Majesty in Canada: Essays on the Role of Royalty

By Colin M. Coates | Go to book overview

The Royal Family in Contemporary
Canadian Women’s Fiction

MARY CONDÉ

In April 2002, Margaret Kittle, aged sixty-seven, a retired nurse, flew from Canada to London to claim a place directly opposite Westminster Abbey for the Queen Mother’s funeral. She was reported as saying, “I try to come over for all the royal events. I want the Queen to know Canadians support the royal family and the Commonwealth.”1 How loud is Margaret Kittle’s voice in Canada, and in contemporary Canadian women’s fiction? Her age might be considered significant, indicating a fast-disappearing way of thinking. However, a newspaper item of July 26, 2003, suggests otherwise. The Guardian reports that from April 2004 a pledge of loyalty will be compulsory for new British citizens, and that this pledge of loyalty will be modelled on Canada’s. A new Canadian must state, “I swear [or affirm] that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, Queen of Canada, her heirs and successors, and that I will faithfully observe the laws of Canada and fulfil my duties as a Canadian citizen.”2

In June 2003, we are told, Governor General Adrienne Clarkson herself held a swearing-in ceremony and suggested the remaining crucial elements of Canadian nationality by telling the new citizens, “I hope you’re going to read Michael Ondaatje and Margaret Atwood, that you will pour maple syrup over everything, and will ski and skate, and that you will be decent and tolerant and kind to other people.”3

Decency, tolerance, and kindness to other people are notably lacking in Mavis Gallant’s short story “In the Tunnel” (1971) from her collection Home Truths. Here references to the royal family function as warning signals of the corruption of the English characters encountered by a young Canadian woman, Sarah. Sarah is briefly imprisoned in the

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