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A Queen and her agent may mix Flap over Clarkson's D-Day appearance with Queen based on false convention

Flap over Clarkson's D-Day appearance with Queen based on false convention

There she was Saturday at Juno Beach, Elizabeth II, by the grace of God Queen of Canada, the head of state, and -- horrors! -- who was there beside her on the VIP stage but Adrienne Clarkson, the Governor-General.

The real thing and the representative of the real thing in full view at the 60th anniversary D-Day ceremony. The CBC's Peter Mansbridge suggested, as he filled air time from Normandy, that Ms. Clarkson's presence with the Queen had somehow elevated her to head of state in her own right.

Quel scandale. The website chat on the bulletin board of the Monarchist League of Canada has been in cacophonous overdrive ever since, bristling with copies of outraged letters of protest to the CBC and everyone else deemed responsible.

Another scheme by the national broadcaster and the rest of the creeping republicans in Ottawa to erode the monarchy. By convention, as everyone knows, the governor-general, who represents the sovereign, is supposed to vanish when the sovereign appears in the flesh.

Except the convention doesn't exist; everybody just thought it did.

As historian Jacques Monet, one of the foremost experts on the Crown in Canada, explained yesterday, the so-called convention got made up in a behind-the-scenes 1939 tussle when King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, the present Queen's parents, arrived in Canada for a royal visit.

Lord Tweedsmuir, the British-government-appointed governor-general, wanted to meet the royal couple when their ship docked at Quebec City. William Lyon Mackenzie King, the Canadian prime minister, said no, he would meet them. Mr. King won, trotting up the gangway in full court dress to bow and kiss hands.

But since that time, the sovereign and the governor-general, the sovereign's representative in Canada, have appeared together a number of times. And, since 1947, their roles have become increasingly distinct. Although the Queen is head of state, almost all of the constitutional tasks of head of state can be done by the governor-general only.

John Aimers, Dominion chairman of the Monarchist League, said he wasn't bothered in the slightest by Ms. Clarkson's presence at the ceremony in Normandy. He said it added to the dignity of the day to have both the Queen and the Governor-General there.

What muddied the waters, he said, was Mr. Mansbridge's comment, plus an announcement from Buckingham Palace that the Queen would lay a wreath at the Canadian memorial at Juno Beach "on behalf of the Commonwealth." Mr. Aimers said she laid the wreath as Queen of Canada.

"What would have solved everything is if the Canadian government had simply said the Queen of Canada was presiding over the ceremony at Juno Beach, attended by the Governor-General, and that the Governor-General would be representing Canada at other events. Unfortunately, her presence was seen as a back-door route" into republicanism.

University of Saskatchewan political scientist David Smith, another scholar on the Canadian Crown, said the public appearance of Queen and Governor-General together was unusual and "to some would appear to be lèse-majesté," a crime against the sovereign power. But to most Canadians, he said, it would be an illustration that the Canadian monarchy has its own distinctiveness and that it was quite proper for the Governor-General to be present.

Prof. Monet said he was bothered that the governor-general didn't attend the 40th and 50th D-Day anniversary ceremonies, although the Queen did. "So I was glad to hear that Ms. Clarkson was there.

"The Queen spoke as Queen of Canada. The Governor-General said something as Governor-General. That, I think, made it a totally Canadian ceremony. My concept of the Crown is that it is a team of people: the Queen, the Governor-General and the lieutenants-governor of the provinces."

(Thursday, June 10, 2004, on Page A2)


During a CBC-TV broadcast from the 60th anniversary D-Day ceremony in Normandy, historian Jack Granatstein suggested that Governor-General Adrienne Clarkson's presence alongside the Queen had elevated the Governor-General's status to "a new constitutional arrangement that we are seeing take shape in front of us." Incorrect information appeared in Tuesday's Globe and Mail.

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