COLIN M. COATES
In the twenty-first century, Canada’s connection to the British monarchy attracts both fervent support and stiff opposition. Whatever the attitudes to the British royal family at the present, in the Canadian past, the monarchy played a significant — often a central — cultural and political role. In May 2002, the Centre of Canadian Studies at the University of Edinburgh held its annual conference on the theme of the role of monarchy in Canadian history and culture. The fiftieth anniversary of Queen Elizabeth’s ascension to the throne provided the occasion for an exploration of the many contributions of monarchic principles to Canada. Delegates from the United Kingdom, France, Canada, and New Zealand examined many aspects of the issues.1
Given its geographical distance from the throne, Canada’s connection to royalty was often experienced through the personal representatives of the monarch. Governors General wielded significant political, financial, and cultural power into the twentieth century, and in various ways they attempted to ensure Canadians’ allegiance to the throne. Royal and vice-regal tours assumed a large civic importance, providing a link of loyalty that tied together the disparate and regionalized country. On numerous occasions, many Canadians rushed to proclaim their fealty to the monarch, even if these expressions often served very different purposes. In contrast, republicanism remained a relatively minor theme in Canadian politics.2 In 2002, then Minister of External Affairs and Deputy Prime Minister John Manley openly articulated his beliefs about abolishing Canada’s ties to the monarchy,3 but such perspectives have never had the degree of support here that they do in Australia.