Victoria DayIf you don't give us a holiday we will all run away!"
"The twenty fourth of May is the Queen's birthday,
As a child, I remember chanting the above couplet. It is a holiday in Canada that we celebrate Queen Victoria's Birthday. It has also become a day when we also celebrate Queen Elizabeth II's birthday. I never understood then that it was a unique Canadian tradition. My friend Lynne tells me that they cannot believe that we celebrate Queen Victoria's birthday in Canada.
It was always a special day for us as children. There was often a street party with fireworks.
In a real sense it was also a celebration of the end of Winter and the beginning of Summer, for the warm growing season has arrived. Even now those in the southern part of Ontario, believe that the risk of frost is so minimal that one can begin planting the garden. For children, we knew that the end of school was close. In a month, we would be enjoying summer vacation which for us as children seemed to go on and on before we would have to begin back in school for another year. For some, there would be camp and for others, off to the cottage, and all the joys of these summer delights. Those less fortunate, there was also the adventures in the neighbourhood: biking, visiting friends houses, evenings on the street in front of our house playing games until the light faded and there were trips to the river and lakefront to see what fun we could make for ourselves there (if only my mother knew, she would have worried more than usual.)
We knew little about Queen Victoria other than she was famous way back when and we were thankful for the holiday. I think we also know she was our Queen, the Queen of England and she had had 9 children and dressed in black of all they years she lived after her husband died, at age 42.
Queen Elizabeth II (reigned 1953-present
It is interesting to compare and contrast these two duty bound royal women. They both did not expect to become the British Monarch when they were young. Events beyond their control put them in line for the throne. Both inherited the throne at a very young age (18 and 25, respectively). They married members of their extended families, Victoria married Albert, a first cousin and Elizabeth married Philip,
a third cousin, related through Queen Victoria, who had 9 children who married into most of the royal families of Europe.
It has always amused me that the British Royal Family were really Germans as were many royal families in Europe. They are of the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha
. Through two world wars they found themselves on different sides with other members of their family. They changed their name to Windsor, to distant themselves from their German roots.
As a foot note to history, Princess Diana, had deeper noble British roots than the Royal family, being a Spencer. No wonder her brother spoke at her funeral with distain for the British royals.
Both Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth II have reigned a very long time. It appears that Elizabeth will surpass Victoria in the longevity of her reign. Queen Victoria reigned during the rise of the British Empire culminating with her becoming Empress of India.( the jewel of the Empire) Queen Elizabeth has reigned over the dissolution of the Empire, which has been reduced to the Commonwealth of Nations, with some in Australia and Canada, who believe that the ties with the Monarchy should be broken, having their countries become Republics. I for one think to do this would be the loss of some great and unique traditions of Canada. Queen Victoria was our first Monarch of Canada with Canada beginning as an independent country in 1867 and in a way Queen Elizabeth completed this process with the repatriation of our Constitution, signing the Constitution Act of 1982
I like to think the longevity of these two Monarchs as well as those in between have been a steadying influence on Canadian political and social life institutions over the years.
Queen Victoria saw Britain rise to the heights of the Industrial Revolution. It was a time of growth and prosperity. The stress of the World Wars and the Depression hurried the demise of a great Empire. (Should this be a warning for our militaristic neighbour to the south which seems to have Empirial ambitions?) The age of Empire of over. Queen Elizabeth has graciously brought dignity and respect to the adjustments of the Commonwealth. Many former countries of the Empire have continued to support one another in the evolution of their democratic nations while being head together with a mutual respect for the British tradition in social and political governance.
I think there is much to celebrate
in the lives of these two great Queen. It is good to remember our history and the contributions of their reigns. GOD SAVE THE QUEEN.