Skip navigation

Margaret Wente dashes off a note to the GG

The Globe and Mail, Oct. 7, 1999

Dear Madame Clarkson,

Ever since the news of your appointment to the office of Governor-General, which, by the way, I think you are a natural for, I've been wondering about the place of such a largely ceremonial position in our postmodern, ironic, democratic, egalitarian age. Who really wants to schlep up to Rideau Hall and be ordered around by a bunch of stuffy old protocol officers just to meet a representative of a faraway, ridiculous, fading monarchy that rules a land from which most of us do not come and with which we have no ties? Who gives two hoots about the Order of Canada, the decorations for bravery, the good citizenship awards, and all those other dopey tchotchkes?

Well, the answer, I've discovered, is every single one of us. All 30 million. Including the one or two cynical, hard-bitten journalists I personally know who have been invited to your installation today. The very prospect of a state dinner at Rideau Hall has reduced them to little puddles of meek and deferential jelly. My friend Sandra, a person who is supremely confident on every subject from East Timor to Mi'kmaqs, has spent all week fretting about her afternoon dress (which is to be worn in the morning) and her evening gown (a garment she does not own). She'll be the one in the rental.

I know there are certain critics who say you're a bit too regal, a bit hard on the hired help, sometimes. Ignore them. They're just being catty. Hilary Weston also came under fire for lacking the common touch when she was appointed Lieutenant-Governor of Ontario. She immediately sentenced herself to six months of hard labour at church-basement suppers in Wawa and Penetanguishene, and her ratings soared. Maybe you can schedule some quick visits to Salmon Arm, B.C., and Yellowknife. Take a photographer. You might think twice about those Issy Miyake clothes, though. They could be a little too fashion-forward for your new role. I'm afraid people in Salmon Arm will think you put on your living-room drapes by mistake.

As for the gules and the heralds and crests and seals and all the other royal regalia that cynics might call corny, the more the better. Canadians love that stuff. It reminds us that we're not Americans. As for causes, every GG needs one, and I think culture is just the thing. Who could be against culture, except for crypto-Americans and free-traders?

Speaking of causes, I think you have a major asset in your new husband, Mr. Saul. He looks wonderful in a suit, and he has views most Canadians can relate to. He thinks that Canadian bank chiefs are pathetic mediocrities, and he once called Conrad Black a maddened corgi. Mr. Saul may be the only person alive who can stand up to Mr. Black in a good slanging match. Mr. Black once referred to Mr. Saul as a "somewhat pitiful figure who has hovered and festered for some years on the fringes of Canadian government," but I guess it's Mr. Saul who's having the last laugh now, winding up as he has done as the official Spouse of the Head of State.

A GG must have tiptop diplomatic skills, and you may need them to deal with Mr. Black. He is, after all, the Queen's own honorary colonel of the Governor General's Foot Guards, and inspecting them is one of his favourite duties. What happens when he shows up? There could be a spot of awkwardness, especially if he brings Mrs. Black, who once accused you of shouting, " 'Viva Castro' even as Cuba's political prisons were overflowing." In return, I believe you called her a neo-conservative attack dog. But I know you can handle it.

One thing is certain. Life at Rideau Hall will never be a bore again so long as you are there. And, by the way, if you have a vacant seat at your next state dinner, I might be free. I know where I can rent a gown.

Your loyal and obed't subject,

Recommend this article? 0 votes

Back to top