Happy May 24 birthday Victoria Beckham .. or journée nationale des patriotes in Quebec

May 23rd, 2010 | By | Category: In Brief
Victoria the Spice Girl ... at the Prince's Trust 21st Anniversary Royal Gala in Manchester, May 1997. Posh Spice, later Victoria Beckham, is on the extreme right, along with (from left to right) Sporty, Ginger, Baby and Scary — plus, in the middle, the man who will never be king of Canada, because ... well, fill in the blanks for yourself.

Victoria the Spice Girl ... at the Prince's Trust 21st Anniversary Royal Gala in Manchester, May 1997. Posh Spice, later Victoria Beckham, is on the extreme right, along with (from left to right) Sporty, Ginger, Baby and Scary — plus, in the middle, the man who will never be king of Canada, because ... well, fill in the blanks for yourself.

I am not sure just what to think about Victoria Day — or May Two-Four or the May-long, etc  — in the year 2010.

It does remain officially, I suppose, a celebration of the birthday of the so-called Queen of Canada (at least outside predominantly French-speaking Quebec). And in this respect it still reminds me that in the summer of 1977, less than a year after the Parti Quebecois first won a Quebec provincial election, the eminent Anglo-American economist Kenneth Boulding told the annual Couchiching Conference in the Southern Ontario cottage country that Canada was “an absurd country straight out of Gilbert and Sullivan.” Its “very existence” was “an object lesson to the whole world — if Canada could exist, what couldn’t.”

Statue of Alexandrina Victoria, By the Grace of God, of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, and of the British Dominions beyond the Seas, Queen, Defender of the Faith,  Empress of India — also  longest reigning British monarch, 1837–1901,  and “figurehead of a vast empire” —  in Victoria, BC.

Statue of Alexandrina Victoria, By the Grace of God, of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, and of the British Dominions beyond the Seas, Queen, Defender of the Faith, Empress of India — also longest reigning British monarch, 1837–1901, and “figurehead of a vast empire” — in Victoria, BC.

Personally, I still want to see the end of the absurd country straight out of Gilbert and Sullivan, and the rise of a stronger and more durable new Canada of the ancient and modern diverse Canadian people on its ashes, as soon as possible. I am pleased that Victoria Day is now known in Quebec as National Patriots’ Day or Journée nationale des patriotes — to honour the “patriotes” who fought in the 1837–38 rebellion in Lower Canada. I would be more pleased if we in Ontario were to follow this lead and honour those who fought in the 1837 rebellion in Upper Canada. But it is of course unlikely that this will happen in any too near future!

Meanwhile, while browsing the web just now I came across what strikes me as a quite apt practical description of the holiday outside and inside Quebec today, beneath a photo of the Queen Victoria statue in Victoria, BC: “Victoria Day [or whatever else you might call it — May Two-Four, etc] falls on the Monday on or before May 24 and offers Canadians a long weekend to kick off summer.”

That (along with the fireworks) is what I have always liked. And it is what I have been doing this weekend  — kicking off summer (a very welcome season in a northern country, where the snow can sometimes get very deep in winter). I don’t have a summer cottage, but I live close to a lake, not far from an aboriginal fur-trading village of the 17th century. And, as we grow older, it is all my wife and I can do to keep our one modest house more or less intact. Right now I have just finished cutting my small patch of grass. And I am having a drink, looking out the window at a maple tree, a lilac bush, and a clump of birch trees, as I type away at this amazing machine.

  In this antique postcard a smiling, cigar-smoking father leads his wife and children towards the throngs gathered by a docked steamboat, for the “First Picnic of the Season” on Victoria Day  —  the unofficial beginning of summer in Canada.

In this antique postcard a smiling, cigar-smoking father leads his wife and children towards the throngs gathered by a docked steamboat, for the “First Picnic of the Season” on Victoria Day — the unofficial beginning of summer in Canada.

Besides, Canada is still obscure and undefined enough that each Canadian citizen and/or resident can to no small extent make up the country he or she wants to live in. That remains one of its great attractions. And I have decided that, for me, in the year 2010, the Victoria in Victoria Day actually refers to the former Posh Spice, now known as Victoria Beckham.

One further great virtue of this updated feminine identity is that the holiday can never be sensibly appropriated by any male descendant of the current Queen Elizabeth II (especially those with unusually big ears). And if you really want to know what I still think about the whole thing, you can consult this excellent article: “Time to make the May-long Canadian,” by the Toronto writer Wayne Adam, from this past Saturday’s Winnipeg Free Press — “founded in 1872” and now “the oldest newspaper in western Canada.”

Queen Victoria’s empire in 1898, from the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa.

Queen Victoria’s empire in 1898, from the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa.

So here’s a glass of cheer to you Ms. Victoria Beckham, wherever you are in Southern California. And three cheers too for Mr. Adams’s new Canada, which both Stephen Harper and Monarchist League chairman Robert Finch probably are bringing closer to the real world of the 21st century, in spite of their worst intentions! (And long live the unintended consequences of all those who still so foolishly promote the British monarchy in Canada today. Only a very few of us actually like Sarah Palin. But we rising Canadian republicans are going to win in the end!)

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