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My royal thoughts

BY Sonny Orr Sep 29, 2022

A long time ago, we had to stand up in class every morning for the “Oh Canada” national anthem, followed by a round of “God Save the Queen”. Over a half century later, the new chant of “Long live the King” resounded quickly and somewhat quietly, as the United Kingdom announced that Queen Elizabeth II had passed on to the afterlife. Now, the Queen was someone who seemed to be around everywhere and was quite noticeable in my pre-teen years. 

In fact, one of my sisters was born in the Queen Victoria Hospital in Prince Albert and was named Margaret Grace. In those day, the telegram was the fastest and most expensive way to send a message. My dad, being a cost-cutting type of guy, sent a telegram with just the location, name of town, name of daughter and time of arrival to his sister in Zambia, Africa. 

The recipient, some guy who understood all the dots and dashes and could decipher the most complex message from around the world, somehow got the message that the Queen, Prince Albert, Princess Grace and Queen Mother were all showing up and thus laid out the red carpet for my aunt. She was transported by military helicopter to the main base where she received the telegram on a red pillow with gold embroidery. When she read the message, she burst out laughing telling the turned-out troops, it was just the announcement of her new niece in far-away Canada. 

There are no issues with me and the late Queen, as I like to carry her photo around with me, especially on a $20 bill. Today, it’s electronic money and e-transfers with absolutely no character at all, much less an image of the world’s richest woman. Now, that role has been passed on to her son, who is really a grandfather a few times over and I’m not sure if I want his picture in my wallet. Maybe a baby picture might do when the King was a little cuter.

However, monarchy does come with its pitfalls, like how to look absolutely spic and span practically every moment of your life and to keep up the image of a grand family with no skeletons in the closet. However, with a family history that has been recorded for the last 1,000 years, things might be a little hard to keep private. Some kings weren’t exactly the type of guys you wanted to marry if you were a princess in waiting, as some newlywed queens lost their heads when the King grew tired of them and needed a new model. King Henry VIII was someone who spiced up the history books with all kinds of shenanigans. If he behaved that way today, he would end up in a never-ending court drama.

But many small countries, having felt the need to express their present-day annoyance dealing with a foreign power that plundered much of their riches, had a few comments that are not as cheery as (I would say) 10% of the caring population. 

I didn’t even notice the ceremony of declaring the new king, for example, and it didn’t seem to be splashed all over the news like the late Queen’s 1953 coronation, which was recorded on film and broadcast all over the world. Not even a little hint of that on social media, so I guess most of those on my friends list aren’t monarch watchers…not that I am.

My only real brush with royalty was when I was introduced to a young prince, and I was told to show him how to use a firearm. So, we went off to shoot groundhogs, which were considered pests and a risk of breaking a horse’s leg if one were to step into one of the many holes found around the farm. After several minutes of trying to understand this foreigner, who I discovered was English, although I couldn’t decipher what he was saying. 

To make a long story shorter, the prince ended up missing a lot of shots and somehow ended up flying a helicopter gunship when he grew up. I guess some of my teachings rubbed off on him. So, tallyho everyone, enjoy the new crisp bills that will soon emerge from a wallet near you.

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Sonny Orr is Cree from Chisasibi, and has been a columnist for the Nation for over 20 years. He regularly pens Rez Notes from the cozy social club in Whapmagoostui where he resides.