After a rather low-key series of engagements in Newfoundland, Ontario, and British Columbia, there was finally a frisson of excitement in Montreal. Dozens of riot police pushed back a crowd of around 150 protesters so that Prince Charles and Camilla, duchess of Cornwall, could present the local Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment) of Canada with new colours. They visited the military armory for a few hours before returning to Ottawa in preparation for tomorrow’s Remembrance Day ceremonies.
Earlier in the day, the royal couple met with the Governor General, the Prime Minister and their families. Then Charles greeted Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff. There’s no word whether either of them mentioned the Opposition leader’s harsh words about the royal family, written in the Montreal Gazette in December 1992 when Charles and Diana had just separated and the royals were going through their annus horribilis.
“We are being told to sympathize with the private grief of the tragic couple. We are being asked to believe that the horrid tabloids are to blame. Buckingham Palace and No. 10 Downing Street smoothly assure us that the couple’s private misery need have no constitutional implications. Enough of this nonsense. The Royal Family is not doing its job. And what pray is that? It is to represent and to guarantee the institutional continuity of the British state.
The separation announcement effectively declared that the monarchy had placed its dynastic succession on hold until the unhappy couple sort themselves out. The monarchy has suspended normal service and has no idea when it will be resumed…
The royal family is now being torn apart by a uniquely British combination of raging envy and fawning deference. This schizophrenia perfectly expresses the conflict between republican and monarchical principles at the heart of the constitution. What happens now depends not on what the palace wishes, but on what the public comes to believe is right. My fervent wish is that it will regretfully but firmly decide enough is enough.
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