Yesterday evening I attended a meeting of newcomers to Nanaimo. Sitting beside me was a very nice lady who asked me where I came from and as usual, because of my accent, I explained that I was here from Edmonton but originally from the Greater London area of England.
Excitedly, she asked “Oh, did you watch the Queen’s funeral?” presuming, I think, that as an English person I would say that I had. When I said I had not, she looked crestfallen. “What is it with the English?” she asked. “Nearly every Brit I have asked have said they are not interested.”
I said that I was not a monarchist and left it at, more-or-less, that. We went on to discuss the event’s pageantry and the ninety-six tolls of the tenor bells at Westminster Abbey. That reminded her of the song 96 Tears by ? and the Mysterians from 1966. What a memory! I didn’t remember the song from the title, but when she played it on her phone, I recognized it. Wow. That took me back to my teenage years, and it nicely detracted from the question of why so many of the English people she knew were not interested in the monarchy.
The answer probably has something to do with the British caste system that ranks people by accent, gender, occupation, social status, and race. At least, it did when I lived there. It is (or was) a deeply rooted and complex process for figuring out where each person stands in the pecking order. I grew up becoming increasingly aware of what cues to watch out for, how to moderate the traits that gave away too many clues, and how much disdain dripped down from above. I, and many others I know, are very glad to have left all that behind.
Another reason so many of her acquaintances no longer feel in thrall to the royal family is that we immigrated to Canada, one of the British colonies. Soon after I arrived, I discovered that the glorious history of the commonwealth was not as I had learned it in school, and not glorious at all. As the years have gone by, my dismay over the ways in which the indigenous peoples and the lands were treated has only grown. Perhaps her other English friends went through a similar process of discovery and shame-by-association.
Recent events relating to individual royal family members have only added to my growing sense that the royalty collectively is objectionable to me, even though some individual members seem to be nice enough. Yes, the Queen was generally loved and admired, and I’m glad she had a respectful send-off, but I felt no need to watch several days of ceremonies and a funeral in which every detail had some sort of meaning or significance.
The whole event was so far removed from my Canadian life and identity, that I simply did not feel the urge to join the crowds of royal fans, but there was no opportunity for me to explain all this to my seat mate. I simply had to leave her wondering why so many ex-pats were less interested in the whole affair than she was.