The Royal treatment

Patrick Butler
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There’s been quite a bit of hype lately, what with all the Royal baby fever across the pond. As Will and Kate expect a newborn any day and Queen Elizabeth awaits the birth of her newest great-grandchild and heir to the throne, it’s nothing short of a celebrity-fuelled media frenzy in London.

But don’t think St. John’s has been spared of its own share of royal hype in the past few days. Last week we were treated to our very own royal visitor, none other than the reigning 2013 National Watermelon Queen on her North American tour promoting anything and everything watermelon. The queen, a native Alabaman, attended everything from watermelon seed spitting demonstrations to grocery store promotional events while visiting the capital city.

Admittedly, Queen Elizabeth has a comparatively much higher profile than the Watermelon Queen. She is as much a fixture of Western iconography as anyone and, in a historical sense, the Queen and the institution she represents mean far more to Canadians, especially older ones.

In a modern context however, she may as well be Miss Watermelon.

Bear with me now. It may seem a bit like trying to compare the House of Windsor to the House of Pancakes, but I assure you, it isn’t that much of a stretch. Believe it or not, in today’s day and age, Elizabeth II and the Watermelon Queen are more alike than you’d think.

Both hail from faraway lands, and both visit our neck of the woods every now and again while on tour, attending events and meeting with the public. Both speak in foreign accents, whether posh British or Southern twang, and both occupy apolitical positions. Both hold a public office performing ceremonial duties, and both are largely unknown to Canadians on a personal level.

The most striking likeness between both queens is perhaps the amount of attention devoted to them by the public. By and large, Canadians are more or less indifferent to royalty, whether watermelon or otherwise. Other than superficial curiosities or brief glimpses at novel headlines (the royal baby watch being a superb example) Canadians just don’t seem to care much.

Think about it. To most people, the birth of a new heir to the Crown is about as trivial as the Watermelon Queen coming to town — an inconsequential and unimportant detail. In the hierarchy of Canadian priorities, the Royal Family are far from being top of mind.

This pervasive indifference is generally the reason why Canadians, who fully realize the absurdity of having a head of state who lives thousands of miles away and visits the country only on occasion, have remained uninterested in changing the situation. It just doesn’t matter that much to us.

Sure, we could chalk it up to nostalgia, history or tradition, even an enduring devotion to the Queen for some. Maybe even the fact that there’s a little affection for the Queen — our collective, infallible Nan, in the hearts of most Canadians.

But the real reason for not having finally ousted the Royals is that there are more pressing concerns and more important issues (within our own borders) that require our attention. Getting rid of the Queen and the rest of the Royal Family would mean significant changes constitutionally for Canada, and frankly, it’s not worth our time. Canada has bigger priorities, and it’s honestly better to simply keep them out of sight and out of mind — an easy enough task.

As such, the Royals will remain an ongoing anachronism in Canada so long as no one finds cause enough to have to get rid of them. We’ll continue treating them with that same enduring indifference, and they’ll pay us a visit every now and again.

Just like Miss Watermelon.

Patrick Butler plans to study journalism at

Carleton University in the fall. He lives in

Conception Bay South, and can be reached by email at patrickbutler5@yahoo.ca.

Organizations: North American, House of Windsor, House of Pancakes

Geographic location: Canada, Conception Bay South

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  • Argus
    July 22, 2013 - 20:14

    Mr. Turpin does not seem aware of the role that the Royal Family plays in Canada's governance. They have no impact whatsoever on the environment – the government controls most crown land, except for a few properties owned by the Royal Family... Things like parks, which I'm quite happy to see them protect given the current federal attitude towards the environment. And then there's land claims. Yes, our First Nations made their deals with the Crown, which is really one of the few reasons why government's trying to undermine First Nation land rights (human rights) have not succeeded. The government could try and "order upwards" by demanding that the Royal Family comply with their wishes – legally, her could not refuse – but it would look tremendously shady for them to do so. And ultimately, that's why the monarchy is useful. From land rights to parliamentary procedure, they provide a symbolic check on government authority. I would hate to see a power-hungry politician like Stephen Harper placed at the front of our country as Head of State and saluted as Commander-in-Chief of our forces; long may our sovereign be an innocuous Royal!

  • Ben Turpin
    July 22, 2013 - 19:01

    Mr. Butler states the fact that Q is indeed our head of state. None of the more pressing concerns he has alluded to (land claims?, environment?) can be solved, because the buck stops with the British Monarchy. Yet, he states, "it’s honestly better to simply keep them out of sight and out of mind — an easy enough task" Is this not what the current government enjoys? A distant, unassailable head of state both effete and all-powerful, as required? I propose that Mr. Butler consider either finding the precious time to help oust the Monarchy in prelude to solving his alluded to concerns and issues or write a letter to his sweet, old infallible head of state voicing those same Canadian concerns and issues, whatever they are.