour, and the embodiment of the nation’s resolute defiance of German bombers during the Blitz.

Britons are considerably less enthusiastic about her 64-year-old son and heir, Prince Charles. Half believe he should give up his right to be King Charles lll to let the crown skip a generation, land instead on the brow of his eldest son, the very popular 30-year-old Prince William.

William and his new bride Kate recently toured Canada on a somewhat-less-than-romantic honeymoon. Main event was their hanging out at the Calgary Stampede wearing jeans and cowboy hats, holding hands and smiling a lot. This so impressed Canada’s news media that newspapers, magazines, radio and TV fawned over them and competed to report every single (public) detail of their visit.

(Charles himself may well decide to change his name — a royal prerogative monarchs occasionally exercise — if and when he takes the throne. After a bloody civil war, the first King Charles was beheaded for treason. The second Charles, known wryly as The Merrie Monarch for his hedonistic lifestyle, fathered at least a dozen illegitimate children by various mistresses.

As far as is known, no subsequent British monarch has matched this feat.)

Tomorrow, Knight will explore the “… Canada …” part of her title. Stay tuned.

 


This article was originally published on the Huffington Post on May 30, 2012: Who Is Queen Elizabeth?


This series was adapted from Knight’s proposal for a multi-part TV series on the Queen now in pre-production, seeking sponsors. It will examine her role in each of the 16 nations over which she reigns.

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