Queen Elizabeth II of the U.K. passed away last week at the age of 96 after having ruled for over 70 years, the longest reign of any British monarch. I guess I should add that technically she was also “Queen” of fourteen other Commonwealth countries including Canada, though I should note in the interest of full disclosure that I never seriously considered her as my Queen. In principle, I believe the whole concept of a hereditary monarchy and an aristocratic class to be obsolete and in many ways primitive and immoral.
Regardless of my personal political beliefs, I have had nothing but great respect for Elizabeth, the individual. As a person, the Queen was an exceptionally competent and smart woman with many redeeming qualities, much more so than what many of her progeny and extended family have exhibited over the years. She fulfilled her duties as she saw them faithfully and with great devotion. She was loved and respected by most fellow Britons and many in the British Commonwealth. Nonetheless, I am of the firm opinion that the whole idea of a monarchy and an associated hereditary nobility should have been retired over a century ago.
Our modern civilization and forms of government have developed considerably over the past several centuries, all based on some fundamental principles that recognize that all men and women are created equal with inalienable rights and freedoms. We have gradually and justifiably adopted democracy as the preferred form of government believing that people should be free to choose their own leaders and not have them foisted upon us because of their accidental genetic inheritance or some distorted historical mythology. I do not understand how anyone can still believe that many centuries or millennia ago, God supposedly appointed certain individuals and their descendants to rule over us in perpetuity by “divine right”.
History tells us that what actually happened in England a thousand years ago was that a bunch of brutal and predatory Viking descendants called Normans, who had invaded and settled in France, decided that they would expand their realms. They sailed across the English channel, defeated the resident petty chieftains and kings that were already there, and imposed their own ruthless rule, distributing lands and titles as spoils of war. That was the true basis of the English monarchy and nobility. There was nothing inherently noble about it.
For most of the next thousand years, these “aristocrats” spread their imperialistic rule throughout the globe, exploiting and pillaging their colonies until most of them rebelled and eventually ousted their presumptive rulers. The British monarchy has no shortage of less than honourable skeletons in its closet.
Of course, the British establishment has always sought to create the image of a glorious and beneficent empire that brought civilization and religion to all the “uncivilized” corners of the world. It is all self-serving mythology, and the British monarchy and its hereditary nobility were a fundamental cornerstone of this regressive and blatantly unfair and exploitative system of governance. To be fair, Elizabeth herself should not be blamed for the many sins of her ancestors, but she is nonetheless a product of and a representative of that system which she was committed to preserving. I don’t believe she ever questioned her “divine right” to rule.
Perhaps, now that Elizabeth II has passed on into history, it would be appropriate to seriously consider retiring that unfortunate heritage into history as well. She might have been a benign, respectable and honourable individual, but very few of her many predecessors were of that ilk, and most left behind a bloody trail of war, beheadings, colonial conquests and exploitation on a grand scale. Looking at her potential successors, I have little hope that any of them will be able to fill her shoes with any measure of dignity or adequacy. The thought of recognizing the current Prince of Wales as King Charles III leaves me cold.
Canada has no need of a monarch. We are all adult and responsible enough to look after our own affairs without the blessings and oversight of a remote King or Queen resident across the ocean, regardless of how symbolic that role professes to be. This by no means downplays the importance of historical traditions, but let us choose to observe historical traditions that are more constructive and in keeping with Canada’s history and multi-faceted cultural legacy. If we are to have a symbolic “Head of State”, why not appoint or elect someone home-grown and more relevant and meaningful to our past, say for instance, an indigenous elder. Our First Nations have a longer history and dedication to this land than any British colonizers and their descendants.
There are many other options, but the key point is that we as Canadians should choose our own leaders from amongst ourselves. We do not need a foreign import for this role. I have no desire to “swear allegiance” to a foreign monarch who is representative of a system that I do not believe in. If the British want to maintain their monarchy, so be it, but Canada should opt out of this obsolete anachronism.