I have revised and expanded the Canadian Encyclopedia’s article on Charles Fisher, one of the Fathers of Canadian Confederation from the province of New Brunswick. Fisher led the first responsible government in New Brunswick (1854–61) and was the leading constitutional lawyer of his day. He attended the Québec and London Confederation conferences and contributed to the drafting of the British North America Act (1867) as New Brunswick’s attorney general.
I am currently expanding and revising a series of Canadian Encyclopedia articles on the Fathers of Confederation in preparation for Canada’s 150th anniversary in 2017. Here’s the new article about Sir Étienne-Paschal Taché. He was a member of every government of the United Province of Canada between 1848 and 1857, including two coalitions with John A. Macdonald. He presided over the 1864 Québec Conference and defended the 72 Resolutions that determined the shape of Confederation in 1867.
Princess Anne will pay an official visit to Ottawa on November 10 and 11 to mark Remembrance Day. I discussed the history and significance of Princess Anne’s visits to Canada with Janet Davision of CBC.ca.
Queen Elizabeth II last visited in Canada in 2010, celebrating Canada Day on Parliament Hill. This royal tour began a revival of popular interest in the Canadian monarchy that has continued to the present day. Since the Queen has reduced her overseas travel in recent years, there has been speculation that there will not be any further tours of Canada. As I discussed in an interview with Ruth Dunley, Prince Philip made an unexpected visit to Canada last year and its certainly possible that the Queen may do the same in the future.
I will be discussing the worldwide impact of Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation 60 years ago on the BBC Radio 5 live “Up All Night” Programme on June 3 at 9:35pm EST, (June 4, 2:35am BST in the United Kingdom). Please tune in if you are in the UK and up late this evening!
I also discussed the 60th anniversary of the Queen’s coronation with cbc.ca over this past weekend. Click here read my interview with Janet Davison of cbc.ca about the impact of the coronation on Canadians – and the television industry.
On April 29, 2013, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge celebrated their second anniversary. While the royal couple were almost universally praised during their first year of marriage, Catherine has been the target of criticism during the past year despite the happy news that the royal couple’s first child will arrive in July. Recent critiques and invasions of the couple’s privacy suggest that William and Catherine are still negotiating their relationship with the press.
My article in today’s Kingston Whig-Standard, “All Eyes on the New King” discusses the challenges facing the new King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands, who succeeded his mother, Queen Beatrix upon her abdication today. While the House of Orange-Nassau enjoyed near universal popularity during the Second World War, as a symbol of Dutch resistance and independence, there are now concerns that the royal family has become the most expensive in Europe and is more popular with older generations. It will be up to King Willem-Alexander, the first of Europe’s current generation of heirs to ascend to the throne to demonstrate the importance of the Dutch monarchy in the 21st century.
I will also be discussing the Dutch monarchy on CJAD 800 AM radio Montreal on April 30 at 1:30pm
My article in today’s Toronto Sun discusses the long relationship between Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh and the City of Toronto.
Queen Elizabeth II’s consort, Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, arrived in Toronto today, (April 26, 2013). The Duke of Edinburgh was named a Companion of the Order of Canada and will be presenting new colours to the 3rd Battalion of The Royal Canadian Regiment tomorrow, (April 27, 2013) I will be discussing the royal visit on CBC’s The National the evening of April 27.
Queen Elizabeth II celebrates her 87th birthday today, April 21, 2013. The Queen is spending the day privately with her family at Windsor Castle. Tomorrow, the Queen’s birthday will be marked by the traditional 41-gun salute from the King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery at noon tomorrow in London’s Green Park. The comparatively modest celebrations in honour of the Queen’s actual birthday contrast with the fireworks, parades and public holidays that accompany the sovereign’s official birthday, which takes place on various dates in different regions of the Commonwealth. The celebration of a monarch’s official birthday on a different date that the actual birthday dates from 1748 when the annual Spring Trooping the Colour became a celebration of the monarch as well as the military.
The earliest versions of the Trooping the Colour parade date from the Restoration of Charles II in 1660. At this event, regiments displayed their flags enabling all soldiers to recognize their regimental colours for use as a rallying point in battle. While the Trooping the Colour parade usually occurred during the warmer months of the year, the sovereign’s actual birthday varied, sometimes taking place at times that were less suitable for outdoor public celebrations. When the War of the Austrian Succession ended in 1748, the British Government decided to combine the celebration of the sovereign’s official birthday with the Trooping the Colour Parade.
The King at the time, George II, had led the troops at the Battle of Dettingen in 1743 and was closely associated in the popular imagination with his role as Commander-in-Chief. The parade took place again with the ascension of King George III in 1760 and became an annual tradition with the ascension of George IV in 1820.
In 1901, King Edward VII, whose actual birthday was November 9, decreed that the Trooping the Colour should always take place in June, when the weather was more likely to be appropriate for an outdoor parade. Edward VII was also the first monarch to personally review the troops during the Trooping the Colour, attracting large crowds eager to see the sovereign parade down the Mall from Buckingham Palace after the decades of seclusion observed by the King’s mother, Queen Victoria.
The commonwealth nations have their own royal birthday traditions that often occur on different dates from both the sovereign’s actual birthday and the official celebrations in the United Kingdom. While the Trooping the Colour parade does not occur on a public holiday in the United Kingdom, a number of commonwealth nations observe the monarch’s birthday with a statutory holiday.
In 1845, the parliament of the Province of Canada declared Queen Victoria’s birthday, May 24, a public holiday. On the Queen’s 35th birthday in 1854, 5,000 residents of Canada West (now the province of Ontario) gathered outside Government House, (near King and Simcoe streets in modern day Toronto) to raise three cheers for Queen Victoria. After confederation in 1867, Victoria Day celebrations expanded to encompass picnics, fireworks, athletic events and torchlight parades. When Queen Victoria died in 1901, the Monday before May 24 remained a public holiday to honour the late sovereign for her role in Canada’s confederation. Victoria Day became Canada’s celebration of the reigning monarch’s official birthday with the ascension of Queen Elizabeth II in 1952.
In Australia, the monarch’s birthday has been a public holiday since 1788. Australian celebrations took place on the monarch’s actual birthday until the death of King George V when all Australian provinces but one agreed to celebrate on the second Monday in June each year. The province of Western Australia is the exception, celebrating the Queen’s birthday on either the last weekend of September or the first weekend of October to avoid conflict with Western Australia day in June. Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands celebrate the Queen’s birthday at the same time as most of Australia while New Zealand observes the occasion on the first Monday in June.
Changes to the observance of the sovereign’s birthday have been a source of controversy. When Fiji became a Republic in 1987, following a military coup d’etat, the new government bowed to popular opinion and retained the Queen’s birthday as a public holiday. In 2012, the military government of Commodore Frank Bainimarama abolished this occasion. Labour ministry spokesman Jone Usamate explained the unpopular decision to remove a public holiday, stating, “The Queen’s birthday’s importance disappeared from Fiji when we became a republic and now our status is an independent nation. There is a focus on more productivity and growth, so as a result the decision was made to cut down on the number of holidays in Fiji, as holidays can be a burden on business and government.”
In Bermuda, the Progressive Labour Party government announced plans in 2008 to eliminate the June Queen’s Birthday holiday and replace it with a National Heroes’ Day in October. The decision resulted in 2,000 of Bermuda’s 65,000 residents signing an online petition to save the public holiday. “Clearly, the removal of our sovereign’s birthday as a public holiday is inexcusable,” stated petition creator Cameron Hollis, calling the decision “a blatant insult to Her Majesty.” Despite the protests, the Queen’s birthday was abolished as a public holiday in Bermuda in 2009.
The Queen’s actual birthday is today, April 21, but celebration of her official birthday varies across the Commonwealth. While the Trooping the Colour does not occur on a public holiday in the United Kingdom, the monarch’s official birthday is a statutory holiday in many commonwealth nations. Attempts to change the status of the Queen’s birthday in British overseas territories, such as Bermuda, or former commonwealth realms, such as Fiji, have sparked controversy as the holiday honouring the monarch is popular in numerous regions of the world.